New wave from wine valley
Robertson Wine Valley was judged ‘best innovative wine tourism experience’ by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network last year. The region, rated SA’s second most popular (after Stellenbosch), has undergone a renaissance. Graham Howe finds out more
AT ROBERTSON Slow in August, one of four annual wine festivals held throughout the Robertson Wine Valley, I tasted the best of the new wave of whites and reds made by fifth and sixth generation winemakers at old family cellars. Today the region is fast growing its reputation as the home of bestselling brands — among them Arabella, Bon Cap, De Wetshof, Four Cousins, Graham Beck, Golden Kaan, Klipdrift, Robertson Winery, Springfield and Weltevrede — as well as sought-after boutique wine labels: Arendsig Shiraz 2009. After seven vintages on this boutique family farm, wine maker Lourens van der Westhuizen has earned a reputation for the great attention to detail in his sought-after Shiraz and Chardonnay. Everything is done by hand from basketpress to labeling. He says, “My focus is on making single vineyard wines that express terroir and fruit character and less wood.” Bon Cap The Perfect Blend 2009. An innovative blend of Pinotage, Petit Verdot and Cabernet from “the largest organic family winery in SA”. Over the last decade, Roelf and Michelle du Preez have put Eilandia Valley on the map, exporting superlative Pinotage and the elegant blends of winemaker Marinus Potgieter. Bon Courage Chardonnay Prestige Cuvée 2009. A wine tasting under the pepper tree at the old manor house is simply unforgettable. Fatherand-son duo Andre and Jacques Bruwer make classy Chardonnay (and Shiraz) — whether you like it oaked, unwooded or in the big Brut named world’s best bubbly at IWSC in London. Christina van Loveren Méthode Cap Classique. A maiden MCC from the family cellar which makes Four Cousins. The elegant new reserve label — watch out for the 2009 Chardonnay, Shiraz and Noble Late Harvest — celebrates ancestor Christina van Loveren who arrived at the Cape in 1694 with the wedding kist still in the old cellar. De Wetshof Bon Vallon Chardonnay 2009. Danie de Wet, the king of Chardonnay, pioneered the sig- nature white grape of the Robertson Wine Valley in the 1980s — transplanting the first smuggled vines from France. Today, this family cellar makes six classic expressions of Chardonnay in wooded, unoaked, and lees-aged styles. Rietvallei Estéanna 2007. An acclaimed maiden Bordeaux blend named after the next generation on this old family farm — the two daughters of sixth generation winemaker Kobus Burger. His great-great grandfather planted the oldest red muscadel vineyard in SA — source of Rietvallei’s renowned 1908 Muscadel. We sip living history. Robertson Winery No 1 Constitution Road Shiraz 2006. This flagship blend won Decanter’s Regional Trophy for Best Red Rhône Varietal in 2010. Named after the winery’s actual address at No 1 Constitution Road in Robertson, the first vintage was released in 2004 to commemorate 10 years of democracy under the new constitution. Springfield Special Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc 2009. Brother and sister Abrie and Jeanette Bruwer are at the forefront of the new wave from the Robertson Wine Valley. They pioneered site-specific Sauvignon Blanc like Special Cuvée and Life from Stone which have achieved cult status — alongside Méthode Ancienne and Whole Berry Cabernet — and the valley’s first benchmark red blend, Work of Time. Weltevrede Chardonnay 2007. The great grape of Burgundy flourishes in the limestone, shale and quartz soils of this old family farm. Winemaker Philip Jonker expresses the terroir of specific vineyards in a range of Chardonnay wines which tell a story of their origin — in Rusted Soil, Place of Rocks and Poets Prayer Chardonnay. Zandvliet Shiraz 2007. Brothers Paul and Dan de Wet are legends on one of the oldest family wine and stud farms (1867) in the Robertson Wine Valley. The sultans of Shiraz who started the red wave back in the mid-1970s stay at the front of the pack with three expressions of Shiraz under the standard and flagship Kalkveld labels.