Destination: South Africa
To most people, South Africa is considered a "new world" wine region. However, vine plantings began back in the 1650's when the Dutch landed at the Cape and settled in. It wasn't until after the end of apartheid that these wines started to make a real impression in the North American market with improved quality and consistency. Food and wine are very much a part of the culture in South Africa with wild game like ostrich, springbok and kudu being featured on many a restaurant menu. There are a lot of family owned wineries in South Africa! Today we'll look at two such families: one with a long-storied history, and the other, an influential pioneer in modern South African winemaking. Together, they bring us well-made wine and great expressions of "terroir".
De Grendel dates back to the early 1700's when a deed to the farm was given to a prominent businessman. Fast forward 120 years to when the land was purchased by the first of the Graaff family, David, who also went on to become mayor of Cape Town. In 1911, David Graaff was bestowed the title of "Baronet" by the British, one of only 14 titles given to South Africans. This was a hereditary title that would follow to 10 generations. Given his age of 53, it was thought the title would die with him as he was a confirmed bachelor with no heirs. However, a year later at age 54, he married and sired three children, keeping the title of "Baronet" secure. In 2003 the first wines of De Grendel were made and in 2004, the cellar on the property was completed. Today, the estate is run by Sir De Villiers Graaff, the fourth Baronet, and produces more than a dozen labels.
Their Rubaiyat blend consists of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Petit Verdot, 9% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc; a solid "Bordeaux style" wine. The aromas of cigar box, blueberries, aniseed and dark chocolate meet up with a palate of blackberries, black currants and underpinnings of black olives. All with a smooth tannic structure and a long, lingering finish.
Neil Ellis on the other hand, started as a negociant in the 1980's, only starting his own winery and building the cellar in 1993. Neil Ellis set out to identify distinct terroir in which individual varietals would excel, believing that not everything should be grown everywhere. He placed the emphasis not only on environmental but on viticultural factors with a dedicated team of growers which extends through to the wine making practices. Today, Neil owns property in four different locales across the Western Cape to ensure the best soils are being used to achieve the best expressions of wine from grapes planted there. Today, Neil's son Warren is in charge of winemaking.
The single vineyard Jonkershoek Cabernet is the family's flagship wine. Upon pouring, in the glass it is intensely dark. The aroma is full of deep, underlying notes of blue and blackberries, complemented by the cedar aromas that are typical for the Jonkershoek Valley. The berry flavours continue through to the palate, supported by firm and smooth tannins, leading into an elegant, long finish.
Come check out the selection of South African wines, as we have much more in store, not just in the Vintages Room, but on the sales floor as well. You are sure to find a new favourite!