I woke up on Sunday early but excited. A few lucky people, including me, had been invited to Robertson by three producers: Graham Beck, Springfield and De Wetshof. And we were to fly there on a small plane (a Beechcraft – from looking on the website, I’m pretty sure this was a King Air 350). And then afterwards, we were to head to the little Karoo to stay overnight at the Sanbona wildlife reserve, in the Godwana lodge. This was all rather exciting.
Roberston is an interesting wine region, and one that is not given enough credit. It’s thought to be a hot region, not suited to fine wine production. This is clearly nonsense, as Robertson makes some of the country’s best Chardonnay and Methode Cap Classique. ‘I think Robertson is one of the most interesting regions for producing the flavour profiles for Chardonnay,’ says Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck. He points out that although it’s warm, if you manage your vineyards the right way, you can get great grapes. And its the region with the highest natural limestone. He never has to acidify for his sparkling base wines.
We started off at Graham Beck, and these sparkling wines are just lovely. Try the Blanc de Blancs 2010, the Brut Zero 2010 or the Cuvee Clive 2009 – these are serious wines.
We then walked the vineyards at Springfield with Abrie and Jeannette Bruwer. Here the biggest vineyard pest is snails, who – because of the limestone in the soils – can achieve a rapid generation time. These snails multiply fast and early in the season destroy new buds. On a large vineyard, there are very few solutions that aren’t chemical. Ducks can manage a few rows, but not 100 hectares. They’re famous for their Sauvignon Blanc, but I really liked their Wild Yeast Chardonnay 2013 and their Methode Ancienne Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.
Finally, Lesca de Wet took us up to see the Bon Vallon vineyard, which is quite stunning. We returned to the farm to meet Danie De Wet, who couldn’t join us in the vineyard because his ankle was in a huge cast. Their sons Peter and Johann are also involved (winemaker and marketing, respectively). It’s such a nice, authentic family making some very smart wines, with Chardonnay a real speciality. Danie was one of the pioneers of this variety in the Cape and helped smuggle in vines back in the late 1970s/early 1980s.