“It’s a big step, a really exciting step”, says Chris Mullineux, half of one of the Swartland’s (and the Cape’s) – most dynamic and successful young winemaking teams. The other half is, of course, the stylish and brilliant Andrea, whose maiden offering on the forthcoming Cape Independent Winemakers Guild auction, incidentally, is a characteristically interesting one: a wine made from semillon gris (red semillon) from the Paardeberg.
The big, exciting step is not that CWG wine, however, but the acquisition of a marvellous Swartland wine farm, Roundstone, not far from the village of Riebeek-Kasteel and on the slopes of Kasteelberg (close to the large and splendid holdings there of Johann Rupert). Not a purchase as yet: the property has indeed been sold and bought, but the new owner of Roundstone is a friend and colleague of Analjit Singh, the rich Indian who last year bought a minority stake in the Mullineux Family Wine brand’s holding company, Mullineux & Leeu (see here).
The latter have taken Roundstone on a long and complicated lease which involves, as I understand it, hopefully progressively buying it at some point in the medium-to-longer-term future. (Big money and big deals are beyond my little brain, so I can say no more than that; I’ve long proved incapable of properly comprehending, for example, the complexities of who owns the different aspects of Boekenhoutskloof, and how.)
It’s been a while finalising, so these pics I took at Roundstone some weeks ago have been under embargo until now, at last, all the tees have been dotted and the eyes crossed (can that be right?). Or something…
Roundstone has not been a notably successful producer of wines (to put it fairly gently), but has nonetheless for many years been providing excellent grapes off its ten or so hectares of vines for some leading producers of Swartland wines – including Donovan Rall and Eben Sadie. These two have been promised that their allocations will continue (solidarity and friendship amongst “rival” winemakers is amongst the most attractive aspects of the Swartland wine revolution). And Chris and Andrea have also been taking grapes from Roundstone for a while, both white and black: the vineyard in the pic alongside is the Roundstone source of their single-soil Schist Syrah.
Chris and Andrea will be putting a lot of effort into developing the vineyards, with the help of viticulturist Rosa Kruger – already, they tell me, they’ve ordered material for planting five new hectares of vineyard. The whole farm is over 100 hectares, reaching high up the Kasteelberg, but not all of it is suitable for vineyards, though there’s an enticing variety of aspects and altitudes. Actually, one of the thoughts they have is to plant some particularly long-term vineyards on particularly sandy parts, where the vines must struggle to develop deep roots to survive.
There is a winemaking cellar on the farm, and probably at least a few of the 2015 Mullineux reds will be made there. But of course, the duo also have facilities (and responsibilities) at the Franschhoek properties of Analjit Singh, and others of their own wines will be made there next harvest.
This new move is a significant move for Mullineux Family Wines. It’s inevitably something of a problem for a wine-producer when it doesn’t fully control, through ownership, vineyards. Sadie Family Wines, for example, widely regarded as the Cape’s top winery (though Mullineux runs it close), doesn’t own a single one of the vineyards behind its range of wines (though many of them are about as secure as possible under the circumstances; and vines will shortly be planted on Eben Sadie’s small Paardeberg property); inevitably this is a slightly risky thing, however secure leases and gentlemen’s agreements might be.
The Mullineux will, of course, still need to buy in a great many grapes for their wines, from a number of essentially reliable sources. And it’s probably more true of the Swartland than of many regions that wide sourcing for blending is very useful. But it must be something of a relief to have Roundstone’s excellence in their pocket.