Van Loveren in Robertson is South Africa’s largest privately owned winery processing some 4 500 tons a year, the equivalent of one million cases. By far its biggest item is the Four Cousins Sweet Rosé, made from 60% red Muscadel and 40% grape juice with an abv of 7.5% and a residual sugar of 78g/l. Production of this wine in 1.5-litre bottles amounts to 500 000 cases by six, a case selling for R235 from the tasting room. It also comes packaged in 750ml and 500ml bottles.
If you’re so brilliantly successful at entry level, how to get taken seriously at a more premium tier of the market? “With difficulty,” says winemaker Danelle van Rensburg. Van Loveren celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, and re-launched its flagship range previously called Wolverine Creek and now called Christina van Loveren after a family ancestor who arrived in the Cape in 1699.
“Wolverine Creek reminded people of Jacob’s Creek, we don’t have any Wolverines in South Africa and the grey design didn’t stand out on the shelf,” relates Van Rensburg. More than enough reason for a fresh start, then. She hopes that a continued focus on quality, limited quantities and more attractive packaging well help establish the Christina van Loveren as a range worth seeking out by serious wine enthusiasts.
I tried the Christina van Loveren Shiraz 2009 recently, and it showed promise. The wine includes a rather large 12% Viognier portion but works surprisingly well, the wine not appearing unduly confected which is often the case when Viognier is added to Shiraz. If anything, I think it might be slightly diluting the fruit flavours because the wine comes across lighter and less concentrated than its 14.89% abv would suggest. In terms of flavour profile, red fruit (rather than black) and appealing pepperiness.
The most discordant aspect of how the wine presents is that the oak currently sits apart (it was matured in 90% French and 10% American oak, all new) but my feeling is that it is at least two years off optimal drinking, by which time the overt vanilla on the nose will have faded and the firm tannins on the palate will have softened.
Total production was 10 000 litres (just over 1 000 cases). It’s good rather than great but at only R85 a bottle from the tasting room, over-delivers on quality relative to price.