Nederburg: Now & Then

Wine collectors attending the prestigious 2017 Nederburg Auction in September will be treated to a varied selection of Nederburg wines, chosen by an expert selection panel comprising eight judges, six of whom are Masters of Wine (MW). The Paarl winery’s line-up of 16 wines spans four decades, from the 1980s to 2014, and includes six sweet, six red and four white wines. Some are sufficiently age-worthy for further cellaring while others are ready for drinking now, clearly showing the extent of the cellar’s skilled versatility.

 

 

The 1982 vintage of Private Bin Edelkeur, made by winemaking luminary Günter Brözel, will be the oldest Nederburg wine on offer. The renowned noble late harvest, made from botrytised Chenin blanc, has earned Nederburg considerable international kudos over the years, and gave rise to the Nederburg Auction. Nederburg, established in 1791, is rich in history and reputation. From the days of its founder, Philippus Wolvaart, to modern times, it has been shaped by people with a lively curiosity and an appetite for discovery, both to know more and to be more.

 

 

This ongoing quest has fuelled a progres­sive and pioneering approach to wine­grow­ing and winemaking, and it has earned the respect of tastemakers worldwide. For many years, Nederburg has been one of South Africa’s most awarded wineries. This is cer­tainly still the case. The Paarl winery won top honours at the 2016 International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC), attaining the title of South African Wine Producer of the Year, and a trophy for its Private bin r163 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 as the best Caber­net Sauvignon in the world.

Nederburg was also announced Winery of the Year in the 2017 edition of Platter’s by Diners Club South African Wine Guide, with four of its wines across the multi-­tiered range earning five­star ratings, more than any other producer. In addition, Nederburg was recently placed 36th in drinks Interna­tional’s World’s Most Admired Wine brands top 50 survey, and walked away with a 2017 decanter World Wine Awards platinum medal for the 2016 vintage of its Heritage Heroes The Anchorman, highlighted as the best South African Chenin blanc priced at more than £15 (approximately r250).

 

 

Forward ­thinking and ground­breaking, Nederburg nevertheless continues to draw from the past: its own deep experience and the classical principles of winemaking. Finely honed wine­ growing and winemak­ing skills and a scrupulous attention to detail from the soil to the bottle give the team the capacity to examine and explore, to innovate and evolve. The team subscribes to a wine philosophy that combines tradition with innovation and it shows in the wines. They offer a complexity and structure of the old that is fused with the refreshing fruit vitality of the new. These wines are, curiously, the best of both worlds.

“Heading up one of South Africa’s busiest and biggest wine cellars is the challenge of a lifetime,” says Andrea Freeborough, Nederburg cellar-master since 2015.

“It requires intense focus, courage, vision and an insatiable sense of discovery to keep Nederburg’s prize-winning reputation intact and continuously better our best efforts. We are a young team, with Natasha Boks overseeing white wines, supported by Chandré Petersen; and Samuel Viljoen, assisted by Heinrich Kulsen, looking after the reds.”

 

 

The Paarl winery’s story of discovery begins in 1791 when Philippus Wolvaart (aka The Anchorman), who was keen to set down roots, paid 5600 guilders for untamed land close to Paarl. A visionary and a man of courage, he had to create an infrastructure from scratch, establishing a sturdy foundation upon which to build a fine name in wine.

So he immediately prepared the soil and planted vines and other crops. He wanted his family to have the best he could give them and he built an elegant, beautifully propor- tioned manor house, completed in 1800 and now a national monument. He proved to be something of a wine-master, as by 1808 he was producing 40 leaguers of wine (23 280 litres) a year. He sold the farm in 1810 and it changed hands several times before it was bought by industrious Johann Graue (aka The Brew Master) in 1937.

Graue was a man of many talents. He was not only a viticulturist, but also a tea specialist and, as a former director of a major brewery in his native Germany, he had substantial knowledge of beer making. He understood beverages and flavour and he knew that to achieve optimal results you had to start with the best quality ingredients. He kept very careful records of the performance of his vines, reserving the best. He even established a vine nursery. His efforts translated into outstanding results at the annual Cape Wine Show and at shows abroad.

