South Africa's glorious winelands and its people are such an inspiration and I never tire of catching up with old friends and making new ones here
Paul Boutinot and the successful UK and international businesses that carry his name have been pioneers in the new South Africa. Their Percheron wines have been a hit with us from first release and their family property Waterkloof is a new star in the Cape fine wine firmament, now fully organic and biodynamic.
Boutinot now has a stunning new home in the Franschhoek valley, a beautiful property christened Wildeberg ('wild mountain'). New vineyards have been planted which may one day produce something special for this impressive operation which sources widely and delivers consistently.
Miles Mossop sporting a new hair do.
After 18 years at Tokara, Miles Mossop is going it alone. He has taken on some consultancy work but his main focus now is on his own label, the three wines named after his three young children. On this particular visit, Miles had a striking (temporary, I think!) new look (all to do with a friend's birthday party, apparently) but I am happy to report there was no concurrent change in the wines!
Walker Bay Estate is one to watch. It's a beautiful spot, just outside the lovely village of Stanford. There are Brits involved, among others, very keen to make this rejuvenated enterprise work. Behind a renewed focus on both vineyards and winemaking is an ex-Boutinot winemaker who most certainly knows the ropes, so we can expect to see good things.
The spectacular backdrop to our tasting at Walker Bay Vineyards
Thistle & Weed is a new venture and you might not yet find the wines in the UK, but hang on in there! The people behind these micro-vinifications are industry friends Etienne Terreblanche (viticulturist at Delheim) and winemaker Stephanie Wiid (Fairview). Seriously good wines in their tiny first-release volumes, this is a name – and a pair – to watch. The horticulturally themed labels are beautifully crafted too.
There are still surprisingly few certified organic wines coming out of the Cape but the hot dry conditions in Tulbagh make this an ideal spot to make them. Organic from the outset (first vines planted in 2000) Waverley Hills is a producer working to raise its eco-friendly profile with a more targeted, re-dressed range from its visitor-friendly site with cosy tasting room and restaurant. Off the regular beaten track but well worth the stop, and worth looking out for the wines we are likely to see more of in the UK.
The view from Pella Wines
Pella Wines was totally new to me, though its home in the Stellenboschkloof means it is not far from our old friends at De Morgenzon and Jordan. There are two ranges: Pella Coastal wines comprises single-vineyard wines from both Stellenbosch and Swartland, and Mount Sutherland Continental Wines are from high-altitude, frost-prone vineyards in the Karoo. This remote area rests on volcanic soils, a characteristic that drew (Liberator) Richard Kelley MW here, for the particular influence this has on the resulting wines. Richard works with the Cave Saint-Verny in the Auvergne (where the volcanic mountains have recently been granted World Heritage status) and felt sure he could find a similar personality in Mount Sutherland as in the Puy de Dôme wines we buy through him. We even tested the theory with a 2011 gamay kindly donated by a friend and a fascinating debate ensued! For me it's a textural thing, a sort of prickly, wet-stone minerality which certainly adds interest even if it's not your cup of tea.
Tasting with multi award-winning Bruwer Raats
One visit on this trip was long overdue. I have bought from Raats Family Wines on and off for years, met them but never visited them 'at home'. And in the event it was exactly that, as Bruwer Raats runs his business from his home surrounded like so many winemakers itseems, by an array of besotted canines! Famous particularly for chenin blanc and cabernet franc (making me – as your wine buyer for the Loire – predisposed to enjoy the wines of course), Bruwer is a charming man, another gentle giant, and though he certainly has a big personality he was super modest (and clearly super chuffed) about his Platter's Winery of the Year award 2018. The wines from those grapes were top notch (the 'little' Original Chenin is a benchmark), but I also fell head over heels in love with a dry muscat (another of my desert island grapes) which he makes with his cousin Gavin Bruwer Slabbert and goes under the B Vintners label.
Where to go next?