After standing idle for decades, the mill at Bot River farm Compagnes Drift runs again, restored by Elgin fruit farmer and engineering enthusiast Andy Selfe. Compagnes Drift is home to the Beaumonts, and when Sebastian, son of founders Jayne and the late Raoul, needed a name for the maiden vintage of his new flagship red blend, the mill provided inspiration.
Vitruvius, a Roman writer and engineer who lived in the first century BC was preoccupied with matters of harmony and balance and famously argued the human figure was the ideal source of proportion (an idea captured by Leonardo da Vinci in his pen-and-ink drawing of a man in two superimposed positions so as to fit into both a circle and a square).
More particularly, Vitruvius provides us with the only description of a grain-mill to have come down from antiquity and when Beaumont’s wine became ready for release at roughly the same time as the property’s mill was returned to working order, it seemed appropriate to honour the Roman .
The wine from the 2006 vintage is a blend of approximately 35% Mourvèdre, 35% Pinotage, 20% Shiraz and 10% Cabernet Franc. It spent 24 months in barrel, 35% new and is very much intended to be a reflection of site.
“It’s a South African wine. It’s a Bot River wine. It’s a Beaumont wine,” says the winemaker and adds that he “hates being prescribed to”. While he acknowledges that producers who adhere to either a Bordeaux-style, Rhône-style or even the resurrected Cape Blend “open up some space in the market for themselves”, he feels that they are not necessarily making the most honest or profound wine.
“I’ve used the varieties that work best for us on this property in proportions that made for the best overall blend,” he says and explains that Mourvèdre provides the guts of the wine, Pinotage the spine, Shiraz, the muscle and Cabernet Franc “something wild and crazy”.
It’s medium bodied with red rather than black fruit, oak very subtle and fantastic freshness. “You’ll never make the Cape Winemakers Guild with such an understated wine,” I suggest. “That’s a real compliment, “ he replies… Total production was nine barrels and cost is R260 a bottle.