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The Berrio relaunched

By , 15 April 2021

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Bruce Jack.

21 years ago, The Berrio wine project was started by Elim winegrape farmer Francis Pratt and winemaker Bruce Jack.

Pratt was a key figure along with neighbours Dirk Human of Black Oystercatcher and Johan de Kock of Zoetendal in establishing vineyards in the area while Jack chose to analyse the ward while studying for a winemaking degree at the University of Adelaidein the mid-1990s.

By 2000, there were extra grapes available from Pratt’s farm and thus The Berrio, named after a ship that led Vasco da Gama’s expeditionary voyage around Cape Agulhas in 1497. The Sauvignon Blanc was just about an instant success, while a Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend called Weather Girl added to the range in 2006 quickly became a benchmark for the category.

In 2008, Jack sold his Flagstone business and in that process was required to give up all his joint ventures, including The Berrio. Pratt assumed ownership of the brand and from 2014 to 2019, David Nieuwoudt of Cederberg Private Cellar and long involved in Elim making wines under the Ghost Corner label, was responsible for production.

Unfortunately, the 2020 vintage wasn’t made, but Jack and Pratt have now agreed a new partnership to craft The Berrio – the grapes continuing to come from Pratt’s farm, the wines once again made by Jack and his team, the new vintage set for release in August.

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  • Amanda de Klerk17 April 2021

    Wishing you the very best, Bruce, looking forward to taste it again!

  • Higgo+Jacobs16 April 2021

    Berrio 2006 is great and certainly long lived. The 2007 is even better and for me one of the most profound older SA whites around (if you can find it). The freshness and complexity is remarkable (screw cap closure certainly helped) and among those who have tried the wine in recent years it has unicorn status.

    • Kwispedoor16 April 2021

      Has anyone had the 2008 Weather Girl (non-CWG) recently? I have one bottle, but I suspect the vintage might prevent it from quite reaching the heights of 2006 and 2007. I have personally only tasted it many years ago as a young wine.

  • Greg+Garden15 April 2021

    Deep into the darkness of Lockdown One, on May 3rd last year I opened a long treasured bottle of CWG Flagstone Weathergirl 2006. This is the wine that Bruce proudly informed potential buyers on that years’ auction would be the proof that an SA Bordeaux blend white could age like a good Graves. Well how right was he?! One of, or perhaps even the finest, most profound SA white I’ve ever experienced. I’ve got one more and would love Bruce’s or anyone else’s view on how much longer it may still stay brilliant. Recent releases under the Berrio label have been disappointing, and judged by discounted sales, difficult to move too. I too look most forward to the Berrio’s renaissance with Bruce back in play. No pressure Bruce! 😉

    • Bruce Jack15 April 2021

      Hi Greg, apologies for late reply. Christian may be better placed to chat about the 2006 vintage having recently tasted the straight The Berrio Savvie from that vintage. The 2006 CWG Weather Girl was better even than that stellar wine, still zingy, fresh, alive and singing to me, and probably offering joy for another few years.
      The CWG committee eventually requested me to stop putting the same wine on auction – my goal was 10 years in a row, but I think we made the auction selection 4 in a row until I was stopped. Very funny in retrospect, as I think it may still make the selection today!
      The Semillon in that 50/50 blend is from Black Oystercatcher and from a remarkable block. To my mind the best Semillon in the country.
      Elim is a special place and plays a role in reminding the world about our ability to make world-beating wines in a multitude of styles. I especially love the 2006 vintage Weather Girl because it was the first iteration of that blend.
      I called it Weather Girl because during vintage all those years ago we didn’t have these fancy weather Apps on our ‘phones and had to call the SA Weather Service info line – and that was about 20 times a day… I sometimes imagined I could hear a note of wicked teasing in the Weather Girl’s voice, as though she was watching me… knew my every move, fears and weaknesses… oooh, she was a minx at times, I tell you – promising a dry spell over the weekend, but at the last possible report on a Friday, casually mentioning an unexpected 7mm of rain in the ealry hours of Monday morning, a few hours before we were due to pick. AAAAAGH! She drove me crazy, silently laughing at my hopeless plans and pathetic ambition. Or, perhaps, I am just obsessed by the weather!
      Thanks for the post, Greg. You are a star. Enjoy that last bottle with someone special!

  • Angela Lloyd15 April 2021

    Coincidentally, I opened a 2016 The Berrio Syrah yesterday evening. I know 2016 was a difficult vintage, but this reflected little of its cool-climate origin. Lack of freshness & 14.5% alcohol left it one-dimensional and with little sense of place. Cool climate wines require their own approach. Elim can produce stunning Syrah and Syrah blends: Sam Lambson’s Stars in the Dark, Trizanne Barnard’s Reserve Syrah and Conrad Vlok’s Strandveld The Navigator blend are prime examples, capturing freshness and layers of flavour.
    I do look forward to The Berrio’s renaissance under Bruce & Francis Pratt.

    • Bruce Jack15 April 2021

      Thanks so much, Angela!
      I hope I can live up to all the expectations.
      It really is a special place to grow grapes and make wine. I am very privileged and happy to be back in Elim properly.

  • Top Wine SA15 April 2021

    Why were there no wines from The Berrio in 2020? Why did David Nieuwoudt walk away? To think that the Weather Girl was one of the most celebrated SA whites just a few years ago! Wonder if the place will reopen to the public as a destination to aim for in the Agulhas Triangle…

    • Bruce Jack15 April 2021

      Hi Top Wine SA (apologies, cant see a name),
      David didn’t walk away from the brand. The brand always belonged to Francis Pratt. David was caretaking the winemaking for Francis and did a great job. David is, as everyone knows, fully committed to the Elim Ward and the Agulhas Wine Triangle and makes some of the best Sauvignon Blancs and white blends in the world from there.
      2020 was a weird year! Lots didn’t end up happening as a result, and The Berrio 2020 was just one such project that was put on hold while all of us in the wine trade just tried to survive.
      We have had some ideas about reopening a tasting room, but we will need to make some money first to afford such extravagances. It would be a wonderful extravagance to have, I agree!

  • Johann van Eck15 April 2021

    The Berrio reborn again! Congratulations and looking forward

  • Pierre Rabie15 April 2021

    So happy about this, those early Berrio wines by Bruce really made me believe in Elim Sauvignon.

    • Greg+Garden15 April 2021

      Pierre, your Giant Periwinkle Blanc Fume 2018 is a thing of great beauty too. Stick with your belief. You are playing with magic, and I believe that you too will conjure something very special.

    • Bruce Jack15 April 2021

      That is so kind, Pierre. But it was the grapes and the wines that made ME believe in Elim – it had very little to do with me. Those early years we so fun. It was real pioneering stuff – wild west, full-on, tightrope, terrifying, seat-of-the-pants stuff. As you know, not much has changed! So glad you joined the band of outliers! And your and Robert’s participation in the Triangle is energizing and invaluable. Thank you.

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