Treasure hunting through the diverse regions of the Cape Winelands. In numbers there are currently around 92 067ha of vines producing wine grapes, covering an area some 800km in length. But at its heart, the South African wine industry is at the apex of history and innovation; the culmination of which is a storied landscape of ancient terroir, old vines and site-specific plantings as well as winemaking families going back generations. The Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction is exceptionally proud to provide a platform for wineries to showcase this rich diversity of terroir – and remarkable wines.
The Breede River Valley is long, wide valley hewn between imposing mountains, carved through with the Breede River and its tributaries. The river has long given this far-flung valley life. This historic region is the Western Cape’s largest wine producing area and incorporates the districts of Robertson and the Breedekloof. This is real farm country, the land worked by sons of the soil. While there are a number of large co-ops here; there is a mine of quality, a seam of gold running right alongside the flow of the river that is the boutique and family-owned (some for many generations) estates.
Robertson’s lime-rich soils and high diurnal swing means grapes thrive here, particularly chardonnay. De Wetshof Estate Bateleur Chardonnay is a prime example of the finesse and complexity that can Robertson-grown chardonnay can achieve, a single-vineyard chardonnay grown on gravel soils originating from mountain rock rich in limestone and clay.
The majority of the estates in the Breedekloof are family-owned and heritage is a pulse thrumming beneath the landscape. Eminently suited to grape-growing the climatic conditions result in wines with sun-drenched richness, complemented by refreshing mineral freshness as the grapes here ripen slowly, due to the region being closed off by mountain ranges, which allows cool night air to be trapped. Encapsulating both history as well as the region’s character is Daschbosch’s Gevonden Hanepoot 2015 (Old Vine Project), made from old bush vines of Muscat d’Alexandrie planted before 1900.
Extreme viticulture characterises this stretch along the R62, enclosed by staggering mountain peaks, which are some of the highest in the Western Cape. These mountains are an integral clue to the region’s soil, forming part of the Cape fold belt; Bokkeveld shale is the most common soil type, offering good water retention in this semi-arid region. Vineyard sites are pocketed in the shelter of kloofs and valleys as well as river-side. The dry climate of the Klein Karoo results in healthy vineyards, of which a large proportion is grown organically.
The diversity offered by the variety of microclimates allows producers to make a spectrum of wine styles, from dry wines produced from traditional Portuguese cultivars to fortifieds as well as pot-still brandies. The region is famed for its Port-Style wines, and the Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2004 with its rich flavour intensity and undeniable age-worthiness is a benchmark wine in this category.
Ocean-born wines hail from this recently-designated wine region. South Africa's coolest wine growing region encompasses six districts, among them Elgin and Greyton. Due to its close proximity to the ocean, cool climate grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc as well as elegant, long-lived Syrah thrive here. Cooling ocean breezes aid slow ripening in the vineyards, allowing the grapes to develop intense concentration and complexity.
Cradled in the ancient sandstone of the Hottentots Holland Mountains, the high-lying Elgin district is traditionally an apple-growing region, premium wine estates have now joined the orchard sprawl. Elegance and depth are key characteristics of the cool-climate wines with Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Shiraz doing particularly well. The Spioenkop Riesling 2015, hailing from a watershed vintage, has been called the best Riesling in South Africa by acclaimed international critics. Curving along the rocky Overberg coastal route, the small Wine of Origin Greyton offers high altitudes and dramatic diurnal swings. Lismore Wine Estate was the pioneer of the W.O scheme, and the Lismore Syrah 2014 has acolytes the world over, and deservedly so. The Wine Advocate named this wine as one of their top releases among many other accolades, said Neal Martin: “This is one of the best Syrahs I have encountered from South Africa.”
A recently designated district named after Cape Town, incorporates the wards of Constantia, Hout Bay, Durbanville and Philadelphia, curving along the Cape Peninsula, the icy Atlantic a constant moderator, keeping grapes crisp and fresh.
Sprawling across the southern slopes of the Table Mountain range, lies the historic Constantia valley, known as the cradle of winemaking in the Cape; viticulture has been practiced here for 335 years. Rooted in ancient soils (going back millions of years), vines cooled by sea breezes from False Bay produce high quality wines, notably elegant whites. The Steenberg 1682 Chardonnay Brut honours the long tradition of winemaking, while also celebrating the current modern era.
Deeper into the farmlands Durbanville’s vineyards are situated mainly on rolling hill slopes, offering different microclimates, with various aspects and altitudes, some of which are as high as 400m above sea level. High sunshine is tempered by the cooling southerly breezes, funnelled up through the valley in the afternoons. The Tangram 2012 from Durbanville Hills is a triumph of these climatic elements; a Bordeaux style blend, the Cabernet Sauvignon was selected from a block planted in 1989 on a southerly slope, the Merlot from a block planted in 1999 and the sites for the Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec all came from vineyards planted in 1999. Each varietal was matured separately for two years after which only the best barrels of each was identified for the final blend.
