Why does a Helderberg wine taste the way it does?
I don’t have the answer for you. But as you’ve heard me quote before: “the most courageous thing in life is still to think for yourself”. So today I’m releasing a range of 7 Bordeaux-style wines made from Helderberg grapes – not single vineyard wines, but rather multi-varietal single farm blends. Wines which represent the farms they are from.
I’ve always believed that when my bakkie’s wheels are turning, things are happening – it’s the diesel to our story-generator.
So naturally, my grape hunting grounds started far, far away from here. The more I suffered, the more kilometers I drove – the more it felt like I was earning my living. But as wisdom piled up, I realised that my doorstep is paved with gold. In 2013 my journey in the Helderberg began when I produced my first vintage of “CONFESSIONS OF A WHITE GLOVE CHASER”. And just like that I was lured into the maize of valleys and outcrops of the Helderberg!
On the back of this, I decided to produce a wine called EMPIRE in 2017 – a multi-farm/vineyard Bordeaux-style wine that gives tribute to what Stellenbosch did for me and where everything began – The EMPIRE of South African wine. The old-style label shows a crest I designed which combines the crest of Stellenbosch University and Elsenburg College – the 2 Empires when it comes to wine education. I studied at both…
In order to achieve complexity for the EMPIRE wine, I had to make wine from as many sites as possible. I did a quick count now and up to date I’ve made wine from 43 different vineyards on the Helderberg – with some of them in their 10th vintage to date. What fascinates me is that each of these 43 sites have their own character – expressed in every vintage, regardless of the ever-changing climate.
This made me think: why not have a bit of fun and bottle single vineyard wines? Which I did in 2015. Presenting these wines I was faced with the question: how do I explain the differences?
Is it the water holding capacity of the clay content generated from weathered scale? the dry harsh granitic outcrops? the aspect? Is it because some vineyards hide in valleys and some grow high on the mountain, unprotected against the mighty force of the South Easter? Maybe it’s the age of the vines or the clones? The presence or absence of leaf roll virus, the warra warra warra… the list goes on and on.
Enters the X-factor – The PIERRE-LE-COIS-EFFECT as I call it. The guy or (nowadays often) the girl in the bakkie who cares for the vines. The eyes who look holistically at the big picture and apply knowledge and experience in the company of like-minded wise minds. They apply practices to guide these vines to the ultimate expression of themselves. Season upon season.
I came to realise: I want to make single FARM wines from the Helderberg, not single vineyard wines.
The 7 wines I’m releasing today (starting from Somerset West’s direction):
1. SCARED IS WHAT YOU FEEL, BRAVE IS WHAT YOU DO 2021 – Planted in decomposed Granite at 190 meters above sea level, mildly protected against the South Easter. A Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet franc blend.
2. ISA – 42 2021 – a straight Merlot on the edge of Somerset West town, 240 meters above sea level, exposed to the elements and planted in decomposed granite.
3. PIERRE LE COIS 2021 – Deep clay and scale in a well protected area 200m above sea level on the mountain. Huge canopies with little wind. Cabernet franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Organically farmed.
4. CONFESSIONS OF A WHITE GLOVE CHASER 2021 – Cabernet Franc-driven with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon. 100 meters above sea level. The first vineyards where I found the ever-so-famous “WHITE GLOVES”.
5. ENGELESIG 2021 – A Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet franc blend from the farm of South African legend singer/songwriter Lesley Ray Dowling. 290 meters above sea level.
6. The BOMB 2021 – A Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet franc and Petit Verdot blend of the Blaauwklippen Road at 300 meters above sea level.
And then last but not least…
7. EMPIRE 2021 – A combination of vineyards all over the Helderberg.