If the artistic endeavour involved in winemaking was ever in doubt, then consider Francois Haasbroek’s motivation for leaving his position at high-profile Waterford in Stellenbosch to go it alone. “I wanted 100% creative control. From conception through to execution. For better or for worse,” he says. His wines appear under the Blackwater label and the business is sole-owned. “Silent partners would certainly help with cash flow but unfortunately silent partners are never completely silent.”
Perhaps his most successful effort to date is Noir 2010. From Walker Bay grapes, it’s a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache, matured in old, large-format barrels for some 20 months. “I want to avoid new oak but then you need patience for the process of micro-oxygenation to do its thing,” he says.
It shows red and black berries, fynbos, spice and some liquorice. Medium bodied with clean, pure fruit, really lively acidity and a dry, almost salty finish. The wine sells locally for R125 a bottle, and Haasbroek says “A fair price is very important. My wine’s not churned out and hopefully consumers will recognise that they’re getting something special.”
Haasbroek’s new endeavour intrigues but really he’s just one of a whole bunch of young winemakers who are shaking up the South African wine scene. Others to watch include Chris and Suzaan Alheit (Alheit Vineyards), Donovan Rall (Rall Wines and Vuurberg) and David Sadie (Lemberg and David) to single out but a few. These guys and girls are typically in their 20s or 30s, are well travelled and not afraid to work with lesser known varieties in some of the more uncelebrated parts of the winelands.
Duncan Savage will be familiar to many wine enthusiasts as the winemaker behind the excellent Cape Point Vineyards portfolio but he has now also launched his own label simply called Savage Wines. Maiden releases includes a White 2012 consisting of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon plus a Red 2011 from 72% Shiraz, 21% Grenache and 7% Cinsaut.
“My target was to have my own wines in bottle before I was 35 and I turned 35 in January so I just about made it,” he says. Apart from saying that grapes are sourced from “a number of altitude and maritime vineyards around the Western Cape”, he’s reluctant to go into more detail – lots of tiny parcels and these set to change from year to year. “I’m using a shotgun approach to sourcing grapes,” he says. “I can’t afford a farm and I don’t know if I want to afford a farm.”
The origins of these wines might be more complicated than most, but their excellence is not in question. The White is wonderfully focused and tight and needs at least another 12 months to open up while the red has remarkable flavour intensity despite its relatively low alcohol by volume of under 13%. The Savage wines are sure to attract cult status and evidence once again that South African wine is going through a particularly dynamic and exciting phase.