Centuries of winemaking may have bestowed this New World region with an Old World sensibility, but the current generation of crafters is decidedly forward thinking.
South Africa’s first wine was produced on February 2, 1659, from vines planted in 1655, making the country the oldest of the New World wine nations. Despite its long tradition of winemaking, this New World region with an Old World sensibility remains, to many, something of a viticultural enigma. But this impression is rapidly changing, in no small part due to the efforts of dynamic, forward-thinking winemakers whose daring, exploration and experimentation are revealing new cooler growing regions and enhancing their understanding of the unique terroir at their disposal. Join us as we meet some of the winemakers who are pressing South Africa’s viticultural revolution.
Initially focused entirely on producing Cap Classique sparkling wines, Haute Cabrière has expanded their range to include still wines, such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Founders Achim and Hildegard von Arnim named their first traditional-method sparkling wine (and one of the first in South Africa) for the original landowner, Pierre Jourdan, who established the farm in 1694. Haute Cabrière is now under the care of their son, Takuan, who took the reins full-time following his father’s retirement in 2013. After graduation, Takuan travelled to the Mosel in Germany, where his mother was born, to further his experience and understanding of winemaking. This study period included stops in France, the USA and Australia, allowing him to work with a wide range of grapes and growing conditions and giving him the opportunity to taste widely and become familiar with how terroir impacts varietal expression. Takuan has said that this experience fuels his drive for perfection while helping him relate to what customers in different parts of the world are looking for in their wines.
Glenelly was purchased in 2003 by then-78-year-old May de Lencquesaing, who had overseen winemaking for Bordeaux’s Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande for over 30 years. Drawn to South Africa by a desire for a new challenge and because of the potential she saw in the southern slopes of Simonsberg, May tasked winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain (at left in image above) with bringing forth wines that spoke to the unique qualities of South Africa while echoing the finesse and elegance of Bordeaux. Luke’s resumé includes stops with such luminaries as Château Fieuzal, Angélus, Screaming Eagle and Rustenberg, and since joining Glenelly in 2007, he has more than delivered. Luke is assisted by Jerome Likwa (at right in image above), with whom he worked at Rustenberg. There, the two developed a close-knit relationship along with a shared understanding and approach to winemaking. Their minimalistic focus allows the grapes the leeway to express their own character while revealing their provenance with precision and purity.
Founded in 2004, the family-run and -operated Miles Mossop neatly encapsulates the spirit and drive that has become one of the defining characteristics of South African winemaking over the last 20 years. Limited production and a focus on crafting premium-quality, terroir-driven expressions have seen Miles Mossop become darlings of consumers and members of the world’s press. Owner, winemaker and viticulturist Miles Mossop graduated at the top of his class in 1998 from the viticulture and oenology program of Stellenbosch University. His career has taken him around the world, including stops at Knappstein in Australia’s Clare Valley, Far Niente in Napa Valley and Planeta in Sicily. From 2000 to 2018, he was the winemaker for South Africa’s Tokara Wine Estate before making his eponymous project his sole focus. His broad experience helped him hone his skills while giving him a comprehensive appreciation for the nuanced potential of his own terroir.
There’s a lot of history at Rustenberg. Winemaking began here in 1682, and the property has been a commercial interest since they sold their first wines in 1724. Operations have continued, uninterrupted, since 1892. The winery has been under the stewardship of the Barlow family since 1941, when Peter and Pamela Barlow purchased the property. Operations are now overseen by their son, Simon, and his wife, Rozanne, with the help of their son, Murray. Murray earned his Masters in Oenology from the University of Adelaide in 2012 and is the only person to twice earn the Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year award. Murray’s passionate, forward-thinking approach to winemaking has brought a renewed vigour to this historic winery, ensuring its longevity.
Founded in 1692, Spier is far from stuck in the past. It was the first Stellenbosch producer to receive certification from the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association and is a member of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative. The winemaking here is led by cellar master Frans Smit, and specialization is key. Frans oversees a dynamic team of winemakers, each with a specific focus. The red wines are crafted by Johan Jordaan, the white wines by Jacques Erasmus, and the organic portfolio is managed by Tania Kleintjes. This team approach has seen Spier advance from a small cellar into an internationally renowned, award-winning force at the fore of South African wine.
For decades, South Africa has been a leading light in sustainable winemaking.
Producers here have aggressively pursued the implementation of sustainable winemaking practices. In 1998, the country introduced the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) initiative and today, over 95% of the country’s growers and wineries have adopted sustainability measures. These include the unique South African Wine and Spirit Board seal on participating bottles; just enter the numbers on the seal at www.sawis.co.za/sealsearch.php to trace the wine’s journey from the vine to the bottle. A number of organizations promote sustainability and advocate for fair practices for winery workers. For more about these initiatives, visit Wines of South Africa at wosa.co.za and click on “sustainability.”
At the LCBO, we’re focusing on building a more sustainable future through an initiative called Spirit of Sustainability. We’re committed to driving meaningful change in our communities, leading the industry in sustainable practices and taking better care of the planet – all for the good of Ontario.
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