Treinspoor comes from a vineyard close to the railway line on the Darling side of the Swartland. “The greatest grape for the Swartland,” says Eben Sadie of Tinta Barocca, unconcerned that no one seems to agree with him. Treinspoor can be hard to like in its youth, but not in 2019. Yes, it has grunt and density, but it’s also savoury, aromatic and perfumed, like a cross between a Nebbiolo and northern Rhône Syrah, all tar, liquorice, blackberry, charcuterie and racy, refreshing acidity. 96 points, Tim Atkin MW, South Africa Special Report 2020
“It’s a Swartland thing”, notes Sadie of Tinta Barocca (the South African spelling has only one r and two c’s). This variety arrived in South Africa from the Douro Valley and has found an opportune home in the Western Cape. Historically Tinta das Baroccas (as it was once labelled) has always played a prominent role in Swartland’s red blends, but the interest in the variety – particularly from the old, dry-grown vineyards – has really spiked in recent years.
This vineyard, planted in 1974 and located next to the old railway line (treinspoor), lies four kilometres west of Malmesbury on decomposed granite and sandstone. Sadie notes of this site that while the very fragile, thin skin of Tinta Barocca is prone to sunburn, the old bush vines keep the bunches sheltered from the intense Swartland sun.
Sadie likens his Treinspoor to a sort of stylistic cross between Northern Rhône Syrah (with blackberry/currant fruit, plushness and nettles) and Piemontese Nebbiolo, (spice, florals, acidity and tannins). Tim Atkin agrees. Fermented in concrete and raised for 12 months in large cask, it’s an outstanding, idiosyncratic red of great beauty and character.
“It is no secret that we have a very high regard for the Tinta Barocca grape and that is with good reason. Year after year it is one of the mono-varietals that seriously translates “terroir” in the Swartland. We needed a few years to learn to read the extraction points and grape growing patterns of the varietal and the vineyards are in better equilibrium now. Any fan of Piedmont wines will have a greater attraction to this wine for the 2019 Treinspoor is a dark horse that needs time in the bottle and the benefit it of patience. The fruit on this vintage is pretty and it is a more drinkable early version.” Eben Sadie