The Swartland Independent Producers were strutting their stuff in Riebeek-Kasteel last Saturday – and a great show it was. They drifted into Afrikaans and called it the “Wyn, kos en kultuur skou”. As to the elements in the name, apart from the almost universally excellent wine, the food seemed to be a monopoly of extremely expensive meat rolls (no doubt good, but when I went to get one there was a promised 10-minute delay, so I popped round the corner to PicknPay for some “pizza”, which was much cheaper, tasty enough and usefully mopped up some of the chenin and syrah). Culture consisted, first, of a gentle old-fashioned bunch of people singing and dancing (and providing some respite from the overwhelming whiteness of the winemakers and wine-drinkers); then later some decidedly ungentle rock music played off the back of a truck.
And I suppose you might add to the cultural side of things that Adi Badenhorst’s luxurious beard is helping him look worryingly like Rosa Kruger’s great-great-etc grandfather, Paul.
Previous SIP showings have been held at the annual Swartland Revolution, but it’s a good thing that the tasting has broken away – not least because the shared occasion wasn’t helping people understand the difference between the two. In case you’re among the continuing confused, Swartland Revolution is an event organised by just four wineries (Sadie, Mullineux, Badenhorst and Porseleinberg), while the SIP organisation is open to all Swartland producers, whose qualifying wines must observe appellation-type rules regarding origin, natural fermention, restricted oaking, permitted grape varieties, etc (see more about it all here). Actually it would probably have been a good idea for the organisers of this event to have taken the trouble to have some information about SIP on display, or available – I’d bet a great many people attending were not properly aware of the significance of the organisation.
Back in 2011 when SIP was founded, there were about a dozen members; on Saturday twice as many took part, ranging from large estates like Lammershoek to small set-ups like that of Jasper Wickens, whose day job sees him making wine for Badenhorst. Interestingly, two other small but now-independent wineries are owned by men who were previously assistant winemakers in the Swartland: Bryan MacRobert (Bryan was once at Sadie) and Intellego – Jurgen Gouws, formerly of Lammershoek. Testalonga is in a sense another breakaway from Lammershoek, the project of former winemaker Craig Hawkins and former sales and marketing manager Carla Kretzel. The great news is that Testalonga will shortly be getting a permanent (northerly) Swartland home, when it moves onto a farm near Piekenierskloof.
The strange absence from the SIP show was the winery which, I’d guess, most people would most immediately associate with the new Swartland: Sadie Family Wines. Eben was there with the forthcoming pair under his Sequillo label (the red breathtakingly sophisticated and lovely, the white not quite up to that level, I thought), but for some reason doesn’t want his qualifying Sadie Family bottlings to bear the SIP logo. That seems a great pity to me, weakening the brand.
Not that the whole project is significantly undermined. The other great names of the modern and exciting Swartland were present and immensely correct: Mullineux Family (they’ll have to forgive me for not easily believing in something called the Mullineux and Leeu Family, however hard I swallow); Porseleinberg (looks like the 2011 will not be properly released, though some bottles will be available to “collectors; the 2013 looking just fine); Badenhorst (Oom-Paulish Adi as brilliantly innovative and interesting as ever with his lovely dry muscat bottling for the CWG auction and the fascinating cinsaut-like red from barbarossa – whatever that might be, and even Jancis Robinson seems unsure – up the West Coast); David (the other Sadie, his wines as quiet and authoritatively convincing as ever).
And new, emerging stars. At whose head I reckon will be (judging by present performance) Jasper Wickens, whose piercingly fine red and white Swerwer wines are just about as good and exciting as any to be had in the Swartland.
- Tim James is founder of Grape.co.za and contributes to various local and international wine publications. He is a taster (and associate editor) for Platter’s. His book Wines of South Africa – Tradition and Revolution appeared in 2013.