Deux Frères: two brothers with a singular approach

Monday, 8 April, 2019
Dave March CWM
Hidden alongside the R44 in the shadows of the Simonsberg Mountain lie the picturesque and verdant vineyards of Deux Frères.

This smallholding is a family business where Stephan du Toit is the winemaker and brother Retief, with a career in hedge funds, looks after the finances (“I do the numbers”). Their mother, Hester, receives guests in the tasting room during the week and both the wives, René and Karien also host tastings and functions.

The welcome and the approach to wine is unusual. Of the thousands of winery visits I have made around the globe, it is refreshing to find such an open, relaxed and ‘C’est la Vie’ attitude to making (and selling) wine.

Don’t be fooled, though, Stephan knows his stuff. Having worked at L’Avenir and Marianne as well as at top producers in St Estephe and Pomerol in France he has gained diverse knowledge and experience.  “Funny, me being in France, I’m not a Merlot fan (“nor me” – interjects Retief) – I normally spit it out,” laughs Stephan.

Over a Mourvèdre Rosé, Stephan tells of his dislike of ‘pink’ Rosés. Mourvèdre works well, but “it doesn’t have much acid” he adds. “Last year we thought we wouldn’t bother picking the Mourvèdre, so we went on holiday.On our return the grapes seemed rotten and ragged, but I could smell the beautiful wine in the vineyard. We harvested. It didn’t look like proper wine, but it was really good. I then realised that one really needs patience to make Mourvèdre. You must almost let it rot on the vine, and only then it is ready”.

Stephan poured a red wine blend. “What is it?” I asked. “Not sure,” laughs Stephan. He is always “playing around in the cellar”. His Fraternité 2015 (Shiraz/Mourvèdre) went into 15 different barrels: different origin,different toasts and different ages.Due to requests he made a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon with 70% new oak: it has “beautiful drinkability” he says and the 3,000 bottles at 13.7% alcohol are classy, elegant and show layered intensity.

Aging wines before release is important to the brothers. “Producers push out wines too early”, they say. The reds have up to 36 months in barrel. This results in depth and colour and beautiful aromas which is so important. On the Liberté (almost a Bordeaux blend but this year “I put a bit of Shiraz in to enhance the complexity”) Stephan did punch downs every four hours for five days. The wines are unctuous and dark yet remain clean and fresh. I asked how he manages that with such long duration in barrel, “I was trained by a chemist – and constant topping up”, he laughs.

The Fraternité 2015 (latest release) is waiting for new labels, it will be released “when I get them”,

 “If you have a car!” says Retief,

 “Yes, I may have to sell the car to pay for them”. Again the uninhibited laughter between them.

Looking at the vines I ask if they have plans to go organic or biodynamic. A quick response from Stephan as to where they will keep a horse, buries that idea under all of our laughter.

They didn’t make a Liberté in 2011 “It was horrible” says Stephan, “we practically gave it away to a business in Pretoria only to see it labelled and named ‘Best Red Wine’ at Winex that year!”  They didn’t make either of their red blends in 2014, 2016 or 2017;“if it is not good enough it has to go elsewhere”, Stephan further remarks.

 “There is only 1500 litres of the 2016 Mourvèdre, too,” Retief asks “1500 litres?” Stephan replies,“well, I can cut it down to 1000 if you like”, “No”, shouts Retief and they both laugh together.With an annual production of between 15,000 and 20,000 bottles per year, depending on quality, focus to date has been on domestic sales. “we’re too small for Asia,” says Stephan, They have had exports to Denmark and Germany, but are very keen to develop new relationships and new markets.

There is building work going on, the one-table tasting room now welcomes visitors who often will be met be all three of the family (Stephan especially, juice covered and straight from the cellar) and will find it difficult to get away.

Leaving I knew I had tasted some very special wines made with love and attention. The Fraternité 2015 is remarkable.It is superb and a trophy winner. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Libertê follow closely, distinguished and profound, the straight Mourvèdreis unique and absolutely pristine. But what stayed equally in my mind as I drove back through the vines was the affection, understanding and good natured humour and laughter of the brothers. The vineyard is perfectly named.

 

Deux Frères wines will be at the www.stellenboschwinefestival.co.za in April

www.dfwines.co.za



deux freres wine
deux freres wine

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