Rawsonville Revisited

Wednesday, 13 October, 2004
Jeanine Wardman
The idiomatic reference to ‘the other side of the mountain’ – a colloquial expression meaning anything beyond the Du Toitskloof mountain range and snobbishly implying wines (among other things) of a lesser quality than those of Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek – applies no more, writes Jeanine Wardman after spending time in Breedekloof (that is, Rawsonville Revisited).

A mere decade ago 'the other side of the mountain' was as unappealing a destination as the bulk of its wines were (pun intended). A handful of producers slowly started to assert themselves as something other than unimaginative manufacturers of bulk and 'soetes', inspired by the successful repositioning of Robertson and led by the consistent quality and value that cooperatives like Slanghoek and Du Toitskloof offered even then.

It was during this time that the foreign trade and flying winemakers descended upon the area for the very reason it had a lesser status than Stellenbosch - big volumes to service big brands. This international influx probably made capital investments in developing own brands, new plantings and upgraded cellars possible - the developments that set Rawsonville on the road to reinventing itself.

New-generation visionaries like Kobus Deetlefs and Stanley Louw have since made immense contributions and personify the Rawsonville renaissance. And then, in the ultimate PR coup, Ivy du Toit came along and single-handedly obliterated any and all clichés still pertaining to the area, its people and its wines.

But does Breedekloof have what it takes to become a terroir-driven appellation of distinction?

Mountains like Du Toitskloof, Slanghoek and Badsberg offer diverse sites, soils and micro-climates and differentiate the area from the flat, arid expanse to its north.

Kobus Deetlefs has achieved much with Semillon and refers to the area's favourable rainfall, humidity and heat units relative to other appellations as Breedekloof's 'untold story'. (Breedekloof receives 1000mm of rain/annum as opposed to an average of 300mm/annum for Worcester.)

Says Pieter Carstens of Slanghoek: 'The surrounding mountain ranges really are our greatest assets as it makes for a variety of slopes and soil types as well as cooler nights and ripening periods.'

The inimitable Philip Jordaan waxes lyrical about the virtues of Sauvignon Blanc planted along the foothills of the Du Toits Kloof - on the right side that is. 'As the sun sets behind the higher ranges in the late afternoon our vineyards fall in the mountain's shadow, ensuring cooler overnight temperatures - a must for premium wine production.'

The beauty of Breedekloof is that a stunner like Du Toitskloof's Sauvignon Blanc comes in an annual batch of 60 000 cases and sells for R21.50 a bottle ex-cellar. This ability to deliver a commercially viable volume of wine that, in spite of its wide availability, receives local and international press is at the core of the region's current appeal.

What it now needs is to champion its distinctive terroir and produce more and more wines that authentically express and capture its terrain and climate - wines that can only but come from Breedekloof.

In this regard it needs to look no further than its slightly more astute neighbour, Robertson. Will we soon be offered unique expressions of Breedekloof's terroir a la Springfield's Life from Stone, De Wetshof's Limestone Hill Chardonnay, Graham Beck's The Ridge Shiraz and the like?

From the tapered and contained Slanghoek Valley to the wide-open spaces extending northwards from Deetlefs and Du Preez, and on into the barren basin that is the Karoo. To an altogether different backdrop at Bergsig and Romansrivier towards Wolseley - the area offers a unique combination of experiences that is neither quintessentially 'Boland' nor characteristically 'Karoo'.

Whether the wines of origin Breedekloof will be as esteemed in future as those of its more sophisticated sisters on what used to be the 'sexier' (with acknowledgement to Neil Pendock) side of the mountain, is yet to be seen.

What is certain is that it has achieved the ultimate and often elusive aim of public relations - talk value. Breedekloof has arrived and people are talking about it.

For more information see: www.breedekloof.com

Sutherland House is recommended for accommodation in Rawsonville.

Contact Victor Corrigan:
Tel: 023 349-1719 or

Email: vcorrigan@mweb.co.za