Breedekloof Wine Pioneers Hit the Road with New Movement
The success of the Breedekloof’s wine region’s pioneering Chenin Blanc initiative at last year’s international Cape Wine 2015 showcase has led to the formation of Breedekloof Makers, a band of like-minded winemakers committed to emphasising the quality of wines being made in the region, as well as accentuating the diverse terroir pockets. According to Attie Louw from Opstal Winery in Slanghoek, one of the Breedekloof’s wards, Breedekloof Makers is the result of a journey that he and a group of fellow winemakers began three years ago with the idea to craft small, boutique productions of Chenin Blanc in limited volumes.
Louw and his fellow visionaries committed to each making a limited volume of Chenin Blanc from grapes grown on specially selected sites on the participants’ various properties.
“Why Chenin Blanc? It is the staple white grape in the region,” he says. “Most of the wine farms in the Breedekloof are family owned, and some of them have been farming with Chenin for seven to eight generations. This personal track record with the grape extends to the various terroirs suited to Chenin in the valley. In the lower regions the soil is sandy with gigantic river pebbles, while higher up you find broken rock and sandstone. Up in Slanghoek rainfall exceeds 1000mm a year, while down in the valley they get 600mm.
“A general feature of this area, is the slower ripening the grapes undergo due to the region being closed off by the various mountain ranges that allow the cooler night air to be trapped,” says Louw.
“Subsequently our Chenins take longer to ripen, gaining an extra dimension and palpable complexity, allowing for superb expression.”
The diversity in terroir is matched by the various approaches the winemakers used in the cellar. “Every winemaker is urged to express him and herself,” says Louw. “Lees contact varies, as does time in barrel and general use of wood. And the results were better than we expected. Local and international wine critics took note of the variety found within the range of wines under the Chenin initiative, and this positive reaction prompted us to create Breedekloof Makers as an entity to promote Breedekloof.”
Currently, Breedekloof Makers comprises 12 winemakers from wineries ranging from co-ops to small, family-owned boutique cellars.
“Last year’s Cape Wine Chenin venture had nine members, and the successful reception of the initiative as well as the interesting wines that were made prompted more winemakers to get on board, with more to follow,” says Louw.
The name Breedekloof Makers was developed to underscore the fact that while the current focus is on Chenin Blanc, the movement is inclusive and open to any of the region’s winemakers who want to think out of the box and try something different.
“We have already achieved in shifting the limiting and staid perceptions of the Breedekloof toward an image of innovation and adventure,” says Louw. “But at the end of the day it is not about the individuals running with it, but about creating an awareness of this great wine region in its entirety to the benefit of every single grape farmer, winemakers, vineyard worker and resident of the valley.”
The wines that form part of the line-up, express the unique terroir, and stories, associated with the valley. When asked who they’d pour their wines for, the respective winemakers offered the following:
Bergsig Estate Chenin Blanc Reserve
De Wet Lategan suggested pouring this wine for Australian broadcast and BBC journalist, Yalda Hakim. “Hakim was born in Afghanistan and during her school years in Australia she excelled in sport, music and showed exceptional leadership qualities. Apart from her exterior beauty she has many admirable qualities, she is independent, tenacious and always empathetic during her interviews. Being a versatile individual herself I believe she will enjoy the versatility of Bergsig Estate Chenin Blanc Reserve – in my next life I’d enjoy drinking numerous glasses with her!”
Badsberg Chenin Blanc
Henri Swiegers suggested pouring the wine for South African social commentator and comedian Pieter-Dirk Uys: “This wine can be serious, similar to Pieter, but it also has a ‘softer’ and friendlier side, and, like Tannie Evita, it is a wine with many faces. It is fruity and cheerful, while being serious.”
