Tucked in South Africa’s Langeberg Mountain range in the Robertson Wine Valley is small family owned winery that is making a big impression. Kleinhoekkloof Wines is the very definition of a handcrafted boutique winery. At just under 12 Hectares under vine, they grow 6 grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Shiraz, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir. 80% of the farm is registered under the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI) and they use the power of gravity in the vineyards and cellar. For example, they use drip irrigation via the fountain and dam they have up in the mountain and use forklifts to raise the tanks to drain off the juice. The first time the wine goes through a pump or is filtered is when it is bottled.
Kleinhoekkloof was introduced to us by a friend who brought back a bottle of their award winning 2014 Jupiter for us to taste. Canada doesn’t tend to import a lot of high quality South African wine and our best experiences to date had been with the country’s white wines. A recent trip to Stellenbosch and Franschoek certainly opened our eyes to the country’s ability to also make excellent sparkling wine and cooler climate reds.
Made up of 95% Shiraz, 4% Viognier and 1% Petit Verdot, we weren’t sure what to expect from the Jupiter. Those grapes usually produce a very full-bodied wine yet this was coming from a country not known for producing this style. As we decanted it, aromas of blackberry and raspberry immediately jumped out of the bottle. There was a lovely complexity to this wine revealing secondary notes of pepper, clove, and earth. At only 4 years old we expected it to be more tannic but it was surprisingly smooth and plush. It definitely had the power and boldness you would expect from a Shiraz, but it was already very approachable. It showed great structure making us think it has at least another decade of ageing before it reaches its potential.
While we don’t buy wines based solely on the label, the one on this bottle certainly would make us look twice if we knew nothing about the wine. We reached out to Kleinhoekkloof winemaker Danielle de Jongh, and the story behind the name is not what we expected given the image. “My father is 1 of 5 children (he has 2 brothers and 2 sisters). In October 2013, both his sisters lost a son, only 13 days apart. One passed away in his sleep in London and the other was hiking in the Jonkershoek mountains and fell to his death. We are a large family but had not seen each other in years. We decided to all get together during harvest 2014 and make a wine in remembrance of them. The cousins’ names were Julius and Pieter…if you put those names ‘together’, you get JUPITER.”
We rated the 2014 Jupiter as excellent wine and is our favourite red that we’ve tried from South Africa to date. Given only 3 vintages of this wine have been made and only 1300 bottles produced it will no doubt be challenging to find. But if you do find it, don’t hesitate—buy it, you won’t be disappointed. For us, visiting the winery in person, getting the full story behind it and bringing some back with us, will be top of the list on our next South African AdVINEture!