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Boschendal go in pursuit of an icon wine

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Boschendal Nicolas 2016
Bling it on.

During events carried out simultaneously on the Boschendal estate outside Franschhoek, at the Daytona Showroom in Johannesburg and The Ash steakhouse and bar in Düsseldorf, Germany, DGB yesterday launched a new wine, namely Boschendal Nicolas 2016.

In Franschhoek, the event started at Die Werf restaurant, Boshendal Jean le Long MCC 2008 (R1150 a bottle) paired with savoury macaroons, this served overlooking the food garden. Then guests were transported across the property to old sherry cellar-turned-function room to enjoy Boschendal Elgin Chardonnay 2016 (R475 a bottle) with further canapes before formalities began.

Prior to pouring the wine for guests, addresses from Boschendal marketing manager Shirley van Wyk and cellarmaster Jacques Viljoen (incumbent since mid-2018) plus an audio-visual presentation featuring messages from the following brand ambassadors: fashion designer David Tlale, chef Miles Khubeka and artist Azael Langa.

And finally, Nicolas 2016 – a blend of 58% Shiraz, 14% Petit Verdot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec, 7% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc, matured for 16 months in 300-litre barrels, 20% new, W.O. Coastal Region, total production 20 000 litres, approximate retail price R200 a bottle. Packaging features gold on black, that reliable colour scheme to signify premium status and the wine is named after Frenchman Nicolas de Lanoy who farmed in the area in the 17th century.

Is it any good? I have to say I found it quite winning.  Red and black fruit, a subtle herbal note, some floral perfume on the nose. The palate is medium bodied with fresh acidity and very fine tannins, the finish admirably dry. Not super-intense but balanced and supple – kind of how you wished Chateau Libertas and Roodeberg still tasted. Editor’s rating: 90/100.

The next question to be asked of Nicolas is: Will it succeed? There’s been something of a debate on Winemag.co.za recently as to what constitutes best practice when it comes to building wine brands, specifically whether a focus on terroir or provenance is useful or not. In an article entitled “Does Terroir Matter?”, Tim James writes “The majority of wine commentators are firm (theoretical) believers in terroir, as are many buyers of fine wine. If you want to attract the attention of the former and the dollars, pounds and euros of the latter, then greater attention to regional identity is the way to their hearts and wallets”.

While there are surely many wines that bear out James’s reasoning, Nicolas is not one of them. This is a wine positioned as luxury lifestyle good, aimed firmly at a market segment for which the traditional marketing cue concerning place of origin holds little or no relevance. To DGB’s credit, they have crafted something that organoleptically should not entirely alienate connoisseurs but this is clearly very much directed at the emerging market. I don’t think it’s wrong to see it as a challenge to Boekenhoutskloof’s The Chocolate Block, which is also a multi-variety, non-traditional blend and while certified as being from the Swartland since 2015, was originally never sold on being representative of a particular area. Whether Nicolas will resonate with consumers to quite the same extent as Chocolate Block remains to be seen.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Hmmm, ‘This is a wine positioned as luxury lifestyle’ – retailing for around R200 a bottle? Words and figure don’t gel; can that really be the price? Seems an awful lot of launch fuss if so.

  2. Well done DGB – South Africa needs to focus. Our industry needs high quality, well positioned, highly focused, well marketed brands – but the key will be big volume. Volume is tricky. Lets hope the Boschendal Nicolas 2016 can deliver on the volume. The market is so big that Chocolate Block and R&R Classique will never even notice the competition. The South Africa dream should be that we develop at least 10 single branded wines selling 2+ million bottles or more at the R200/$20/£12-15 price point or more – this would be a massive success. It can be done – quite quickly. This would start putting us on the map.

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