The wines of Anthonij Rupert
South Africa revisited part 18: visiting L'Ormarins Estate in Franschhoek

L’Ormarins is the home base and main estate of Anthonij Rupert wines, based in Francschhoek. The vineyards have been extensively remodelled over the last six years, with the lower lying vineyards pulled out and new plantings higher up the slopes of the Groot Drakenstein mountains.

We visited with viticultuarlist Rosa Kruger, who is held in high regard in South Africa and does quite a bit of consulting work, and also with red winemaker Dawie Botha. Kruger has clearly done a lot of work in bringing the vineyards up to scratch, and has even done some experimentation: we saw some Pinot Gris vines trained on single stakes, like Riesling in the Mosel or Syrah in the northern Rhône (below).

Previously, there was lots of virus on the farm in the old valley floor vineyards. Great strides have been made in dealing with this. Natural predators of mealybug, the vector of leaf roll virus, have been released. Workers in the vineyard avoid creating dust, because this kills off the mites that predate mealybug. And when workers identify an infected vine, they get a reward. All the new plantings have been of virus free material.

As well as L’Ormarins, Anthonij Rupert also have three other farms. There’s Riebeeksrivier, a new property on the slopes of the Kasteelberg overlooking the Swartland, which has deep shale soils. These are ideal for Syrah, which has recently been planted here. The blocks with more clay in will be planted to Marsanne, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier, and there are also some old Chenin Blanc bush vines here. Rooderust is a large farm in Darling, with 160 ha of vineyards, all of which are virus free. Bordeaux varieties, Syrah, Sangiovese and Chardonnay are grown here. High Noon is the name of a new property in Elandksloof, near Villiersdorp and Hermanus, with vineyards as high as 880 metres. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are planted here.

The wines are made in two state of the art cellars found on the L’Ormarins property. The red wine cellar here is truly remarkable, with a revolving roof that is used to move large items around the cellar by means of a winch. It’s quite James-Bond-villain like. It’s also on multiple levels, so that wines can be moved around by gravity rather than pumping.

The top wines are fermented in barrel, using a system called ‘vinification integrale’ (see The barrels are fitted with an internal metal stirrer and one end is made of clear, tinted Perspex. The barrels are then mounted on an oxoline system that allows them to be revolved during the fermentation to allow skin contact: a breathable bung allows carbon dioxide to escape.

Red winemaker Dawie Botha

In terms of the actual wines, it seems that the range is in a transition point. Previously, like much of the South African industry, it has focused on Bordeaux varieties. But now, with the new farms and terroirs, a switch to varieties perhaps more suited to the climate of the Cape is occurring. While the current range is really impressive, you get the feeling that the best is yet to come.

The range is split into four tiers, with Anthonij Rupert at the top (flagship wines), the L’Ormarins, then Terra del Capo (Italian varieties), and then Protea (entry level).


L’Ormarins Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Western Cape
Fresh, smooth and grassy. Gently aromatic. The palate has grapefruit notes and is fine and expressive, with fresh, subtly grassy character. Restrained but elegant. 90/100

L’Ormarins Chardonnay 2008 Western Cape
Rounded, smooth, mealy, savoury and malty on the nose. The palate is smooth and rounded with warm, mealy flavours. Distinctive, with a long finish. Elegant style. 90/100

Anthonij Rupert Nemesia 2006
A blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier with a touch of Clairette. Beautifully complex and intense with thrillingly lively fruit and complex notes of grapefruit, fig and pineapple, as well as peaches, toast and nuts. Intensely savoury with explosive flavours and good acidity. 93/100

Anthonij Rupert Merlot 2005
Creamy, chalky, smooth and intense on the nose. Sophisticated. Very richly fruited with blackberry and plum. The palate is concentrated, intense and refined with lovely mineral notes, subtle earthiness and fine grained tannins. It’s beginning to develop complexity and has good structure. 93/100

Anthonij Rupert Cabernet Franc 2005
Very refined, smooth and intense with lovely focus. Concentrated and refined with lovely grainy, sleek tannic structure, as well as blackcurrant and red fruits. Lovely concentration with a nicely savoury edge. Sweet fruit, but with old world structure: a fantastic effort. 94/100

See also: Photos from L'Ormarins

A short film of the visit:

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, Anthonij Rupert
Part 19, Oak Valley, Elgin
Part 20, Shannon, Elgin

Wines tasted 11/09  
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