Greg Sherwood MW: Swerwer’s Jasper Wickens gives Swartland a boost

By , 8 March 2023



The 1983 Chenin Blanc vineyard in the Paardeberg that supplies grapes for Jasper’s Swerwer Tiernes.

Winemaker Jasper Wickens started working with Adi Badenhorst at the Kalmoesfontein property in the Paardeberg in 2009 and was a central character in the whole Swartland Revolution movement that emerged. As the dynamic Swartland movement gathered pace, Jasper met his now wife, Franziska Wickens (née Schreiber), who is the third generation of a Swartland farming family in the Siebritskloof Valley in the Paardeberg and studied viticulture at Elsenberg with a focus on cellar management. Their relationship grew at a similar pace to the popularity of the Swartland’s red and white wines and were finally married in 2016 on Franziska’s Waterval farm.

Exactly 10 years after he first moved to the Paardeberg, Jasper completed his final harvest at AA Badenhorst Family Wines in 2018 as he prepared to move full time into the repurposed wine cellar at his Waterval farm next door to focus on his own Swerwer range of wines that was established back in 2012 with the sole purpose of creating authentic “wines of place” that represented the true essence of their local terroirs. Franziska owns and manages extensive family vineyard plantings and now supplies some of the most sought after Swartland grapes to producers such as JH Meyer, AA Badenhorst, Blacksmith Wines, Paul Jordaan’s Bosberaad, John Seccombe of Thorne & Daughters, Samantha Suddons’ Vinevenom label and Martin Lamprecht’s Marras label.

Back in October 2022, when visiting the Cape Wine 2022 trade fair, I decided that I would make it a priority to visit Jasper at his Swerwer table on the bigger Swartland producers stand in the far righthand corner of the wine show to taste and explore his entire range again. I had not really looked at his wines in great detail since he left AA Badenhorst Family Wines, but seeing as he was still regularly described as the winemaker behind the winemaker, in relation to his many years of work at AA Badenhorst, I was intrigued to find out how his own brand building was progressing.

When you work for a larger-than-life character like Adi Badenhorst, it must surely be difficult to attract the personal attention and recognition that a bright young winemaker like Jasper genuinely deserves. Perfectly understandable I suppose when you consider that Adi Badenhorst, along with neighbour Eben Sadie, is one of the two most highly respected and admired winemakers and Swartland protagonists in the entire country. The Swartland category would simply not be where it is today internationally if it wasn’t for the likes of Adi. But since leaving to go it alone, Jasper too has grown in stature and now, in a funny kind of way, represents a new and dynamic Young Guns Part 2 chapter currently unfolding in the Swartland. Adi and Eben are now safely elder statesmen!

Back at Cape Wine 2022, I came away after tasting Jasper’s wines thinking that his phenomenal range represented some of the most exciting expressions of the Paardeberg at the whole show. Jasper’s whites were as characterful and exciting as it’s possible to make on decomposed granite soils and his red range, which includes a distinguished Syrah, a very smart Cinsault / Grenache / Tinta Barocca red blend as well as a characterful Touriga Nacional, were among my favourite Swartland performers. After Cape Wine 2022, I did however end up visiting Jasper’s nearby neighbour Eben Sadie to witness the progress of his new cellar building. Sadly, time did not allow for a more detailed exploration of Jasper’s family estate at the Waterval farm. But I did vow that I would try and visit his cellar on my next trip to the Cape.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait very long at all to arrange my first visit to Jasper at the Waterval farm, and I arrived this past week just in time to see Jasper and his team pressing off some of his last red grapes into tanks for fermentation. The 2023 wines are looking very exciting indeed and this was reinforced by my barrel tasting of several of his very smart 2023 Chenin Blanc parcels as well as a taking an eagerly awaited sneak peek at his new 2023 Tiernes Single Vineyard Old Vine Chenin Blanc located at the top of his property on very deep decomposed Granite soils that was planted back in 1983. After the 2021 scored an eye opening 97/100 on this site not too long ago, collector interest has certainly been piqued for this and subsequent releases… and rightly so, its an exceptional terroir expression of Chenin Blanc.

After being filled in on the varying aspects of the 2023 vintage in the Swartland, we moved on to taste some of Jasper’s new release 2021 and 2022 red and white wines in his barrel room while the pumps in the cellar whizzed away frenetically in the background. The Swartland is a warm part of the country, so it is particularly exciting to taste a selection of wines from the cooler 2021 vintage that Jasper often refers to as an outlier. With both his Swerwer Chenin Blanc and his Rooi-Groen Semillon, Jasper has expertly captured the energy, freshness and purity of the vintage, with many of the grapes coming into the cellar perfectly ripe at under 13% potential alcohol. The 2021 Swerwer Touriga Nacional red also reflects a slight departure in style, with all the density and opulent blue / black / purple fruits you would expect, but all packaged up with an impressive degree of elegance and finesse this year. Do also watch out for Jasper’s beautiful 2022 Syrah that was simply shining when I tasted it from the barrel – purity, precision and a wonderfully perfumed violet, bramble berry and cocoa powder lift.

From what I tasted, Jasper Wickens and his delightful Swerwer brand is certainly becoming a force to be reckoned with as he emerges in his own right from the shadow of AA Badenhorst Family Wines. Jasper now has access to some of the most sought-after grapes in the Swartland and possesses the passion, knowledge and energy to turn these grapes into some truly outstanding, noteworthy wines. Equally important for readers, the wines are still incredibly affordable on release when so many others from the Paardeberg and slightly further afield in the Swartland are a lot more expensive and indeed, often difficult to source. The Swartland needs another brand champion, and you won’t find a more deserving and enthusiastic candidate than Jasper Wickens and his Swerwer brand.

  • Greg Sherwood was born in Pretoria, South Africa, and as the son of a career diplomat, spent his first 21 years traveling the globe with his parents. With a Business Management and Marketing degree from Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, Sherwood began his working career as a commodity trader. In 2000, he decided to make more of a long-held interest in wine taking a position at Handford Wines in South Kensington, London, working his way up to the position of Senior Wine Buyer. Earlier this year, he moved across to South African specialist merchant Museum Wines to become the Fine Wine Director. He qualified as a Master of Wine in 2007.


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