In the 1970s, Johan Simons experienced two incredible wines that changed his perceptions forever. He tried the 1973 Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon and the 1961 Chateau Palmer – and was hooked. In 1997, Johan and his wife Diana bought the Fynbos Estate in Paardeberg and Johan’s wine-making journey began.
A trained molecular biologist, Johan’s approach to winemaking is all natural. Using 16 hectares of non-irrigated, organically grown bush vines, the biggest decisions Johan makes is when to harvest and how to press. Everything is minimally handled, naturally fermented with only the slightest pressing, low in sulphur and non-filtered.
Johan says, ‘I chose 1900 as a winemaking year to emulate because by then copper and sulphur as fungicides were available, there were no commercial yeasts (indeed none until the 1980’s) and machinery was simple. Winemaking was to a large extent non-interventionist. Natural wines and natural winemaking appealed to me then and still does.’
The wines are named after a hill on Fynbos Estate that looks like the back of a dragon. It’s a lovely sight to see, and sipping on Dragonridge wine in its presence is quite a treat. Another treat? Having your food, paired with the wine of course, prepared by Johan himself, which can be arranged on request. This unique and homely experience mirrors how the wine is made and enjoyed.
All of Johan’s wine are deeply fragrant and follows through on the palate perfectly. Since Dragonridge wines are unfiltered, the colour is darker with whites appearing almost golden while reds are richer. Our personal favourites? Two Chenin Blancs, each with its own personality: the Cygnas Chenin, paired with snoek paté, is woody while the Capella is fruiter, making it a great companion to a prawn dish.
Dragonridge red wine range also includes Light Shiraz that Johan describes as feminine, and Dark Star, a lovely complex Pinotage that is still easy to drink. Johan makes around 10 000 bottles across eight wines and méthode ancestral so you know when you open a bottle of Dragonridge wine, you’re going to taste something special.
You can do a tasting on Fynbos Estate by prior arrangement and can order the wine directly from the farm here.
Photography Courtesy images