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Van Loveren Christina van Loveren Shiraz 2009

Not run of the mill.
Not run of the mill.

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.


  1. It’s a pity that the modern version of most flagship wines in SA equates to over extracted, highly alcoholic and over wooded caricatures (which will only change if competition judging gets better). A disease of conceit (with apologies to Bob Dylan) amongst other things, if you ask me. I’ve recently tasted old Van Loveren Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon wines, presumably their take at the time on upper tier wines. I had the 2001 at a blind tasting (it kicked some serious butt) and the 2000 sighted. At an easily drinkable 12.5% alcohol, both bottles vanished faster than a chocolate cake at a teenage birthday party. They were a big surprise to all that tasted/drank them (all of them people who wouldn’t even think of buying Van Loveren wine nowadays). These wines obviously needed time to become this good, but it doesn’t seem that a replication of this elegant but characterful quality is on the cards in the near future…

  2. In response to the above i just have the following to say. I have recently tasted all of the Christina wines and can unflinchingly say that they are all wines of distinctive character and a great reflection of the cultivars and terroir that spawns them. Robertson,as a area,tends to produce red wines with a sweeter,fleshier tannin structure and is thus drinkable at a younger age. This shouldn’t be seen as a negative as it fills a vitally important section of the market. The winemaking team at Van Loveren set out to produce top end wines using robertson grapes and in my mind succeeded to capture the essence of each variety and the area. Everybody is chasing after the “Rhone style” of shiraz,all leathery,meaty and peppery. Isn’t there also place for different expressions of the variety or is it a case of one-way or the highway? Well done Van Loveren on creating this new range,wines with loads of character and elegance. UItimately these wines are also extremely drinkable and isn’t that what wine is made for,to be drunk? As far as i know,nobody has ever sniffed up a glass of wine. Cheers!

  3. @Kwispedoor – if ever in the Robertson Valley, please visit us at Van Loveren. We’d like you to try the Christina van Loveren Cab/Sauv ’09. Since winemaker Danelle v Rensburg joined us a couple of years ago, we’ve increased our focus on this single vineyard range – and we’d love to challenge your thoughts on this wine!


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