My first introduction to this estate’s wines was at a South Africa Fine Wine Extravaganza hosted in London last year. Waterkloof’s Circle of Life White 2010 stood out in an impressive line-up… and so I flagged it as an estate to visit on my next trip to South Africa.
Perched on a hill surrounded by the majestic Schaapenberg Mountains and turquoise waters of False Bay and located in Somerset West, Waterkloof Wine Estate is a must visit. Just 4km from the sea the vineyards benefit from the cold Atlantic sea breezes or gail winds should I say, which aid a long ripening period, good fresh acidity and concentration.
Waterkloof is the dream of UK wine merchant, Paul Boutinot, who purchased the estate in 2003. It’s clear that their goal of producing biodynamic hand crafted wines, where wine-making intervention is kept to a minimum in order to produce wines with a real sense of place, has been taken to heart. This philosophy of transparency and openness in fact follows through to the restaurant and design of the tasting room, which is glass encased and open plan. Activities in the vineyards, cellar and kitchen can be observed at any given point.
The vines are ploughed and sprayed by Percheron horses, keeping Carbon emissions to a minimum. The compacting of the spoil is less detrimental than would be the case if a tractor were used. Lastly while working they provide compost for the vines. Chickens roam the lands and help reduce pests while their free-range eggs are used in the wonderful fine dining restaurant. An earthworm farm has been created to provide compost rich in nutrients and antibiotics secreted by the worms.
There are three main ranges: The Waterkloof Range (currently consists of one wine being a Sauvignon Blanc which is their flagship wine and is produced from the highest vineyards only in exceptional years), Circumstance (a range of single varietal wines made from fruit grown on the middle slopes which best depict that particular circumstance ie terroir) and lastly Circle of Life (consists of a red blend and a white blend where fruit is sourced from various terroirs within the estate. This label depicts their commitment to biodynasim – the label has been well thought out and is striking).
Rather than bore you with a lengthy list of tasting notes, which can be found on their website, I wanted to highlight a few of the wines which really stood out for me. It’s important to note that the wines are elegant in style, so aromatics are subtle and focused. The Circumstance Chardonnay 2010 was a particular favourite with delicious fresh citrus notes and a lovely wet stone underlying minerality. The 10 months spent in 2nd fill French oak was perfect giving the wine a slight nuttiness, but no toasted oak notes could be picked up.
The Circle of Life Red 2009, a blend dominated by Shiraz (75%) with the rest made up of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc offered delicate bright red fruits coupled with herbs. I absolutely love the thought that has been put into this label. Click here to see the full circle of life depicted on this label.
Lastly the Circumstance Syrah 2009 was outstanding with its vibrant red fruits, white pepper and beautifully refined tannins. Given the elegant style of the vintage, more Rhône in character, they felt the term “Syrah” more appropriate. In vintages were the fruit is more upfront and forward the term “Shiraz” is used – a nice touch, but it may have the consumer thinking you have two different wines.
Wine Maker: Werner Engelbrecht
Viticulturist: Christiaan Loots
Special thanks to Sonja du Plessis for guiding us so informatively through the wines.