Forget sipping cocktails on the strip in Camps Bay, forget turning up under the Jozi skyline, picking grapes in a vineyard in the Winelands and then watching them get crushed in a press and aged in a barrel to make beautiful red wine – that’s where it’s at this season.
Friends and family gathered at the Bosman Family Vineyards in Wellington to pick Nero, a one-of-a-kind grape grown exclusively by them in South Africa, with partner actor/producer Thapelo Mokoena of Bakoena Brands.
Jumping onto bakkies armed with secateurs and a basket, then zooming up into the vineyard under a bright summer sun, the group started the harvest under an oak tree (as one does) with a sabraged glass of Loose Cannon, the Bosman Cap Classique
All hands on deck
Then it was all hands-on deck as the group scavenged for the heavy bunches of dark red grapes, learning all about optimum ripeness and vineyard management from winemaker Natasha Williams.
Then back down the mountain to the cool cellar to see the grapes being sorted, destemmed and crushed, and a quick trip past fermenting tanks, before gathering in the 270-year-old barrel cellar where Natasha explained what winemaking was all about.
“People like to debate whether winemaking is an art or a craft, but it’s actually a story. Each barrel tells a different story, and my job is to blend these individual stories together to give a holistic picture of the terroir. And terroir is not just the soil, the microclimate and the slope, it’s also about all the people along the way who have helped form the wine’s ultimate story. A winemaker has to listen carefully and respect the contribution of each component.”
Every year Nero grapes are harvested by Petrus Bosman and his family, joined in the last few years by Thapelo and his wife Lesego, and this year a few special people joined in too. It was a special occasion, because these are special grapes and here’s why: At the dawn of the 21st century, climate change started rearing its frightening head, and farmers started worrying about the sustainability of their crops as the world threatened to become hotter and drier.
Always one for a challenge, Petrus Bosman visited the island of Sicily where grapes thrive in the hot, dry climate and are planted in volcanic soils, very similar to the conditions on their farm in Wellington. There he found the Nero d’Avola grape which seemed un-phased by heat and desiccation, producing the luscious fruity wines for which Sicily is famous.
So, he brought a few cuttings back to the farm, only two survived, but eventually they were able to propagate enough to plant a vineyard after which began the laborious process of certification and in 2014 the first vintage of the first South African Nero d’Avola was produced.
Since then, Natasha has been involved in every vintage, working diligently to refine the Nero wine into something that honours its Sicilian history, but also tells the story of African resilience and passion:
“Making wine is a journey, it’s a marathon not a sprint, because the wine speaks, and you must listen to it and then help it express itself. It’s a sensitive, humbling process.”
Guests of Nero
The guests got to taste the 2021 vintage directly from the barrel, and then enjoy more of the previous vintages, and other Bosman wines, over a loud and lovely lunch served in the cellar that stretched long into the late afternoon.
Guests included: Master Chef’s new judge Chef Zola Nene; Jamie-Lee Domburg of the Expresso Morning Show; actress Nicole Madell; presenter Katlego Maboe; actress Tarryn Wyngaard; winemaking student Kari Masoleng; actor and funny guy Sobantu Nqayi with his lovely lady Amron Siebritz; and model Imaan C Mac Quena, to name but a few.
“What a memorable experience for all! It changed each harvester’s view of wine, from a simple liquid in the bottle, to a rich and intricate story of people and nature working together for the best possible outcome,” said Thapelo.
“The day also reminded us of the value of sharing with friends and family and celebrating our connection to each other and to the land we love so dearly.”
Petrus and Thapelo have their sights set on introducing this special varietal to every corner of Africa and beyond. “We’re conquering the world one bottle of Nero at a time.”