02 March 2007
L'Avenir on Course
It is steady as she goes at L’Avenir in Stellenbosch. The seven times winner of the Pinotage Top 10 competition is now under the ownership of Michel Laroche and the focus will remain on Pinotage and Chenin Blanc. “We don’t intend to change a winning formula,” Tinus Els (pictured left) told me. Tinus has been winemaker/viticulturist and managing L’Avenir since Francois Naude retired in 2005. “Francois keeps in touch," said Tinus, "he comes in consulting once a week”
Since L’Avenir joined the Laroche family of wineries and thus gained the benefit of their international distribution network, worldwide demand for their Pinotage has soared by 50%. “I am installing drip irrigation,” said Tinus, “because we cannot afford anymore to lose half our crop due to heat waves.” To help meet popular demand a new range, Pinotage by L’Avenir, produced from grapes sourced from other farms, will be introduced,.
And the neighbouring Sentinel farm has been acquired. Sentinels' distinctive castle building that looks down on the R44 just north of Stellenbosch will eventually become – after remodelling – the L’Avenir tasting room and function centre.
Tinus is currently in the midst of the vintage (picture right – Tinus checking grape ripeness). Pinotage was picked two weeks early this year. It is fermenting, and Tinus has high expectations for this, his second vintage at L’Avenir. He is also pleased with the 2006 vintage nearing the end of its time in barrels. Soon he will be choosing the barrels intended for the premium Grand Vin Pinotage (previously Reserve).
It will be a difficult task, for I’d be happy to see any one of the barrels of 2006 Pinotages I tasted from this week to be selected. I'd like to thank Tinus for letting me taste the new vintage and maturing cellar wines and allowing me to accompany him to the vineyards at such a busy time.