In my first installment, I promised to introduce you to some of the smaller producers whose wines particularly impressed me. The first two in the series, AA Badenhorst Family Wines and Waterkloof, stood out in my mind for the uniqueness of their wine style. They both make wines that ooze with character.
AA Badenhorst Family Wines is located in the Paardeberg area of Swartland, an up-and-coming wine region about 50 km north of Cape Town, and is owned by cousins Hein and Adi Badenhorst. They have 28 hectares of vineyard, most of which is planted with old bush vines ranging from 40-58 years in age. For the most part they eschew modern technology, preferring to let the fermentation happen without much intervention. All the grapes are fermented naturally in whole bunches, without de-stemming or crushing. I tasted the wines with assistant winemaker Jasper Wickens.
Secateurs is their entry-level range that includes a white, a rosé, and a red at incredible value. Since they drink the wine themselves, Wickens told me, they wanted something with definite drinkability, and so are careful to keep the alcohol levels relatively low (13 – 13.5%) for this range.
Indeed, I found that all three wines were first characterized by their easy-going freshness. The 2012 Secateurs Chenin Blanc was peachy and expressive, generous in body yet still fresh. Quite complex and extremely tasty. The 2011 Secateurs Red Blend, made of 55% Shiraz, 35% Cinsaut, and small percentages of Pinotage, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mouvedre, had lovely flavours of wild strawberries, spices, and flowers. The 2013 Secateurs rosé was bursting with bright strawberry and raspberry flavours.
At the premium level, they make two blends, one white and one red. Tasting the 2010 AA Badenhorst Family White Blend was a delight in textures as layer after layer was peeled away; the longer you spend with it, the better, because it continues to evolve and change in the glass. A blend of 10 grape varieties, Chenin Blanc the most prominent at 30% of the blend, it has lots going on. Ageing takes place first in old barrels, and then in concrete tanks. The fantastic aromatics hit you as soon as you put your nose near the glass. Expressive and generous (14% alcohol), it has flavours of peach and flowers, orange blossoms and lemons. This is a wine with some definite ageing potential.
When I go through my tasting notes after an event, the wines that particularly impressed me are pretty obvious: the sprawling tasting note runs off the page, and is embellished with stars, uppercase phrases, and exclamation points. This unscientific method leads me to believe that I also really enjoyed the 2010 AA Badenhorst Family Red Blend. “Character!” says my tasting note. Jasper Wickens described it as “funky and old-school in a way, unpolished”. A fitting description, I thought, and I’m glad to know I’m know the only one who uses funky in a positive sense. (In fact, Badenhorst occasionally makes a white wine under solera known as “the funky white”.)
The red was also very textured, with red fruit revealing itself in bursts, and a certain mineral tension running through it. Fresh, with earthy and animals aromas, it had lots of cherry fruit and grippy tannins. A delight I’d like to return to.
AA Badenhorst is represented by Symbiose in Quebec, and by Trialto in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. If you ever spot a bottle, check it out – you’ll recognize them by their visually striking labels.
Coming up next: Waterkloof.