I’ve just returned home from South Africa, and an intensive week tasting some of the most interesting, exciting and authentic wines I’ve had in some time. Exciting for the most part, because this new wave South Africa was pretty much entirely unexpected to me. And I’m a Class “A” certified (certifiable?) wine geek. The reasoning is not lost on me; these smaller-scale, handcrafted, sustainably farmed, authentically rooted wines are not seen here much, if at all. Importers prefer to pump big brands, joke labels or industrial production / strength wines to meet a bargain budget price point or preset style category. I call BS. You should, too.
A. A. Badenhorst | Secateurs Red Blend 2012 | WO Swartland, South Africa | $25
So next time instead of trotting out your darling obscure Jura or electric Savennières or natural Etna (all of which fill my shelves), reach for one of the new wave South African wines, like Secateurs Red Blend. The Badenhorst family has been making high quality wine in the country for three generations. Cousins Hein and Adi Badenhorst cemented the family tradition when they purchased 60 HA in Paardeberg, in the Swartland appellation, resurrecting an abandoned cellar from the 1930s to make characterful wines in a natural, traditional, sustainable way.
Winemaker Adi is widely regarded as the biological statesman (characterful in the highest order himself) of South African wine, oracle of authenticity, and founding member of the Swartland Revolution and Swartland Independent movements.
The Secateurs are their second tier wines, and available in limited quantities here (as well as the Secateurs Chenin Blanc). Shiraz, cinsault, tinta barocca, grenache and mourvedre from their home farm Kalmoesfontein were foot trodden, wild yeast fermented and left in closed concrete on their skins for 6 months before pressing off to rest quietly in huge old casks for an additional 16 months.
Savoury cherry, wild strawberry, brambles and fine stony dust lure and lead onto a fresh palate, one worn around the edges by time. Cherry continues to lead the show, joined with aged leather, scrubby medicinal-tinged herbs, wildflowers, broken stone and an undercurrent of cured meat and cracked black pepper. Tannins are fine, slightly grippy and confidently subtle, handily propping up the textured, gently ripe fruit. Medicinal herbs linger on the lengthy finish. All this complexity in a welcome 13% alcohol? Pass that bottle this way.
Amazing value, and your perfect introduction to what’s really happening in South Africa. Keep asking for more.
feature images via aabadenhorst.com