Spotlight on the Swartland Revolution: A. A. Badenhorst Red Wine 2012

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Swartland’s old-vine material seems to permit two approaches to red wine. The first is single variety wines made mostly from Syrah, focused on expressing the unique amalgam of that grape’s singularity with the terroir of the region. The second is akin to California’s ‘mixed blacks’ made from heritage vineyards – that is, a field-blend approach that offers South Africa’s answer to the mediterranean blends of Europe.

The decades-old concrete fermenters at the winery.

The decades-old concrete fermenters at the winery.

A.A. Badenhorst falls in the latter camp – focusing on blends rather than single variety vineyard designates (such as Mullineux or Porseleinberg). This marries well with Badenhorst’s old-school mentality. Grapes are made without destemming or crushing (foot treading is used instead). The red wines sit on skins for 6 months. Fermentation is in old concrete tanks and used wood. Vines date back to the 1950’s and 60’s.

Romantic Beginnings

Bush-vines skulking about.

Bush-vines skulking about.

Adi Badenhorst’s is a romantic story, classically so. Growing up in Constantia, studying wine, and then working at some of the world’s great wineries (Chateau Angelus, Alain Graillot) before taking the helm at Rustenberg, Badenhorst’s wine-making credentials are legit. But it was in 2008 when he decided to purchase a run-down farm in the Swartland planted with unkempt old-vines and housing a beyond-rustic winery that his most exciting wine-making potential seems to have been unlocked.

Poetic Country Wine

Field-blending old-vines planted in three types of granite, shale and clay soils, Badenhorst crafts a decidedly ‘country’ wine, with edges, unafraid of its tannins and soaring and poetic in its aromas. The concentration is palpable but so is the lift. It seems impossible for this wine to be 13.5% for all the intensity of its fruit, but this is what nature has deemed appropriate by the meeting between strange, old bush-vines, Swartland’s hot climate and unique soils, and the right choices by a smart winemaker. The blend is 75% Shiraz, 12% Cinsault, 7% Tinta Barocca, 3% Grenache, and 3% Mourvedre.

Expect, cherries and flowers. Expect tannin. Expect acid. Expect to drink a lot of this wine – an ideal example of a Swartland old bush-vine field blend.

Excellent to Excellent+
$40 USD (Badenhorst is imported into BC by Trialto)


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