De Toren Z 2009
Blend: 56% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, and 2% Petit Verdot
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
De Toren proprietors Emil and Sonette den Dulk left Johannesburg in 1991 to establish their vineyards in the Polkadraai Hills of Stellenbosch. Situated on southern facing slopes overlooking False Bay, De Toren enjoys the cooling effect of constant ocean breezes. Taking a holistic approach to keeping vineyard soils healthy and balanced, viticulturalist Ernest Manuel employs sustainable farming practices throughout the property. Infrared Aerial Imaging is used extensively in order to monitor ripeness in various vineyard blocks and determine optimal picking times, although actual harvesting and production are done almost entirely by hand.
The winery is operated on gravity flow principles; a 4000 liter pressure tank in an elevator shaft (the "Tower" from which the winery takes its name) is cleverly used to exploit gravity in transporting wine between tanks and barrels without the use of mechanical pumps. As a result of De Toren’s innovative, minimal intervention production methods, their wines were among the first South African bottlings to qualify for IP (Integrated Production) certification by the Wine and Spirit Board.
The Den Dulks and winemaker Albie Koch seem to have found the key to success with their simple winemaking philosophy: gentle handling, no pumps, and minimum manipulation. Armed with this winning formula, the boutique farm has quickly risen to the ranks of South Africa’s winemaking elite with their duo of dazzling, stylish and complex five-varietal Bordeaux blends: the flagship Fusion V (which debuted in the 1999 vintage and has been hailed by Wine Spectator as "a consistently polished, outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend") and the Merlot-based "Z," introduced with the 2004 vintage.
In 2018 upon Emil’s decision to take a step back, Daniel Mueller, Cedric Schweri, Albie Koch and Cape Estate became the majority owners.
De Toren has been in conversion to become Ecocert Certified Organic, with 2019 marking the third year of the three-year required transition period. The winery has always believed in sustainable farming but the more research they conducted on soil health the more they became certain that organic production was the best course forward to ensure long term well-being. This shift will help to progressively stimulate the soil’s health which in turn enables greater plant growth, increased immunity and self-protection to produce even more balanced and complex berries.
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.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, the best of these are densely hued, fragrant, full of fruit and boast a structure that begs for cellar time. Somm Secret—Blends from Bordeaux are generally earthier compared to those from the New World, which tend to be fruit-dominant.