The wines of South Africa by Jim Clarke

The wines of South Africa by Jim Clarke

Author:Jim Clarke
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Infinite Ideas Limited

Ntsiki Biyela, winemaker and owner, Aslina

In 2013 Biyela had the opportunity to collaborate with Napa Valley winemaker Helen Keplinger via a project arranged by Mika Bulmash, now her U.S. importer. The resulting wine, a red blend called Suo, provided the seed money for Biyela to start Aslina in 2015. The brand is named for her grandmother. Working in rented facilities in Stellenbosch and sourcing from a number of vineyards across the Western Cape, she currently produces two whites and two reds. She sources from vineyards in Stellenbosch and Elgin for the Chardonnay. Originally she thought that would be her one white wine – at Stellekaya production had been entirely red – but some quality Sauvignon Blanc fruit came her way and now it’s a regular part of the range as well. Her two reds are a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and a Bordeaux-style blend, Umsasane, both sourced entirely from Stellenbosch. Umsasane – in Zulu, a kind of acacia tree – was a nickname of her grandmother’s.



Few names are as closely associated with Pinotage as Beyers Truter’s, so it’s a mild irony that when he started Beyerskloof in 1988 he planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. At the time he was still the winemaker at Kanonkop, who embargoed him from working with Pinotage elsewhere. That changed after a few years, and in 1995 Truter turned the corner toward making Pinotage his brand’s focal point. He left Kanonkop in 2003. Today 85 percent of his production at Beyerskloof is Pinotage or Pinotage-based blends.

Truter had first laid eyes on the 7.5-hectare property in the Bottelary in 1984 and felt its gravelly, koffieklip soils were well-suited to Cabernet Sauvignon, his priority at the time. In 1997 they bought a farm ten times that size a couple of kilometers away, and there Pinotage plantings dominate. More recently, in 2018 they acquired a 50-hectare farm which they are in the process of replanting. Since 2005 Truter’s son Anri has overseen winemaking and the vineyards, allowing him to take on the role of “experimental winemaker”. This creative streak shows most clearly in the blends: Faith, a conventional but sophisticated combination of Pinotage with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; Traildust, a blend of Pinotage and its parents; and an everything but the kitchen sink blend called Synergy. For all that, varietal Pinotage remains the core of the portfolio. Truter eagerly exploits Pinotage’s range, producing everything from a white Pinotage–Chenin Blanc blend to a rosé to a fortified wine from the grape. The “white label” is probably the most emblematic wine of the bunch, paired with “black label” Reserve. Diesel, named for the dog seen on the label, is a barrel selection and the richest, most powerful wine in the line-up.



New Englander Ginny Povall moved to South Africa and purchased the Protea Heights Farm in 2008. The Devon Valley farm had been cultivating indigenous flowers since the 1940s, when it became the first to grow local proteas for the export market. Flowers – eight varieties of proteas, four of which were hybridized at the farm and remain unique to the property – make up almost half the 21.


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