Set in a clearly defined valley, this famous region has been wine producing from the 17th century; since the arrival of the French Huguenots, who came with vines tucked under the arms. The Francophile spirit is still very much alive—and vineyard and cellars are held to the high standards of their forbearers. Ideally suited to viticulture, the valley is enclosed by the Wemmershoek Mountains to the north, separating it from the Breede River Valley, the Groot Drakenstein and Franschhoek Mountains are to the south, and protect it from storms and gales. Added to the sheltering aspects are moderating effects from the Berg River, originating in the Drakenstein Mountains, flowing through the centre of Franschhoek towards Paarl. The Leeu Passant Lötter Cinsault 2015, certified by the Old Vine Project, showcases this intersection of history and site, made from one parcel of dry farmed bushvine Cinsault planted in 1932 - South Africa's second oldest registered red wine vineyard- on the lower eastern slopes of Franschhoek mountains.
A granitic outpost, Paarl has a long history of wine production, the French Huguenots settled here too as a trading outpost in the 1680s, planting both vines and orchards. The town and region’s name comes from the Dutch word for pearl because of the way the granite mountain glistens after the rain. Rooted into this mountainous terroir, vineyards are found on the lower slopes of Paarl Rock, on the northern side of Simonsberg Mountain. The mountains provide well-drained granite and shale soils. The Berg River, flanked by the Groot Drakenstein and Wemmershoek mountains, runs through Paarl and is the region’s lifeblood. This historic and distinct terroir is the cradle for superlative Muscat de Frontignan, with just the right conditions for Noble Rot to produce Nederburg’s multi-layered Private Bin Eminence, a rare gem from the 1999 vintage, which has grown in complexity as it has developed through the decades.
South Africa’s most famous wine region is home to the country’s most venerated estates, along with the finest examples of Cape Dutch architecture. There are more than 200 wine and grape producers within its boundaries. The winemaking tradition here stretches back to the end of the 17th-century. Highly suited to quality viticulture, the area boast varying altitudes, good rainfall and deep well-drained soils as well as cooling sea breezes from the coast. The vineyards span across the rolling hills from Helderberg in the south to the lower slopes of Simonsberg Mountain in the north. The size and diversity of the regions allows for many different wine styles, and is increasingly revered for premium Cabernet. No other district has more Cab planted; the total area planted being almost 30 per cent of the national vineyard. There are many lauded examples, and the category of Stellenbosch Cabernet is continuing to rise in esteem. Family-owned Le Riche Wines is regarded as one of the leading producers of Cabernet Sauvignon, they specialise in isolating various terroirs that to their learned palates best create the ultimate expression of Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon. The Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 combines an excellent vintage with intimate knowledge of the King of Grapes.
South Africa’s juggernaut, wild kid on the vineyard block, and producer of some of the most sensational ground-breaking wines which have led to international acclaim for the region. Traditionally a grain-producing area, pockets of bushvines are stitched across the foothills of the surrounding mountains, Piketberg, Porterville, Riebeek and the Perdeberg. Trellising is increasingly being adopted. While originally a ward producing robust, full-bodied red wines as well as fortified wines, the introduction of the Swartland Independent Producers (SIP) elevated the area to a whole new standard of quality. The aim of the producers is to express the terroir of the Swartland. Conveying an indelible sense of place is Lammershoek’s Die Ou Nooi 2018, the name translates to “the old lady”, as the grapes come from the oldest producing block of Chardonnay in South Africa, dating back to 1981. Dryland bush-vines deliver tiny berries which are carefully basket-pressed as whole bunches. Only one barrel of this liquid gold is produced each year.
Deep in mountain country is this historic region, accessed by steep, treacherous passes, until the horseshoe of the valley is revealed. This isolated ward creates its own climate, heavily influenced by the surrounding peaks, Winterhoek Mountains to the north, the Witsenberg Mountains to the east, and is separated from the Atlantic Ocean on the west by the Obiqua mountain range. Due to this cool evening air becomes trapped in the valley during the day, helping to lower the daytime temperatures, while the shadows cast by the mountains have a moderating effect by reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches the grapes – these factors allow a long ripening season, producing grapes with a deep concentration of flavour while retaining acidity. A showcase of this thrilling terroir is the iconic Rijks Reserve Chenin Blanc 2009, made from night-harvested grapes for crystalline acidity and freshness, while maximising the intensity of flavour.