Bye, Bye Berrio


The news that Francis Pratt, one of the nicest guys in SA wine and the finest mielie chef by a country mile, is scaling down his brave Berrio operation at Agulhas, confirms the gravity of the current crisis at the terroir tip of SA wine. Although harvest 2013 was the largest ever with 1.15 billion litres about to tsunami the market, the love is not being spread around in equal amounts. It’s a bit like peanut butter on bruschetta. Was it only a year ago I was predicting great things for the appellation and that was before CO2 crashed through the 400ppm ceiling last month?

berrio 233x300 Bye, Bye Berrio

The future of SA fine wine is unfolding way down south, at Elim, where a quartet of new producers: Strandveld Vineyards, Zoetendal, Black Oystercatcher and The Berrio are making explosive wines. Wines that will fire an explosive harpoon into the pretentions of many a Swartland Revolutionary, like the one that did for the whale whose jaw bone marks the entrance to the Strandveld cellar. The counter revolution has begun and the gay washing on the strandveld line will soon be replaced by the camouflage of sumcomandante Carrie Adams and her crew as they limber up for a counter attack on some sitting duck wine styles.

The pioneers in Africa’s southernmost appellation were Hein Koegelenberg and Charles Hopkins who have now both gone on to fame in Franschhoekfranschhoekcellarwines Bye, Bye Berrio
by franschhoekwines
(La Motte) and Durbanville (De Grendel) respectively. That replacing sheep with vines back in 1996 was a good idea has been proved in a rash of new cool climate wines, the most exciting undoubtedly Shiraz with the Strandveld 2009 about to reshape the Rhône in Africa. The only off-note is the abandoned Quoin Rock vineyard whose viticulture has been taken over by teams of baboons and Kenny Kunene, ex-convict and the pioneer of sushi served on naked models in niteclubs. A farcical end to a brave venture.

Francis Pratt from the Berrio Wines is our Elim wineheart.

Neil: Can you taste that Elim wines come from the southernmost vineyards in the Winelands?

Francis: You can definitely taste Elim wines with their distinctive mineral flinty cool climate characters with exceptional aging potential.

Neil: Which cultivars work best at Elim?

Francis: Sauvignon Blanc , Sémillon , Pinot Noir and Shiraz.

Neil: Is Elim off the beaten track when it comes to wine tourism?

Francis: Yes it is more seasonal.

Neil: Who and what are your wine making inspirations?

Francis: Bruce Jack and the unique terroir and climate that we have to create something that is only from Elim.

Elim in a nutshell

 Piercing Sauvignon Blancs
 Windswept vineyards
 Spicy Shiraz

Fantastic Five Sauvignon Blancs

♥♥♥♥♥ The Berrio 2011 Trail dust and greenpeppers on the nose, lemon and lime pith and peel on the palate. Delicious. A southern benchmark.
♥♥♥♥ Black Oystercatcher 2011 Rich and tangy sweet and sour gooseberry fool; a consummate food wine.
♥♥♥♥ Strandveld Wines First Sighting 2012 Nettles, iron, tangy gooseberries, minerals and blood
♥♥♥ Strandveld Wines 2012 Citrus, lemons and a broad and rich palate
♥♥♥ Zoetendal 2011 Very grassy green peppers with a hint of lemon pith

A Trio of White Bordeaux Blends (Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc)

♥♥♥♥ Strandveld Wines Adamastor 2010 Spicy geranium and mint
♥♥♥ The Weathergirl 2011 Thatch, ripe gooseberries and kiwi fruit
Black Oystercatcher White Pearl Creamed green vegetables and spicy ginger

A Shiraz Rosé

Strandveld Wines 2012 Candied raspberries, Kool-Aid colour

A Brace of Pinot Noirs

♥♥♥♥ Strandveld Wines Anders Spaarman 2009 Intense black cherries leather and dried figs with a beguiling bouquet
Strandveld Wines2009 PN Fresh red and black cherries with spicy minerality

A Trio of Shirazes

♥♥♥♥ Zoetendal 2009 Sweet tropical fruit on nose and palate, tangy and fresh
♥♥♥♥ Strandveld Wines Syrah 2009 Fabulous intensity of wild and small black berries. M. Chapoutier at Cape Agulhas.
Strandveld Wines 2011 Smoky strawberries and peaches, fresh and light palate

A Brace of Blends

♥♥♥♥ Strandveld Wines Navigator 2010 A Rhôneish blend of bacon, red berries and spice
Black Oystercatcher Triton 2008 Classical Bordeaux austere minerality and blackcurrant flavours with some spice from Shiraz