A piece of the Earth’s mantle thrusts up above the gentle town of Franschhoek, a wild slice of untamed mountain Boutinot is now weepily proud to call home.
An established wine region for 339 years, sensible generations never thought to plant a vine here until a happy band of Boutinot idealists recently craned their necks up at a mountain and, dizzy with ambition, perhaps hypnotised by the hillside’s sibilant cobras, decided to give it a go. So we have a new home in South Africa. We are on the very edge of the South-Eastern corner of the Cape’s venerable Coastal Region. The property border runs over the top of the mountain where the Coastal Region gives way to the baboon-strewn road to Grabouw and the wider Western Cape. Franschhoek (French Quarter) is named for the French Huguenots who fled persecution in the late 1600’s. Before their arrival the valley was known as Olifantshoek, named for the elephants who would pass from one side of the mountain, very likely through Wildeberg, to breed in this valley’s lush pastures. For 150 years this 150 hectare property has been a family farm named Guldenheuwel which, if pronounced properly, is unpronounceable. It translates as Golden Hill because of the long, mellow sunsets that yellow our mountain. For us this is not just too old-peoples-home a name to maintain but also fails to capture the fleeting light, sudden storms, window-shattering South-Easterlies, the howling, barking, humping troupes of baboons; the fact that the snakes here chase you, nor the phenomenal, limitless vistas beyond the farm’s reflective chrome lakes. It’s a wild, wild mountain, and this, in Afrikaans, would be Wildeberg (“Wil-de-berg”). Of the 150 hectares a miserly 10 can be planted with vines. The rest of the property is protected fynbos or just too steep. The rake of our mountain means that our soils change every ten metres. Soil science has revealed a bewildering mosaic of distinct mineral blocks but in these findings the mountain has told us what to plant. Amongst the cultivars that belong are Semillon, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cab Franc & Malbec. But these wines are years away.
We will have a winery, a barrel hall is being fashioned from a barn right now, we now have sublime accommodation for guests and arguably the most dramatically-appointed tasting room in the hemisphere. Wildeberg will one day grow grapes and make wine but it has a greater long term truth and an immediate working purpose. A mountain rich in metaphor, for Boutinot Wildeberg is many things – a place on which to reflect on our 25 years in South Africa, a statement of intent for the region, very physical proof of our love for, and commitment to, this country’s wine and a fabulous place to blend, work and stay. Wildeberg has renewed our energy, as all good mountains do, and steeled a desire to make even better, truer wine. As a raw monument to metamorphosis Wildeberg engenders huge energy, a sense of responsibility even, to refine finer wines. And in JD Rossouw, Ryno Booysen and Pierre Louw we have a young, passionate team of home-grown winemakers sourcing better wines and vines than ever. Wildeberg offers the unique sense of place and visual heft to flatter any wine, but in fact it makes us raise our game. For Boutinot Wildeberg represents not just a place, but a state of mind. A prism to which good things come and from which great things flow. A clutch of new releases represent our first post-Wildeberg wines, with some reference to Franschhoek but mostly about our continued purpose – great wines from the wider Western Cape. These are all from unirrigated bush vines. “Dry-grown” is a necessary virtue, of course, in this increasingly dry region, but these have been dry for decades which renders these vines relatively sustainable.
On Reflection Chenin Blanc WO Coastal Region 2017
Sourced from 41-year-old bush vines off Paarl’s sandy loams. A poised and textural Chenin representing contemporaneously the region’s hardiest grape. A blobbe (that’s a metric blob) of Franschhoek Semillon in the wine adds zither & pith.
Chrome Yellow Semillon WO Coastal Region 2017
Sourced from ancient bush vines in the Franschhoek Valley, planted in the 1930s and 40s, the name and label reflect the vivid citrus tang of the wine and the particular artistic era in which the vines were planted.
Mantlepiece Cinsault WO Coastal Region 2017
From 45-year-old bush vines, deeply-rooted in the same sandy Paarl loams, a drop of Franschhoek Cab Franc gives heels to this hugely perfumed, hoi sin and underbrush hoe-down celebrating the prettiness possible in the influence of the ages and the vast subterranean strata of the Earth. A celebration of Cinsault’s silky charms and exotic perfume. It’s as tempting to dab behind the ears as drink it.