Interview: Bruwer Raats of Raats Family Wines
By Christian Eedes, 10 March 2015
From the March issue of Business Day WANTED: Shaggy of mane and large of frame, 44-year-old Bruwer Raats is one of the more irrepressible figures of the South African wine industry. He also happens to make some of the best Cab Franc and Chenin around.
When it comes to red wine, your focus is Cabernet Franc. What do you like about this variety so much?
Cabernet Franc has the ability to give you three distinct sets of aromas on the nose: fruit, spice and herbaceousness. On the palate, it has a linear structure with silky, soft tannins at the end. It maintains its minerality and freshness. Where Cabernet Sauvignon is a broad-sword, Cabernet Franc is a scalpel that delivers its flavours with great precision.
Red Jasper is named after your late father. Tell us a bit about him.
My dad joined the family business in 2000 as our viticulturist. He was a retired schoolmaster who always wanted to farm. Sadly he died in 2009 and the following year we released the maiden vintage of Red Jasper in honour of his dedication to quality grape growing and love for Cabernet Franc in particular. So Red Jasper is and always will be a Cabernet Franc-dominant Bordeaux-style blend.
Our Bordeaux-style reds often get criticized by international commentators for being “green”. Is this fair and if so, what can we do to address the problem?
I think in the past we definitely got it wrong. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, we tended to harvest the grapes too green and in the 90s and 2000s too ripe. More recently, I’ve noticed that producers are more cautious of either extreme and we are definitely getting closer to equilibrium.
Favourite international wine region and why?
Bordeaux – I just love the structure and power that these wines can produce and also the Loire for their amazing Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. You have to know your way around the Loire as quality can vary a lot from producer to producer.
What has been your most memorable wine experience?
UK writer Jancis Robinson described Raats Family Cabernet Franc 2001 as the mini Cheval Blanc from South Africa. On the back of this, our whole family was invited to Cheval Blanc in 2005 and we were allowed to walk in the vineyards, taste the barrels and experienced the Cheval Blanc magic.
You say you like a fast car and drive an Audi RS5. What’s the appeal?
I love Audi because of its application of cutting-edge vehicle technology. The RS5 has a naturally aspirated V8 engine. The sound and feeling you get when accelerating sends a rush of adrenalin to the driver that is addictive. I am not a petrol head – I just love a beautiful fast car.
The whole family is crazy about cricket. How are your three boys shaping up?
I love playing cricket, but I never had the opportunity that my boys have had. In 2008. we decided to build a cricket net on the farm and got Warren Kirsten of Maties to coach them privately. We haven’t looked back since then and all enjoy watching the boys play cricket. All three are playing for Paul Roos – Sam U14A, Joshua U15 A and Daneel opening the batting for the First Team.
Cooking is also an interest. What’s the perfect match for Red Jasper 2013?
When I enjoy Red Jasper there is only one thing that comes to my mind and that’s steak. Rib-eye, sirloin and my favorite ,T-bone. This combination is repeated on an ongoing weekly basis and I can personally confirm that it works.