Iconic Stellenbosch wine estate Neethlingshof, the history of which can be traced to 1692, has released a new range of top-tier wines to commemorate the completion of the estate’s first wine cellar in 1802. The maiden release of the Neethlingshof premium 1802 Collection constitutes single-varietal bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage, two red varieties with which Neethlingshof has garnered an exceptional reputation for quality on the local and international wine landscape.
Both the Neethlingshof 1802 Collection Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage are from the 2017 vintage, a year considered as one of the most elegant vintages to date, especially for red wines from the Stellenbosch region.
De Wet Viljoen, Neethlingshof cellarmaster, says the new 1802 Collection was driven by two factors namely to showcase the superior level of fruit quality certain sites on the estate are showing, as well as a demand for premium icon wines from Neethlingshof’s local and international customers.
“Wine consumers in South Africa and abroad have over the past few years really begun to show an appetite for top-tier premium wines from the Cape,” says De Wet. “The image of South African wine, especially from the world-famous Stellenbosch region, has leapt to the top of the global wine offerings. Being one of the oldest estates in Stellenbosch whose wine ethos emphasises the property’s history and provenance of winemaking, Neethlingshof recognised the need to add a top-tier of classic icons to its range.”
The name 1802 was chosen to commemorate the completion of the first wine cellar on the farm by Charles and Maria Marais who bought the property – which was then known as Wolwedans – in 1788.
The Neethlingshof 1802 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1802 Pinotage comprise barrel-selections of wines made from vineyard blocks on the estate which have proven to deliver exceptional fruit quality.
Neethlingshof 1802 Collection Cabernet Sauvignon originates from a vineyard planted in 2011 on a west-facing slope at around 120m above sea level. The five hectare Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard is planted on Tukulu and Oakleaf soils to 2,506 vines per hectare set on a north-south row orientation.
The 2017 vintage was warm and dry, and the 1802 Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were picked by hand on 10 March. Fermentation took place in stainless-steel roto tanks and fermentation temperatures were maintained at between 25 and 28°C. After the completion of the primary fermentation, the wine was allowed a short maceration period of three days on the skins to assist in integration and softening of the tannin structure. Maturation took place over an 18-month period in 300-litre barrels of French oak. Two-thirds of the barrels were new with the remaining number being second-fill. Only three of the finest barrels were selected for the final 1802 bottling of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Viljoen says the wine represents the character and quality of Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Stellenbosch, as well as the individual nuances obtained from Neethlingshof terroir.
“Oakleaf and Tukulu soils have over centuries of Stellenbosch viticulture proven to be ideal for this regal red variety of Cabernet Sauvignon,” he says. “On Neethlingshof this grape takes on a specific dimension led by the farm’s exposure to the Atlantic Ocean in False Bay as well as the south and south-westerly winds blowing in from the sea for most of the year. Vineyard site and a focussed barrel selection of wine that was nurtured more than its was made have given Neethlingshof a wine which, to my mind, is a highlight in our winemaking history.”
As the finest Cabernet Sauvignons from the Stellenbosch region have shown, the Neethlingshof 1802 Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 will mature in the bottle with grace and elegance over the next 20 to 25 years.
As for the Neethlingshof 1802 Collection Pinotage 2017, Viljoen – a leading exponent of this home-grown South African grape variety – says this is the Pinotage he has always wanted to make.
“A vintage characterised by warm weather providing for lower yields but of fruit showing optimum varietal expression, together with a selection from Neethlingshof’s finest Pinotage vineyard, has led to the 1802 Collection Pinotage 2017 being pretty much a wine of my dreams,” says Viljoen.
The single Pinotage vineyard was planted in 1997 on a west-facing slope at around 80m above sea level. The vineyard is 3.48 hectares in size with a planting density of 2,645 vines on a north-south row orientation.
The grapes were picked by hand on 20 February 2017. The juice was balanced and healthy, fermentation taking place in stainless steel roto tanks with fermentation temperatures allowed to increase to 28°C to unlock an extra dimension of fruit expression.
Both alcoholic and malolactic fermentations were allowed to complete in barrel after which the wine was left to mature for 26 months in 300-litre French oak barrels comprising 50% new and 50% second-fill before being prepared for bottling.
Viljoen then did a barrel selection, choosing three barrels and ensuring only the finest wine from this superb vintage was bottled under the Neethlingshof 1802 label.
He describes the wine as refined and evocative, with complexity of flavour and presence on the palate.
“Text-book classic Pinotage,” says Viljoen. “Layer after layer of ripe, dark fruit with plum, maple and sweet tobacco backed up by spicy and herbaceous notes of cinnamon, cloves, honeybush and dried thyme. Well-integrated oaking is present and hints at the classic styling of the wine. The wine shows wonderful concentration and perfectly balanced impact with its fullness and tight acidity, and like all great red wines, the Neethlingshof 1802 Collection Pinotage 2017 will mature excellently for the next two decades.”
Both Neethlingshof 1802 wines cost R550 each.