05 March 2019

Visiting Aaldering Vineyards



Aaldering Vineyards saw their first harvest in 2007 with the first release in 2009. Owners Marianne and Fons Aaldering bought the farm, then called Hidden Valley, in Devon Valley, Stellenbosch, in 2004. The Aalderings home is The Netherlands where they owned airline catering companies.

It was their first winery and Fons knew what he wanted. Only the best. “Nothing but five Platter stars will do,” says marketing managing Gert-Jan Posthuma, “and if they make six stars the best, then that’s what we want. We never stop striving.”

To that end they have built a new computer-controlled winery in 2013. Tanks can be set to a particular temperature of within a range. If limits are breached a message is texted to winemaker P J Geyer’s mobile phone and he can use it to change settings.

They buy 30% of their oak barrels new from four different French coopers in France each year. 70% of wines are aged in the new barrels, the rest in 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill.

Wines are aged for approximately 24 months before being pumped into tanks, and fined and filtered before bottling. They use mobile bottling line and are intending getting their own labelling machine. The bottles come from France. The Bordeaux shaped bottles have a broad neck and taper downwards. “We are the only winery in South Africa to use this shape,” says Gert-Jan.

Aaldering annually produce 120K bottles in their premium range and 30K in the Florence range.

The winery roof is clad in solar panels. “On a sunny day, like today”, said Gert-Jan, “we are totally off the grid.” Which is invaluable currently when Eskom, South Africa’s electricity supplier, can’t cope with demand and is making rolling power outages.

The winery incorporates a cold store where just picked grapes are brought down to 6C.

The winery buildings are attractively designed. Three spacious guest lodges, furnished with antique furniture and modern kitchens and televisions, are housed in a traditional Cape Dutch building that looks as if has stood for hundreds of years, but was recently designed and built under the Aaldering’s direction.

When I visited the large vineyard that stretched the length of the property was bare, its red soil waiting for wooden poles stacked by the side that would hold trellis wines. “That was Shiraz,” Gert-Jan told me. “But it’s a hot slope and Vinpro and viticulture experts from the University took samples and both agreed it was the best place for Cabernet Sauvignon, so that’s is what we’ll be planting. 

The 6ha Pinotage vineyard was planted in 1997 and  is on the opposite side  at the top of a slope. “We’re 155 metres above sea level here,” said Gert-Jan, pointing down the valley “and we get a stiff cool breeze from False Bay in the evening.”  

Inside the luxurious tasting room owner Fons Aaldering and winemaker P J Geyer are in earnest conversation over mugs of coffee.

I sit on the veranda, overlooking vineyards, with a wooden platter holding eight tasting samples.

Aaldering make four Pinotages, two red, a white and a rosé. Also tasted were a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz and a Cabernet-Merlot blend.

Unusually and most creatively, each wine has a tasting note in the form of a poem. These were written by the winemaker and his wife.*

Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Crisp and dry with racy acidity and a very long aftertaste which lasted so long I held off tasting the next wine. Lovely!! Ten year-old vines. 14.32% abv.

Pinotage Blanc 2017
There are not many white Pinotages on the market. This was not done any favours by being presented after the expressive savvie. It was light bodied, clean and refreshing, with a underlying creaminess. A super aperitif wine. Aged on lees for four months. 20 year old vines, 13.05% abv.

Chardonnay 2017
A very expressive wine, flowery and mouthfilling. A blend of three components: free run juice fermented in stainless steel, pressed juice in stainless steel tank and 30% barrel fermented in 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill 300L barrels, all undergoing regular battonage. 10 year old vines.14.17% abv.

Pinotage Rosé 2018
This is an ethereally pale pink, reminding me of Provence. It offers clean, fresh  rose-petal and strawberry flavours. From 20 year old vines, 13.5 % abv.

Lady M Pinotage 2018
This is an unwooded wine, named in honour of Marianne Aaldering and her favourite wine. There’s crystallised violets on the nose and even without barrel aging is quite grippy with drying tannins. A food wine for sure.   A vineyard selection;  grapes  hand harvested, destemmed but not crushed. Five days sold soaking at 14C  before gentle pressing at five Balling. 13.8% abv.

Pinotage 2016
This tastes older than the vintage suggests, with spiciness, hints of dark chocolate with a suggestion of mushrooms underneath.  18 year old vines, 14.69% abv.


Shiraz 2015
Classic Shiraz, with spices and fresh ground pepper od black fruits. 15 year old vines, 14.48% abv.

Cabernet Merlot 2012
This doesn’t taste its age, it is full of youthful bright punchy berry fruit flavours. Great drinking now, would age further. 60% Cab/40% Merlot from 13/14 year-old vines. After malo in stainless steel tanks, wines were aged for 25 months in 35% new 225 litre  French oak barrels before blending. 15% abv.

Thanks to Gert-Jan Poshuma for showing me winery.

* Tasting poems for all of Aalderings range are on the last pages of the fourth edition of Aalderings magazine, available in PDF format from www.aaldering.co.za/magazine 

For technical reasons photos will be posted later.

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