Last Wednesday saw the official launch of B Vintners at Schoon de Companje in the capital of the Cape Winelands, Stellenbosch. The beautiful old building played host to an excellent crowd, a sublime array of appetizers and an even more enchanting range of wines. B Vintners is the new vinous endeavour of cousins Bruwer Raats and Gavin Bruwer: the coming together of ‘youth and experience’, in Bruwer’s words.
Bruwer and Gavin work together making wine at Raats Family Wines – champions of fine Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Their new project – the vine exploration company – brings winemaking in the Cape back to its roots and heritage. Across their range of five wines, they express the very essence of the varietals, which all come from small and unique vineyard plots within their home terroir of Stellies.
Wine is a story expressed in liquid and intoxicating form. And these wines from B Vintners tell a story like none other that is reflected in their precision and taste.
The grape so beloved by Napolean: Muscat d’Alexandrie
First in their range is the de Alexandria. Muscat d’Alexandrie was one of the first varietals to be planted in our fair Cape and also one of the first to get itself a celebrity following: Napolean Bonaparte loved the stuff. But the two cousins’ wine is not your usual Hanepoot, as the varietal is called here. The small Helderberg vineyard plot this wine comes from is completely enclosed by a white wash wall on a farm – and would have provided the homestead with grapes to be used in jam or for eating. Hanepoot is usually made into a sweet wine, or for brandy: theirs is bone dry. It’s fresh, light and floral and paired with the flavours of curry and fish, it blows your mind. It would have been impossible to stop drinking it had it not been for the next in the series: Haarlem to Hope.
A truly South Africa blend based on Chenin Blanc
Haarlem was the Dutch port JVR sailed out of on his voyage down to the Cape in 1652. Seven years later he reaped his first grape harvest and made wine. Thus Haarlem to Hope celebrates the route our first vines took to reach the Cape of Good Hope. Not to mention the “colourful people of this vibrant land”, in Gavin’s words, of now and then who have made the country and wine industry what it is. The wine is a dry white blend of Chenin Blanc, another South African national treasure; Semillon, also one of our first varietals; a dash of that fabulous Muscat d’Alexandrie. Lightly oaked, you still pick up the floral notes of the Muscat plus a nice spiciness from the Semillon.
What do hyenas and Chardonnay have in common?
Named after the brown hyenas that used to roam over Macassar – onto which the Chardonnay vineyard plot overlooks – this wine is so subtly oaked you would mistake it for an unwooded one. This is a refined Chardonnay that maintains a delicate creaminess without becoming one of those big, buttery numbers. According to Bruwer, choosing a favourite wine in the range is like choosing a favourite child: “they are special for different reasons.” Yet he counts this Chardonnay, along with his Pinot Noir, as his current favourite wines of the range.
The only bush vine Pinot Noir in the Cape
The Reservoir Road is so named for its location next to the road that leads up to the reservoir, high up on the hill in Faure, which also overlooks Macassar. The wine comes from a single vineyard that lies on decomposed granite: a soil type low in minerals, which affords the wine fine tannins and good acidity. The grapes also happen to be grown on bush vines – a very rare thing indeed for the varietal. Some Pinot Noirs out there can be a too ripe and even taste a bit ‘stalky’ – certainly not this one.
Liberating the true colours of Pinotage
It would be hard to pick a crown jewel of the evening between the Liberte Pinotage and the de Alexandria. Pinotage is South Africa’s only proprietary grape. Its parents are Cinsault and Pinot Noir, yet few Pinotage wines have been made in a way that reflects the characteristics of its parents. Until now.
B Vintners wants to liberate the qualities of the parent grapes so that we can experience it in this beautiful wine. Spice from Cinsault and fruit from Pinot Noir: you’re left with a wine that even the most astute tasters wouldn’t be able to label Pinotage. It’s elegant and delivers the fruit flavours – without being jammy – with fresh acidity. A stunner of a wine – and ironic to think that Bruwer “never thought [he’d] make a Pinotage”.
The pioneer spirit is alive and flourishing in Stellenbosch
B Vintners is winemaking with pioneering spirit. 2014 was their maiden vintage, but the project was conceived in 2013 and it has been a learning curve for both cousins, says Bruwer. The winemakers’ passion, humility and love for wine were impossible to miss and share in at the launch. How wonderful it was to hear the stories behind the wines and appreciate the importance of terroir in every drop.
Right in the heart of the town, a visit to Schoon de Companje is a must. Go for its stunning interior, stunning food by and the fantastic selection of wines at Het Wijnwinkeltje – which includes the B Vintners range.
Photography Caroline Knight/Koos la Cock