Nederburg was named as Winery of the Year by the 2011 Platter Wine Guide this evening. With a total haul of five 5 star wines and the Superquaffer of the Year, it's an accolade well-deserved. I visited them recently to look at their operation which can handle millions of litres but is still able to cope with boutique amounts as well.
You can say what you like about small, boutique wineries (and generally, I have to confess that I prefer hands-on and handmade to huge and anonymous) but there is one thing which working in the biggest wine environment of all gives you - the chance to experiment. The size of the operation at Nederburg is vast – it’s almost beyond comprehension, with the biggest tanks I’ve ever seen, the biggest numbers I’ve ever heard being bandied around a winery (everything comes in thousands - “We can process up to 1,000 tonnes of grapes per day”, “Nederburg owns 1,000 hectares of its own vineyards and buys from a further 50 or so growers”, “We buy about 1,000 new barrels a year.”) and by far the biggest production – Baronne alone accounts for 1.5million litres of wine per year!
And yet, along with all the other ‘thousands’ being talked of is one more which offers a very different dimension. In amidst all this vastness, they are able to isolate parcels of grapes sufficient to make relatively tiny amounts of wine – sometimes as little as 1,000 litres. Alongside the huge mega- litre tanks there are some smaller ones playing ‘Happy Families’ with Daddy tanks starting at a mere 16,000 litres and going down to the Baby tanks of just 500 litres. These small parcels are then siphoned off into barrels and squirreled away in a series of odd corners around the winery waiting to see what will happen to them and what they will become.
I was tasting alongside Cellarmaster Razvan Macici, red winemaker Wilhelm Pienaar and assistant white winemaker Danie Morkel who had prepared a few oddities and specialities to prove that there is more to Nederburg than the big brands. We started off with two barrels of Sauvignon Blanc 2010, one from Lomond in second fill oak and one from Darling in first fill. The plan is to blend the two together by the end of the year and combine the wonderful sweet nutty notes of the Lomond wine with the green peas and aromas of the Darling batch, the final wine to be released just in time for the next Auction.
The new Ingenuity White 2010 (Five Stars in Platter 2011), which contains 8 varieties as usual, was showing lots of citrus fruit and flowers with an almond finish and the 2009 Winemakers Reserve Bushvine Chenin Blanc has a wonderful baked apple Danish palate with lively acidity and hints of honey. New wines on show included a Pinot Grigio 2010 from Elgin and destined solely for the Canadian market (although not if the winemaking team has any say in it!) and a wild 2010 Gewurztraminer which will be bottled next year – already full of fruit salad flavours of pineapples and raspberries with aromatic spice and a banana cream finish. Delicious stuff.
Onto the reds which are intended for release in time for the 2018 Auction. Many of them come from cooler climates such as Durbanville and Philadelphia “A difference in day/night temperature is very important for intensity and aroma profile” believes Razvan. I particularly enjoyed the Shiraz 2008 which was a spice-packed stunner and the tight, concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon from Simondium vineyards – full of dark and powerful black fruit.
There are many different ranges and brands under the Nederburg name and it is easy to get a little confused as to what sits where. Up until now, the top range has been Ingenuity and Razvan plans to add two more wines at that level – the barrel-fermented Sauvignon and a cinnamon-y/chocolate-y Cabernet – as well. And then on top of that range will come their new wine, one so secret that they are refusing to divulge the varieties or where they get the grapes or anything at all except to say that they believe it will be the culmination of everything they can achieve at Nederburg. I tasted 2 vintages – the 2007 and the 2008 – both of them displaying incredible depth of flavour, black fruit intensity, gritty and grippy tannins along with a fluidity and elegance which augur fantastically well for the final wines. The first one is slated for release in 2012 – and the queue to get your hands on some starts with me!