I blame the Muscadel. And the nine-week old Alaskan malamute, Mona, the latest addition to the Rietvallei family. I was lured into this sixth generation farm with an inviting glass of the loveliest Muscadel and the cutest puppy eyes possibly south of the equator. Rietvallei, one of the most charming wine farms in the Langeberg region and producer of some of the best Muscadels in the area, and possibly the country, turned my intended wine-tasting appointment into a delightful visit in a relaxing environment. Even farm owner, Kobus Burger pulled up a chair.
One of Rietvallei Wines’ prestigious Muscadel wines.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but Rietvallei Wines resonated with my heart. It could be the rich history that is cemented into the walls of the cellar, or possibly the never-ending rows of the greenest vineyards some dating back to the early 1900s, or perhaps the selection of premium wines from this established estate. I’m not completely sure why, but I loved the serenity that accompanied my visit to this beautiful place.
Set in the heart of the Langeberg region in the Western Cape, Rievallei Wines is one of only a handful of South African estates to remain under one family for 150 years. Their wines tell the story of deep-rooted tradition and the legacy of the Burger family. Winemaking, as a result, flows through Kobus Burger’s veins, as it did through all of his predecessors.
Farm owner and cellarmaster, Kobus Burger with the cutest puppy ever, little Mona.
However, the art of winemaking remains a difficult task, admits Kobus who is also the cellar master for the estate. “The wine-making industry in South Africa, and the world in general has suffered a lot these past couple of years. Many reasons can be attributed to it, including the ignorance of wine drinking, the 2008 world recession, and non-inflationary increases of the price of wine which remained around 2-3% per year,” says Kobus.
“Every year we overproduce hundreds of thousands of litres of excess wine. South Africa’s per-capita consumption has been declining for years, now at around seven litres per person per year. If we could increase that to around 12 litres, we’ll completely eliminate the excess wine,” Kobus, who is also the Chairman of the Robertson Wine Valley, explained.
Visitors can opt to rather enjoy their tasting outside, overlooking the most gorgeous views.
“Although not necessarily cheap, South African wines are still some of the most affordable in the world,” says Kobus. “The cultivated wine drinker is few and far between and they are the only ones who will fork out R200 or more for a bottle, however, the average wine drinker refuses to pay that much for wine. People want more bang for their buck. They want the best wine at the cheapest price and we have really strong competition out there.”
New and upcoming wine drinkers still prefer easy-drinking, entry-level wines. They opt for cheap and cheerful which makes selling good quality wines even harder. “One of the best wines I’ve produced was a dry rosé, called the Juanita. Many people loved it but because it was pink, people assumed it was a sweet rosé. I had to discontinue the range because at the time people were still very uneducated about dry rosés.
Rietvallei Wines’ tasting room used to be a reservoir on the farm.
Kobus took ownership of the main operations of the farm from his father, Johnny Burger in 2002. At the time they had only bottled three wines; a Chardonnay, a Cabernet and a Muscadel, Exports Manager Lezaan Stemmet tells me. In 2005, they converted an old reservoir into their tasting room, which is where you’ll be able to enjoy a glass of your favourite varietal today. However, in summer, tourists opt to rather sit outside under the cool shades of the massive trees and enjoy a leisurely visit while sipping on the wide selection of Rietvallei wines.
Rietvallei’s selection of wines has grown significantly since those initial three bottles, says Lezaan. Kobus has recently added two single vineyard wines under a new label, the JMB series, in honour of his late father, Johannes Marthinus Burger. The culmination, a Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay, boasts an elegant black and gold label adding a touch of sophistication to this selection.
The scenic entrance to Rietvallei Wines.
Rietvallei Wines was also recently selected to be the wine of choice for Kenya Airways, which offered them a one-year contract to supply wine to all of their flights. Kobus is excited for the new venture and says that Africa holds a lot of unexplored promise for the wine market. Their biggest exporting market currently includes the UK and the Netherlands, respectively.
Administrative assistant, Natasha Crous took me on a delicious journey of discovery between the wooded, award-winning wines.
Rietvallei Sauvignon Blanc
The Rietvallei Sauvignon Blanc 2014, recipient of the prestigious Terroir Wine Award, offered a welcoming start to my tasting experience. Refreshingly fruity, this Sauv presented the perfect solace for a hot summer’s day. It is citrusy and light on the nose yet explosive and overwhelming on the palate. A zesty, crisp taste adds full flavour to this delish Sauv. Although slightly dry, this Sauv will appeal to both the simple and the complex palate.
Recipient of the Terroir trophy, Rietvallei’s famous Sauvignon Blanc.
Rietvallei JMB Chardonnay
The JMB Chardonnay, one of the wines from their latest selection the JMB series, presented a delicious taste of citrus and orangey flavours. Soft and sophisticated, this Chardonnay takes you on an adventure from the very first sip. Gentle on the palate yet full-bodied and robust, this wine offers a long finish. It is a lovely summer treat for conscious wine drinker.
The JMB series boasts an elegant black and gold label.
A combination of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chennin Blanc and Viognier, this white wine proved why it is their flagship wine. Beautiful aromas of fig and melon, this white appeals to a broad spectrum of wine lovers. It has all the elements of a complex white, yet it is soft enough for wine drinkers to enjoy leisurely. The Estéanna White was barrel fermented which adds a touch of elegance to this lovely wine. It is full-bodied yet easy on the palate. A refreshing aftertaste lingers on the palate long after you’ve enjoyed it. This one was my absolute favourite of all the varieties.
Named after Kobus’ two darling daughters Esté and Annie, the Estéanna range is Rietvallei’s premium wine.
I’d like to thank Natasha and Lezaan for the lovely tasting, I had a wonderful time at Rietvallei Wines. Thanks also to Kobus for fitting me into his very busy schedule. If you’d like more info on the wide selection of Rietvallei Wines, including their wine prices, please see their website. Please also follow them on facebook and twitter.
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