The wines of Sterhuis, Stellenbosch
South Africa revisited part 9


Johan Kruger

A family farm at the top of Stellenbosch’s Bottelary hills, Sterhuis was bught as a retirement project/investment by André Kruger the father of the current manager/winemaker, Johan Kruger, in 1980. Initially, the grapes from the 112 hectare farm were sold, but Johan got involved in 1998 and the family are now making their own wine.

Johan says that he has no technical training, 'but I like to have the terroir reflected in the glass,' he says. 'I follow naturalistic, holistic approaches.'

'We are bound to what we have as soils,' says Johan, 'but I'm glad to be bound to decomposed granite.' It's a 100 hectare farm with 45 hectares of vines, just over half of which are white varieties.

Sauvignon Blanc is planted at the top of the hills at an altitude of 480 m, facing south and west. It is interesting to compare the two: Johan says the south-facing blocks give more gooseberry and mineral characters, while the west-facing block shows more tropical fruit.

Johan thinks that Sauvignon with too much methoxypyrazine character is bad. 'It's been picked green by people who pick on acid levels,' he says. 'This means the vineyard should be planted to Chenin or Chardonnay.'

His Sauvignon winemaking is simple:  whole-bunch pressed, fermented at 12-18 C, with some lees contact. His favourite variety to work with, though, is Chardonnay. 'I'll never make Burgundy in South Africa, but I respect what they are trying to do with terroir,' His Chardonnay undergoes natural fermentation in oak, with about 45% new oak (French, medium toast). He adds a litre of skimmed milk per barrel before filtering, as a fining step.

His most interesting wine (in my opinion) is the Astra. This is a white blend from three vineyards adjacent to each other on the top of the hill. The three varieties – Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Chenin – are fermented separately in an oxidative style. After 12 months the barrels are racked, but the wine goes back into its original barrel, on its original lees. 'I want that site in a glass,' says Johan.


Sterhuis Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Stellenbosch
13.5% alcohol. Quite ripe, with rich, tropical fruit. As well as subtly green, dill notes. The palate has subtle herby greenness, nice balance and good acidity. Nice fruity character with a subtly mineral edge. 89/100

Sterhuis Chardonnay 2009 Stellenbosch
Rich, toasty, nutty nose with peach and fig notes. Very broad and a bit bready. The palate is dense and full with herby, grapefruit minerality. Taut and rich at the same time. Notes of white peach and pear. A lovely expressive wine. 92/100

Sterhuis Astra 2008
A blend of Chanin, Sauvignon and Chardonnay from three adjacent vineyards at the top of the hill. 14% alcohol. Deep yellow colour. Fresh, herbal, grapefruit nose is rich and rounded, but also fresh. The palate shows minerals, herbs and lemons, as well a some peachy richness. Lively and intense, this is serious. 94/100

Sterhuis Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
13.5% alcohol. From a north-facing slope. Lovely perfumed nose with savoury, gravelly notes. The palate has sweet plum and berry fruits, with grippy, savoury, gravelly notes. Quite sophisticated with nice freshness. Finishes a bit earthy. 90/100

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 10/10  
Find these wines with

Back to top