The wines of Rupert & Rothschild
South Africa revisited, part 19


Clive Radloff (assistant winemaker) and Schalk-Willhem Joubert (winemaker)

Rupert and Rothschild is one of South Africa’s aristocratic wine estates. The Friderickburg Estate in Franschhoek where the project is run as a 50:50 partnership between the Rupert family and the Rothschild family (of Bordeaux fame). The farm was formed in 1690 and was purchased by Anthonij Rupert in 1984, and since then the historic buildings and vineyards have been substantially modified. 

60% of the grapes come from Rupert-owned vineyards, with other grapes bought-in. Half the wines are exported, with the most important export markets being Germany, China, Japan and Hong Kong.

Superstar winemaking consultant Michel Rolland is employed here, visiting the estate four times a year and assisting winemaker Schalk-Willem Joubert. I met with Schalk and assistant winemaker Clive Radloff to taste the wines.

‘More has happened in the last 10 years in the South African wine industry than the last 100,’says Schalk, commenting on the rapid pace of change here. He adds, ‘Our style is not as big as you’d expect from a new world producer: alcohol levels are 13.5–14%. I focus more on mouthfeel than anything else, and also on careful use of wood.’  

Just three wines are made: a Chardonnay and two red blends. First vintage was in 1998. 


Baroness Nadine Chardonnay 2007
Intense, savoury, mealy, toasty nose, which is quite creamy and nutty. The palate is savoury yet rich with a mealy, nutty character. Refined. Bold and quite sophisticated with a hint of oiliness to it. 89/100

Rupert & Rothschild Classique 2007
This is the second wine. 500 000 bottles are made annually, and this sells out 10 months after production. Rich, aromatic blackcurrant fruit nose with some fresh, minerally, gravelly notes. The palate is bright and elegant with lovely bright, supple, forward dark fruits and some fresh cherry notes. Balanced and quite classy. Fruit-driven and deliciously berryish. 90/100 (105 Rand)

Rupert & Rotschild Baron Edmond 2005
20 000 bottles made annually. A very interesting European-styled wine. Bloody, gravelly nose with sweet but restrained blackcurrant fruit. The palate is ripe but balanced with lovely dark fruits and a savoury, mineral character. Elegant and fresh with hints of gravel and tar. Not at all opulent and showy, and better for it. 93/100 (380 Rand)

Wines tasted 11/09

Older notes from September 2003:

Rupert & Rothschild Baroness Nadine Chardonnay 1999 South Africa
100% barrel fermented in French oak. Quite a restrained nutty, toasty nose. Nothing sticks out here: it has a classy, restrained palate with herb-tinged, toasty, creamy fruit. Good balance and concentration. Very good/excellent (c. £16)

Rupert & Rothschild Classique 1998 South Africa
A blend of Cabernet and Merlot matured in new oak barrels. Open, leafy berry fruit on the nose with a slight herby edge. This is quite classy and restrained. Nice chalky, leafy edge to the fruit on the palate: it’s tending towards the old world in style. Impressive. Very good+ (c. £10)

Rupert & Rothschild Baron Edmond 1999 South Africa
Another Cabernet/Merlot blend aged in new French oak. Quite deep coloured. Complex leathery, herby spicy notes on the nose which isn’t overly fruit driven. Good concentration on the palate which shows a classic rich tarry spicy edge to the restrained berry fruit. Firm tannins underpinning everything: classically structured, this is a bold wine with good ageing potential. Very good/excellent (c. £27)

Part 1, Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards
Part 2, Cape Point Vineyards
Part 3, AA Badenhorst Family Wines
Part 4, Eben Sadie: Sadie Family Wines and Sequillo Cellars
Part 5, Paul Kretzel of Lammershoek
Part 6, Mullineux Family Wines
Part 7, Vondeling
Part 8, Scali
Part 9, Sterhuis
Part 10, Raats
Part 11, Migliarina
Part 12, Charles Back and Fairview
Part 13, Hermit on the Hill
Part 14, Klein Constantia
Part 15, Iona, Elgin
Part 16, Paul Cluver, Elgin
Part 17, Eagles' Nest, Constantia
Part 18, Antonij Rupert/L'Ormarins Estate

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