Boschendal Estate, founded in 1685 in Groot Drakenstein between Paarl and Franschhoek, is known for going that extra mile in search of vineyards from which to make the best wines possible for its extensive range. In its “Appellation Series” Boschendal seeks to bottle grape varieties that have become associated with parcels of Cape winelands terroir recognised as offering distinctive characteristics to cultivars especially suited to these regions. And when it came to extending this series to include Cabernet Sauvignon, known as the King of Red wines, Boschendal looked to Stellenbosch, South Africa’s most famous wine region which has over the past five decades become world-famous for wines made from this Bordeaux variety.
According to Shirley van Wyk, Boschendal Marketing Manager, the Boschendal Appellation Series of wines has up to now focused on Elgin from where grapes are selected from long-term grower vineyards as well as Boschendal’s own Highfield Vineyards.
These site-specific wines with their terroir focus and vivid expression of varietal character have established the Appellation Series as one of Boschendal’s acclaimed premium offerings. In looking to find a wine to bolster this range, the excellent reputation of South African Cabernet Sauvignon came to fore. And when you look for Cabernet Sauvignon, there is really only one region that springs to mind, and that is Stellenbosch.
The search for the best vineyards from which to make the Boschendal Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon led Boschendal viticulturist Heinie Nel and red winemaker Jacques Viljoen to Stellenbosch’s Helderberg appellation. Famed for its legacy of Cabernet Sauvignon wines, the Helderberg lies on the south-easterly side of the region and is characterised by ancient soils of decomposed granite, steep slopes that face west and bask in afternoon sun, as well as close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean at nearby False Bay.
According to Viljoen, Helderberg terroir is a dream for any winemaker aspiring to the making of fine Cabernet Sauvignon. “It is as if Cabernet Sauvignon and Helderberg, Stellenbosch were made for each other,” he says. “Not only does one sense this when you are in the vineyards seeing the plants develop grape-bunches in ideal conditions. Once the grapes are harvested and you begin to work with the fruit and the juice, the developing flavours and aromas are pronounced in exuding a Cabernet Sauvignon character one only finds from that part of Stellenbosch.”
The maiden Boschendal Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon was made from the 2017 vintage which is becoming recognised as one of the best red wine vintages the Stellenbosch region has had over the past few decades. “The 2016 winter was slap-bang in the middle of that infamous Cape drought,” says Viljoen, “and as harvest 2017 got underway vineyard conditions were dry and hot. However, the weather cooled down considerably in March. This was ideal for the late-ripening variety that is Cabernet Sauvignon as the cooler temperatures led to that special thing a winemaker seeks: even-ripening.”
The grapes were hand-harvested on the Helderberg and brought to the Boschendal winery in cooled containers. After destemming, berries were meticulously sorted to remove any green or shrivelled fruit. Fermentation was done in stainless steel tanks, with regular pump-overs ensuring aeration and extraction during the 12 days’ fermenting. “With fruit of such quality and from such a great vintage, you want to make sure you get the best out of it,” says Viljoen. “Thus, when the grapes had fermented dry, we did a post-fermentation maceration, allowing the wine to lie on the skins for a further month before pressing. This process really polished the wine with bright fruit flavours and well-rounded tannins.”Maturation was done in 300 litre barrels of French oak ranging from 1st to 4th fill wood for 15 to 16 months.
Myself and the team kept an eye on the barrels throughout the wine’s time in wood, constantly tasting and keeping tabs on its development. When it came to selecting the best barrels to make-up the final blend, we had a firm idea what the final wine demanded. And now, tasting it from the bottle, it has exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Viljoen describes the Boschendal Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 as a great example of Cabernet made on one of the best sites for this variety in the New World. “It is all about giving the wine a sense of place, something the terroir of our Stellenbosch vineyards has truly done,” he says. “There is a commanding presence in the completeness of the wine on the palate, the muscular yet supple tannins and the long, elegant finish. What I am truly pleased about is the bright, sunny fruit elements that complement the classic complexity. Discernible notes of cherry and black-currant add to the wine’s regal features, and I refer to these as the jewels in the crown.”
According to Van Wyk, Boschendal Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 is a welcome addition to the Boschendal . “This wine is destined to become a classic and underscores Boschendal’s position as a leading house of premium South African wines. The Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon is an important milestone in Boschendal’s journey to continued excellence in wine quality, provenance and legacy. And we all look forward to being part of the next chapter of this estate’s illustrious history.”