Badenhorst Curator White Blend 2019
The curator is a range of dynamic wines that are selected after the vintage each year. The grapes are grown in the Swartland region on the West Coast of Southern Africa. The vineyards are mostly bushvines growing in granite and slate soils, sourced from a number of traditional farmers. Chenin Blanc is the backbone and structure of this blend. The Chardonnay was naturally fermented and took a long time to complete fermentation, resulting in great texture and wacky aromas of dried peaches and apricots and ripe citrus. The Viognier, from one of Badenhorsts favorite growers and vineyards, completes the Swartland canvas and brings some spice and palate length to the wine. Grapes are picked by hand, chilled overnight and then pressed to settling tanks. The following day the juice is drawn off into tanks for fermentation. The winemaking team lets the wine run its course. Six months after fermentation the wine is blended after a series of intense tastings and dinners with the blend options. The blend that is finished first at one of these dinners is chosen as the final blend.
The property is owned by the dynamic and good-looking cousins Hein and Adi Badenhorst. They are originally from Constantia. Their grandfather was the farm manager of Groot Constantia for 46 years. Their fathers were born there and farmed together in Constantia, during the days when people still ate fresh vegetables and Hanepoot grapes, drank Cinsault and there were a lot less traffic lights and hippies still had a presence. Together these two have restored a neglected cellar on the farm that was last used in the 1930s to make natural wines in the traditional manner.
With an important wine renaissance in full swing, impressive red and white bargains abound in South Africa. The country has a particularly long and rich history with winemaking, especially considering its status as part of the “New World.” In the mid-17th century, the lusciously sweet dessert wines of Constantia were highly prized by the European aristocracy. Since then, the South African wine industry has experienced some setbacks due to the phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s and political difficulties throughout the following century.
Today, however, South Africa is increasingly responsible for high-demand, high-quality wines—a blessing to put the country back on the international wine map. Wine production is mainly situated around Cape Town, where the climate is generally warm to hot. But the Benguela Current from Antarctica provides brisk ocean breezes necessary for steady ripening of grapes. Similarly, cooler, high-elevation vineyard sites throughout South Africa offer similar, favorable growing conditions.
South Africa’s wine zones are divided into region, then smaller districts and finally wards, but the country’s wine styles are differentiated more by grape variety than by region. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is the country’s “signature” grape, responsible for red-fruit-driven, spicy, earthy reds. When Pinotage is blended with other red varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir (all commonly vinified alone as well), it is often labeled as a “Cape Blend.” Chenin Blanc (locally known as “Steen”) dominates white wine production, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc following close behind.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.