19 February 2008

Stars at Bon Cap

As a city dweller I rarely experience total darkness or total quiet, or see more than a handful of stars. But on this trip to the Cape I enjoyed all three at Bon Cap in Robertson.

Bon Cap is South Africa’s largest certified organic wine farm, and it is privately owned by the du Preeze family. Roelf du Preeze is the 6th generation to farm this land and he is never happier than when out in his beloved vineyards. Long concerned about misuse of the soil, Roelf converted to organic methods many years ago. Justification came when he saw the quality of the grapes he produced, and he then became increasingly unhappy to see his superior organic grapes going to the local co-operative where they were combined with all the rest.

So he built a small winery, withdrew from the co-operative and started making his own wine. It is one thing to produce wine, but it needs to be sold if you want to eat and put shoes on your children’s feet.

Luckily Roelf had had the good sense to marry Michelle, whose farming family roots go back as many generations. It was Michelle who packed her bags, bought an airline ticket and started travelling the world, attending shows and bending the ear of anyone who’d listen.

Roelf and Michelle Du Preeze

The orders rolled in. “In 2002,” Michelle told me, “our total production was just 5,000 cases. This year we are making 6,000 cases just of our Ruins Pinotage. We sell it in the UK, Canada, Hong Kong, Germany – oh, and we even ship 50 cases to Barbados. The growth on our Pinotage has been amazing. We cannot meet demand and so Roelf is planting more Pinotage vineyards.”

Bon Cap make two red Pinotages, one under the Bon Cap name and a second label ‘The Ruins’. “A lot of this is sold by the glass,” says Michelle. It also appears under the ‘Greenhouse’ label for Superquinn stores in Ireland and Booths in the UK. There is also a 100% Ruins Pinotage Rosé. “We’ve had huge demand for this,” says Michelle, “in one year we’ve almost doubled production to 8000 cases. But we’re going to reduce the proportion of Pinotage in our rosé so we can use it in our red wine.” And Michelle is very proud that the UK Wine Society have selected Bon Cap to be their supplier of own-label Pinotage. Michelle travelled the length of UK with The Wine Society last year, hosting tastings and meeting customers.

New this year is a Bon Cap Cape Blend, consisting of Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. “We harvested the lower half of each grape bunch for this,” says Roelf, “to ensure we got only the ripest grapes.”

Also new this year is Marinus Potgieter (pictured right) who took over as winemaker in January. Marinus was previously three years at De Heuvel Estate in Tulbagh and is no stranger to Pinotage, winning four Young Wine Show trophies, including the CJ Petrow Trophy for the 2006 Champion Pinotage.

Ruins Rosé 2007
100% Pinotage – bright pink colour, light fruity red cherry
flavours, enjoyable quaffer.

Ruins Pinotage 2007
Bluish tinge, sweet
front with soft blueberry fruits.

Bon Cap Pinotage 2006
Good red
colour, soft mouth feel, ripe plums, dry tannins on finish

Bon Cap Cape
Blend 2005 (13%abv)
42% Pinotage, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot.
This is a real stunner, super mintiness, sweet uplift, savoury middle and lots
of complexity with a good structure and finish.

And about those stars? Not content with travelling the world marketing Bon Cap, managing the farm bistro, organising weddings in the farm chapel, doing the catering, and bringing up a young family, Michelle also manages guest cottages clustered around the farm lake.

And it was in the appropriately named ‘Pinotage’ cottage that I spent a couple of nights. Bon Cap is in a valley on the banks of the Breede River. The nearest main road is the R60 between Worcester and Robertson; the turn-off is a gravel track that winds over desert hills for seven kilometres before reaching the peaceful green oasis that is Bon Cap.

Night time at Bon Cap is quiet and dark – completely and utterly velvetly black. Looking out the window of our little cottage we could see no light at all. But step outside and it seems the heavens are pressing down on you, for they are packed with an infinite number of piercing bright stars sparkling like diamonds in a spotlight.

If you want to visit wineries in the Robertson area, or to get away from it all, or to just rest, relax, breathe fresh air, eat good home cooking, and drink great wines, then staying at Bon Cap won’t disappoint.

Bon Cap Winery

1 comment:

  1. Diana Tucker19:17

    I am down to my last bottle of 'The Ruins Pinotage 2004' and am so impressed with this wine. When I first bought the case, several years ago, it was 'raw', way too immature for a Pinotage and not very interesting. I kept the wine hidden away and in the past month we have managed to get through most of the case. It's colour, fruit and splendid flavours make it one of the best. Enjoy!