 

His son, Arnold (aka The Young Airhawk), was groomed to succeed him and was trained in winemaking in Switzerland and Germany. He loved speed, action and adventure, was a great winemaker and, like his father, brought many prizes to Nederburg. But his career was short-lived; he was tragically killed at just 29 in a light aircraft crash.

The death of his beloved only child nearly destroyed Graue senior, but he knew that to give up everything he had created for his son to inherit would be a betrayal of his memory. He looked to Germany once again for a wine-maker and found him in Günter Brözel (aka The Motorcycle Marvel), who had studied at the famous Weinsberg Institute and came from a long line of coopers. A gifted and meticulous winemaker, at first light he could be seen surveying the vineyards from his 250cc BSA motorcycle and then checking that the cellar was operating just as he intended.

His innovations accelerated Nederburg’s award-winning reputation and it wasn’t long before many prominent wine enthusiasts were clamouring to visit the farm. His relationship with Nederburg spanned 33 years, until his retirement in 1989.

When Razvan Macici was appointed cellar-master in 2001, he brought with him extensive experience gained in Europe and then in Stellenbosch. He continued the legacy of his winemaster predecessors and soon began garnering trophies, medals and other accolades.

 

 

He dazzled with his dexterity, producing a multi-tiered offering that appealed to a broad spectrum of wine lovers all over the world. His ingenuity and his capacity for creating new and exciting wines have thrilled wine lovers. He handed over to Andrea in 2015.

“Looking back on more than two centuries of winemaking, there’s a golden thread that runs through Nederburg: a winemaking  ethos based on a deep respect for the land, for the people involved in the growing and maintaining of the vineyards and those in the cellar and, of course, for the wine lovers, who are entitled to the very best quality at every price point,” Andrea says.

 

 

“We cater to markets across the world and are geared to produce both speciality and popular wines of award-winning quality. So while you can expect a versatile, multi-tiered range of excellent wines made from main- stream varietals, you will also find a number of lesser-known cultivars in the cellars. This gives Nederburg a distinct edge.

“How we achieve this is by maintaining a sophisticated infrastructure and commit- ting ourselves totally to what we do. We invest extensively in research and share our findings with growers to promote best-practice. This means we have access to top-quality fruit across the Cape. We have the resources to pioneer new wine-growing areas to ensure we are always ahead and our sophisticated cellars are equipped to allow us to simultaneously create speciality, exclusive connoisseur wines as well as more popular ones.”

 

 

Nederburg’s inventiveness is there for all to see and taste in the gourmet Heritage Heroes collection, which comprises two red blends, two wooded whites and the delicately aromatic Gewürztraminer. These wines have been kicking up a storm, enjoyed as much for their brilliantly fresh flavours as their extraordinarily authentic narratives. Individually named and labelled, the wines celebrate some of the prominent personalities who have shaped the winery’s history and reputation.

The Anchorman, a wooded Chenin Blanc, commemorates Nederburg’s founder Philip- pus Wolvaart; The Young Airhawk, a wooded Sauvignon Blanc, remembers talented wine-maker Arnold Graue, who died an untimely death in a flying accident; The Brew Master, a Bordeaux-style red blend honours Johann Graue, a pioneering winemaker who was one of the first to recognise that vineyard quality dictates wine quality; The Motorcycle Marvel, a Rhône-style blend that pays tribute to Günter Brözel, a former Nederburg cellar-master who brought international acclaim to the winery; and The Beautiful Lady, an aromatic Gewürztraminer recalls Johann Graue’s wife, Ilse, who brought grace, hospitality and a beautiful rose garden to Nederburg.

 

 

“We are thrilled that the 2011 vintage of The Young Airhawk has been selected to be offered for sale at this year’s Nederburg Auc- tion on 16 September, together with 15 other Nederburg wines spanning various styles and vintages. Only the best-of-the-best South African wines are chosen for this prestigious annual event, so needless to say, we’re extremely excited about this,” explains Andrea.

Now in its 43rd year, the annual Nederburg Auction is the Cape’s pre-eminent showcase for the country’s top fine wine producers and a major highlight on the South African wine calendar. V