One of the many unique features of the South African wine industry, not always realised by the local wine-lover, is the ability of Cape wine farms to offer an astounding diversity of wine varieties.
However, making a comprehensive selection of different wines from various grapes is one thing. Producing great quality throughout such a diverse offering – and consistently – is another proposition altogether, something only a few wine farms are capable of.
Here Kleine Zalze, situated outside the town of Stellenbosch, has come to the fore as one of the country’s leading wine brands in terms of offering an exciting, varied range of wines made at levels of quality recognised as being of the best in South Africa. An astonishing array of trophies, medals and top scores from discerning wine critics is testimony to this. As well as – most importantly – thousands of wine-lovers who enjoy Kleine Zalze’s wines locally and all over the world.
And all this from a wine farm that last year celebrated its 25th anniversary under ownership of Kobus Basson who acquired the old, run-down property in 1996 with the vision of turning it into a leading producer showcasing the quality and diversity of Stellenbosch winemaking.
Brand-awareness, diversity of offering and quality wines are complemented by Kleine Zalze’s position as one of Stellenbosch’s premier tourist destinations, largely helped by the Kleine Zalze Restaurant offering ranges of eclectic small-plate dishes in shady green country surroundings.
RJ Botha, head-winemaker at Kleine Zalze says that although the farm’s vision of being a house of diverse ranges of wines offered at various price-points could be seen as complex and daunting, for him and his team the focus is on keeping things as simple and close as possible to the most important aspect of winemaking: soil, place, and vineyards.
“The vineyard plays the predominant role in driving the expression of our wines,” says Botha. “Whether it is Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or Sauvignon Blanc in the bottle, we go for clean fruit purity expressing the brightness of New World wine. This you can only get on a consistent basis if your primary product – namely the wine grape – is of the best quality.
Therefore, Klein Zalze is obsessed with the science and art of viticulture. We have 80ha of vines on our own estate and source fruit from some of the top regions in Stellenbosch and other parts of the Cape. Top quality grapes grown in the right sites of terroir is your mainstay – good grapes provide the winemakers with the focus we need.”
He says Cabernet Sauvignon is what does best here on Kleine Zalze, which is also planted to Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Chenin Blanc.
“If you look back at what South Africa – and especially Stellenbosch – has achieved, you’ve got to say that Cabernet Sauvignon is the cornerstone of the country’s wine industry,” he says. “It grows well here; we know how to handle the grape and our rendition of the variety is recognised throughout a world wherein Cabernet Sauvignon will always be one of the most desired wines.”
And it is also a variety that has enabled Kleine Zalze to off-set its image of a high-volume producer with a proven ability to make some of the finest wines in the country.
RJ takes a comfortable jump from Cabernet Sauvignon to Chenin Blanc, fitting right into the ethos of Kleine Zalze and what the brand does best.
“Chenin Blanc is simply South Africa’s premier grape,” he says. “It’s been a part of the vineyards since the beginning of the industry and is inextricably linked to the identity of who we are and what we are trying to achieve. And along the way, South African Chenin Blanc has become the best in the world.”
Despite the focus on the farm’s various traditional ranges, the Klein Zalze winemaking team continue searching for new and exciting ways of showcasing their obsession with the fruit of the vine. This recently saw the arrival of the farm’s acclaimed Project Z, a limited selection made from unique parcels of grapes from isolated Cape vines and using some alternative winemaking methods.
Hanri Ferreira, part of Botha’s winemaking team, says Project Z – launched in 2020 – offered Kleine Zalze’s winemakers an exciting opportunity to “push the envelope”. “We selected Chenin Blanc, Syrah and Grenache from some very intriguing vineyards and during the making some off-beat processes were employed,” says Ferreira.
“These included skin-contact with Chenin Blanc as well as fermentation and aging in clay amphorae – the same vessels used in winemaking thousands of years ago – for Project Z Chenin Blanc and Grenache. The different approaches in vineyard selection and the somewhat alternative small-batch winemaking of Project Z, has been another huge success for Kleine Zalze, and we released the second Project Z range in February this year.”
When it comes to toasting Kleine Zalze’s success, there is also enough Kleine Zalze Cap Classique to go around. “Cap Classique has grown into a very popular South African category, and subsequently Kleine Zalze has placed a solid focus on this great sparkling wine, making it one of the most popular segments of our offering.” says Lizemari Geldenhuys, responsible for Cap Classique at Kleine Zalze.
“Gone are the days of Cap Classique only being consumed at celebrations – the cool, fresh sparkle of bottle-fermented sparkling wine has become a part of everyday wine enjoyment in South Africa. And with our award for Best Cap Classique at last year’s Amorim Cap Classique Challenge, Kleine Zalze is proud to be a leader in this category, too.”
Kleine Zalze is open for wine-tasting to the following schedule:
- Monday to Saturday: 09h00 – 18h00
- Sunday and Public Holidays: 11h00 – 18h00
- Make sure you give them a call to book: 021 880 819