Botha Kelder Barrel Fermented Bush Vine Chenin Blanc
Werner Swiegers suggested pouring this wine for bloggers and creatives Stevo and Chanel, the South African couple blogging on their platform ‘How Far From Home’: “To pack up everything to tour the world must be so challenging, but also fun and exciting at the same time. In many ways this is also how I see the Breedekloof Makers initiative, my wine, and this project, also pushes the boundaries.”
Breëland Chenin Blanc Royal
Kosie Marais suggested pouring this wine for the infamous South African nurse Daisy de Melker as well as the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan: “With Daisy de Melker having poisoned both her husbands, you wouldn’t want to accept anything out of her hands, I would rather do the pouring than being poured for. Genghis Khan had some serious conquests, which resulted in him creating the biggest empire in the world. The Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, part of the Genghis Khan Statue Complex is also the biggest in the world, and pretty impressive at that. I would like to think that wine also conquered the world in a not too subtle way, and like with Genghis Khan, people can opt to see either the good, or less good.”
Deetlefs Reserve Chenin Blanc
Ferdie Visser suggested pouring this wine for one of the original farm owners, ‘Oom’ Philip Deetlefs: “Because you do not know where you are going if you do not know where you are coming from. This wine pays homage to the history of Deetlefs and the hard work which has preceded it.”
Lateganskop The Zahir
Heinrich Lategan suggested pouring this wine for Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, as well as business magnate Sir Richard Branson: “Paulo Coelho is famously known for being the writer of The Alchemist, but he also wrote The Zahir, which is also the name of our wine. Richard Branson due to the title of his book ‘Screw it let’s do it’, it resonates with the approach we had when making this wine. We simply threw caution to the wind and did what felt good and right and we weren’t worried about the rules.”
Merwida Chenin Blanc
Lieza van der Merwe suggested pouring this wine for her great-grandfather, Pierre van der Merwe: “Sometimes it is impossible to know where you are headed without reflecting on where you came from. Understanding your heritage, your roots and your ancestry is an important part of carving out your future. My great-grandfather, laid the foundation for the modern day Merwida Winery where I spend most of my days. It has always been in my 5-year plan to start a Merwida Family Vintners range and now it’s finally becoming a reality with the launch of the Family Vintners Chenin blanc in September of this year – all thanks to the Breedekloof Makers for putting the spotlight back on Chenin in the valley.”
Olifantsberg Chenin Blanc
Elizma Visser suggested pouring this wine for South Africa’s celebrated Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela: “Keeping with the Women’s Day theme and being a female winemaker I’d like that this wine is poured for Thuli Madonsela. Her courage and work ethic is truly inspiring and she is a great role model for all women. I lift my glass and thank her for all she has done as our public protector.”
Opstal Carl Everson Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc
Attie Louw suggested pouring this wine for South African golfer, Ernie Els: “I’m a huge fan of the game of golf and have shared great golfing memories with my dad – on the course, but also watching Ernie compete. He has been a great ambassador for golf, SA and obviously appreciates a good glass of wine. I’d like to pour my wine for the Big Easy.”
uniWines Vineyards Daschbosch Steen
WS Visagie suggested pouring this wine for controversial political figure Donald Trump: “The Daschbosch Steen is at times very temperamental and unpredictable as it evolves. I often introduce this style as a ‘like it or leave it’ wine, and I think this is in many ways true in the instance of Donald Trump too!”
Slanghoek Legends Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc
Nico Grundling suggested pouring this wine for Dutch seafarer Jan van Riebeeck: “The name ‘legends’ refers to the legend of Slanghoek, but I’d like to pour this wine for the first ‘legend’ of the SA wine industry, Jan van Riebeeck, who made the first wine in the Cape.”
Stofberg Family Vineyards Mariëtte Chenin Blanc
Mariëtte Coetzee suggested pouring this wine for American actress and model Marilyn Monroe: “She was an icon and an elegant woman with lots of finesse, and those are qualities I feel one finds in this wine too.”
Prices of the wines range from R75 ex-cellar to R190 ex-cellar.