Lukas van Loggerenberg (who makes wine in a shed on a Stellenbosch hilltop, as I described once before) and Reenen Borman (revitalising things at his Stellenbosch family farm Boschkloof and establishing an own-label) studied at Elsenburg together and are thoroughly good friends. I hadn’t realised this when I was making arrangements to visit both of them, but suddenly realised that their wineries were remarkably close – it seemed sensible to do it on one day. I mentioned this and, very happily, it became a joint tasting of their wines, in the Boschkloof cellar.
And the only problem with that exhilarating experience is that it retrospectively seemed almost a waste not to have spread out the wines across two visits. So many wonderful mouthfuls consigned to the spittoon! These are two of the finest examples of the youngest generation of remarkable winemakers that the Cape wine revolution is resolutely turning out. But I’ll at least write about them separately, though we tasted them nicely intermingled.
Today: Lukas van Loggerenberg, whose maiden release of four 2016 wines is becoming available now (be warned – quantities are tiny, quality is exceptional, and prices moderate given the quality). When I visited Lukas in his hilltop shed earlier this year and tasted though his barrels with him, it was clear that, as Chris Alheit had told me, “something cool” was happening there. Tasting them from bottle today more than confirmed that. Having mentioned Alheit, I’m prompted to say that not since the stunning debut of Chris and Suzaan’s maiden wine (soon followed by others) – not in the four or five years since then have I been so convinced of the brilliance of a major new star in our starry skies.
Like the Alheits, Lukas is devoted to expressing particular patches of earth, but he similarly reminds one that terroir is not everything when it comes to making wine, and that some winemakers just have a touch and an instinct that is magical. Unfair but true.
Forgive my general enthusiasm, and let me say something about the four wines – with their bright, fun and intricately meaningful labels: each one tells a story. As do the wines.
Break a Leg Blanc de Noir 2016, from cinsaut, has delicate, complex aromas – not the obvious red-fruity stuff that is becoming a cinsaut cliché these days. It’s a serious, finely textured wine, one of few such rosés locally, though easy enough to drink. Lukas mentioned cranberry, and that struck me as just right for the light, tart freshness. Around R110, which is a lot for a local rosé, but not a lot for the ambitious southern Rhône versions which this one compares too. If you’re a real wine lover (a lover of real wine), but scared of local rosé, I promise you can venture on this one with confidence.
Kamaraderie 2016 is a chenin from old Paarl vines (I wrote about the significance of the celebratory name in a Winemag blog). Says Lukas: “I pruned every single vine and did all the labour in the vineyards like suckering etc myself which allowed me to truly experience all that went into growing and making this wine.” I’m seldom reminded of Loire chenins from the local versions (and wouldn’t think it necessarily a compliment – I want them to express Cape, not French terroir), but this one’s aromas rather reminded me of Vouvray. Perhaps, as Reenen surmised, this was prompted by the suggestion of sweetness on the nose, though it’s more floral and even nutty than overtly fruity (and totally dry). It’s intense but not pushy, with long, long after-notes of the fruit, flowers, stone and spice that were hinted at in the aromas. Different from any other local chenin, but as splendid as the best of them – I can say no more in praise than that. About R325 – so less pricey than some in this category, more pricey than others. In international wine quality:price terms, it’s still a joke, so count yourselves lucky on this occasion that you’re not in London or New York.
Geronimo 2016 is from a few cinsaut vineyards. If you’ve had too many charmingly fruity, simple modern cinsauts from the avant-garde Cape, and feel that critics are bestowing their praise too generously and undiscriminatingly, and want to be reassured that cinsaut can make something more serious, you will probably appreciate this. I wouldn’t have been surprised, tasting Geronimo blind, to learn that it was a southern-Rhônish blend including syrah. There’s less of the tarty tutti-red-frutti perfume, more depth. A lot of stems are included in the fermentation, but this is not obvious in aroma or vinous character. Not for drinking now but in (I’d guess) a minimum of five years.
And then there’s the Breton 2016. I’ve just looked back at the notes I made at my first visit to Lukas’s shed, and I see that I published the comment that the wine “that perhaps intrigues me most is the cab franc”. I’m pleased I said that, because it did again today. There are some good local wines made from this wonderful variety, but they tend to aspire to being comparable to Bordeaux versions, rather than to those from the Loire, which are still made in the altogether more modest tradition (less showy, ripe and oaked) that once characterised Bordeaux too. Lukas’s wine is resolutely, and designedly, in the more restrained tradition, and that, I suppose is at least partly why I love it. Here are some words I throw at it, trying inevitably in vain to capture just a little of what thrills me: refined, elegant, poised, structured, focused, lengthy. I want to taste it in five years again, and in ten.
No – I don’t want to taste it – I want to drink it. Which is what I want to do to all the van Loggerenberg wines. Welcome to a new Cape winery of the utmost wine-ambition, integrity and quality.