Landau du Val
Visiting the Franschhoek wine valley, South Africa, part 4


Basil Landau is an interesting person. He was a prominent businessman and friend of presidents in a previous era in South Africa. In 1986, at the age of 56, he decided on a change of pace, and bought a beautifully situated farm in Franschhoek where he moved with his considerably younger wife, Jane. The farm, La Brie, was originally given to a Hugenot (Jacques de Villiers) in 1689, and was built up from nothing. Basil's home was built in 1787, so it is properly old.


When Jane and Basil came here in 1986 they looked at five farms, and this was the fifth they visited. It was July, it was raining, there was no garden, and the house hadn't been lived in for 9 years. They bought it.


Along with the farm he acquired one of South Africa's great heritage vineyard blocks, a 4 hectare Semillon vineyard planted in 1905. While there are a couple of producing vineyards that pre-date this in the Cape, this is he oldest block in South Africa that still produces a single wine: it's the Landau d Val Semillon, and this is the only wine Basil makes. He sells some of these grapes, and also has other vineyards which he also sells the produce to, but the bulk of the vineyard goes to his own label, which is made by Wynand Grobler at Rickety Bridge.


Wynand was put in touch with Basil by Marc Kent. 'I was very excited to work with this legendary vineyard,' he says. He made an agreement with his boss, Duncan Spence, to do the winemaking free of charge in order to protect this vineyard. 'You don't have to do much to get great wines from it,' says Wynand. The grapes are whole-bunch pressed and fermented naturally. 'I just take care of it and make sure it shows the vineyard,' says Wynand.

Wynand Grobler

Basil is now 85 years old, and has a 24 year old son and a 22 year old daughter. He's rightly proud of this wine, which deserves more acclaim than it gets. 'It should be selling at 1000R,' he says. 'We sell it for 300R and it sells out quickly.'


We went for a walk in the vineyard, which had recently been harvested. It was scraggly and untidy, and as well as old Semillon, there’s old Pinotage here, too. But these ancient vines, struggling to put out tiny yields of grapes, are making something very interesting indeed.



Landau du Val Semillon 2013 Franschhoek, South Africa
Taut, focused and textured with some creamy hints. Very fresh and pure with a bit of spice. So detailed, with pear and peach fruit: has freshness but also richness. Such a lovely wine, showing real complexity. 94/100

Landau du Val Semillon 2010 Franschhoek, South Africa
The grapes were picked very late in 2010, which was a mistake. It was a very low-yielding year, and the result was this powerful, atypical wine. Taut, fresh and finely toasty on the nose. Expressive, lively and powerful with hints of apple and citrus, as well as some sweetness, and a spicy finish. 92/100

Landau du Val Semillon 2007 Franschhoek, South Africa
This was fermented in 100% new French oak, and was made by Jean Daneel. Remarkable nose is exotic and toasty with pear and lemon skin notes. Powerful, waxy palate with a bit of spiciness, and a hint of mint. Full bodied but has lightness. 94/100

Landau du Val Semillon 2004 Franschhoek, South Africa
50% new oak. Very fresh and pristine with citrus (mainly lime) and a bit of toastiness. Bright but with some depth. The palate is fresh with a hint of pith, subtle toast, lemon peel and grapefruit. So detailed: very fresh and fine. 95/100

Landau du Val Semillon 2003 Franschhoek, South Africa
Full yellow/gold colour. Rich and ripe with toast, peach, spice and apricot. Powerful and delicious with crystalline fruits and tangerines. Lovely. 92/100

Black Elephant Vintners
Landau du Val
La Bri
La Petite Ferme
Appellation Grand Prestige
Haut Espoir

See also:

The Hemel-en-Arde wine route (series)
Stellenbosch revisited (series)

Wines tasted 04/15  
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