An occasion of “firsts” at Rust en Vrede
in the world, (winery) owners come and go and so do winemakers. But there’s one
thing that remains: origin. That means Stellenbosch, and Rust en Vrede.”
is actually a quote from Jannie Engelbrecht who bought the farm in 1977, but
his son Jean, who now runs Rust en Vrede, has clearly had this philosophy
drilled into him from birth. The last decade has seen many intrigues and
changes in the life of this ex-pilot, as he himself acknowledges (“I’ve had a
colourful relationship with the press!”), but after a fascinating tasting and
lunch last week, I think both he and his father will be fairly content that it
is this phrase and his passionate belief in it, which has remained in my mind.
This was an
occasion of ‘firsts’ for R&V – their first food and wine pairing ever, the
first bloggers (an alien enemy according to chef David Higgs – who rattled his
cage I wonder?!) to be invited to the estate and the first time lifestyle
journalists have been included in these tasting events and not just your usual bearded
wine fundis. Throughout the tasting, which included 32 year old wines, Jean was
keen to emphasise his mantra of DNA, style and origin, even going one step
further and narrowing the region down to the Helderberg. His attitude is that
“You’d have to be a really bad winemaker to screw things up here in the
Helderberg” but luckily for him, over the last 30 or so years, they’ve only had
four winemakers, none of which comes within a whiff of being termed ‘bad’ – the
current winemaker, Coenie Snyman, has just joined the Cape Winemakers’ Guild
and was voted Diners Club Winemaker of the Year in 2009.
change has been happening slowly in terms of those in charge of the
wine-making, it cannot be said to be the case with any other aspect of the
farm. As Jean says, owning R&V is a
challenge “not just to maintain it – that is your responsibility – but to build
on it” so he clearly isn’t planning on standing still for any length of time.
Over the last few years he has converted the old cellar into the top restaurant
in South Africa, started to renovate the manor house and is about to embark on
the upgrading of the tasting facilities.
him, he is a position to take a long-term view on wine and the wine industry –
which is just as well, as he believes that the wine industry is in a heck of a
hole at the moment and only savvy marketing will help people dig themselves out
“You need to be realistic about what you produce and how you’re going to market
it.” Tasting through his range and listening to his opinion of prices paid by
co-ops for grapes, his new wine bar in Namibia and what they are drinking and
his ideas about reviving the SA Estate Producers Association, I got the distinct impression of someone who
is talking the talk along with everybody else, but knows exactly how and where
he is going to walk anyway. It might not be precisely the same path as other
people, but I would bet a bottle or two of the most expensive wine in SA (if I
had any – see below) that he gets there
quicker and in better shape than most.
through 4 decades of wines which, since they are not available to buy, I won’t
torment you with writing about them! These are the vintages currently available
and were the wines I particularly enjoyed:
2007 Rust en Vrede Estate R380 – stinky-sweet nose with
plenty of black cherries and cassis hints. Fleshy wine with vanilla oak showing
now, rich, unctuous mid-palate, grippy, gritty tannins and weighty alcohol all
indicating a wine with plenty of time to come.
2008 Rust en Vrede Syrah Single Vineyard R850 – intensely ripe and fruity
but with immediate fruit restrained by elegant silky tannins and spice.
Amazingly, it makes the normal Shiraz seem almost tawdry – which it certainly
isn’t – as it simply overwhelms with classy ripe black fruit and a baked
buttery pastry finish.
2007 Rust en Vrede 1694 Classification R1,200 – sweet licorice entry with ripe black fruit,
gritty mouthfeel and rich intensity of flavour. Opulent and expansive with
endless length. Worth it? Probably.