You could hardly script a better year for a winery, such have been the achievements surrounding the 30th anniversary of Beyerskloof. One of South Africa’s top red wine cellars, the Stellenbosch producer is unrivalled as a Pinotage specialist with a range of four single-varietal expressions of South Africa’s most successful ‘indigenous’ wine grape cultivar, three Pinotage-led Cape Blends, one of the very few white wines in which the variety plays a role (together with Chenin Blanc), as well as a Pinotage Rosé and even a Cape Port with Pinotage at the helm. And wow, how the flagships have been showered with praise in 2018.
The drumroll began on home soil, with the 2015 vintage of Beyerskloof’s icon wine, Diesel, chosen among the trophy winners at the Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition. Shortly afterwards, the 2015 vintage of Faith, Beyerskloof’s flagship blend of Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot ranked among the Top 10 in the Perold Absa Cape Blend Competition.
More celebrations were to follow with the announcement that the 2014 vintage of Beyerskloof Diesel had won the trophy for best Pinotage at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in the UK, where the gold medal winners also included the 2011, 2014 and 2015 vintages of Faith. Releasing the names of the top laureates in tranches as excitement mounted prior to the presentation of the awards, the IWSC organisers then announced that Beyerskloof had won a second trophy with one of their outstanding gold medallists, Faith 2014. So proud were winemaker Anri Truter and his father Beyers on accepting the accolades at a gala dinner in London, particularly as their No 1 blend had emerged victorious not only in the context of Pinotage-driven combinations but up against all other top blended red wine entries of various kinds from around the world.
And what a way to end the year, when at the November 2018 launch of Platter’s 2019 South African Wine Guide it was revealed that the 2016 Diesel and 2014 Faith had been rated 5 Stars by the publisher’s panel of judges, also in a ‘blind’ tasting, labels out of sight. Furthermore, Faith 2014 was applauded as Platter’s Wine of the Year as regards Red Blends with Pinotage. This after the Beyerskloof Reserve Pinotage 2016 and Diesel 2015 had picked up gold medals at the 2018 Veritas Awards.
It was 30 years back – a generation ago – that the brand which has become synonymous Pinotage was ‘born’, when the first vineyard was planted at the small home farm off the Koelenhof road, bought in 1988. With Anri now heading-up the team and the outfit established by Beyers, patriarch and Pinotage ambassador second to none, Beyerskloof is stepping up a gear. Following the 1997 acquisition of 100 hectares in the Bottelary winelands of Stellenbosch, the landholding increased again in 2018 with the purchase of a 50ha spread of vineyards known as Kriekbult between the winery and the Simonsberg as viewed from the deck of the bistro at Beyerskloof (also famous for their Pinotage burgers). And there’s talk of increasing the size of the cellar, or possibly building a second one…
At well over a million bottles a year, the staple, budget-priced Beyerskloof is one of the country’s biggest bottled wines by volume and without equal as the top-selling Pinotage in the world. The first Pinotage bottled by the Truters and the team was from the 1995 harvest and the first Absa Top 10 award for Beyerskloof Pinotage followed in 1996. It’s been a long and winding path with many trials and tribulations since then, and so fitting it is that those involved in the Pinotage journey from vineyard to glass are acknowledged in the name of the Beyerskloof Cape Blend that unites Pinotage with its parents, Pinot Noir and Cinsaut – ‘Traildust’ having been described as “thicker than blood” by renowned author Louis L’Amour in one of his cowboy novels.
Traildust is about the legacy of Pinotage, about the roads travelled and friendships among those sharing a mutual respect for what has been achieved. Faith commemorates the belief in the local variety since inception. And Diesel signifies the meticulous effort that goes into showing the superior level of quality that is possible with Pinotage, while also paying tribute to a special companion. “Diesel was much more than a dog. He was my pal. One of those true friends who loves you despite your faults, that listens patiently to stories of sadness and shares tail-wagging moments of happiness. He never barked back or lifted a critical ear. He was, undoubtedly, my best friend.”
Marvelling at Beyerskloof’s growth and development during the 30 years since Beyers thrust his hands into the soil and planted the first vines on home soil, it’s exciting to contemplate what the next 30 years might hold as Anri and the Beyerskloof family push the envelope viticulturally and in the cellar. Might there even be one more expression of Pinotage in the making?