If anything, the Cape does good Colonial. Think of the big-bucks properties steeped in history and now proudly and convincingly using heritage as the major driver of their respective brands, and moving volumes of good wines in the process: Groot Constantia, Nederburg and Vergelegen spring to mind.
Boschendal, which has just celebrated its 330th year in existence, has for me the most colourful history. And as the gateway to Franschhoek at the bottom of the Banghoek Pass, the Boschendal spread is an inoffensively ubiquitous presence in the Cape winelands.
The history starts with Jean le Long, a French Huguenot, and this in itself is mired in mystery. The Huguenots only hot-footed it away from the Catholic be-headers to the Cape in 1688, so what’s the deal with Le Long’s three year lead? Did he have a good tail-wind or special connections among the VOC mafia?
In any event, Le Long set-up shop at Boschendal paving the way for a number of interesting owners. These included, according to vinous folklore, a cross-dressing De Villiers fellow who liked to ride around the farm on Sundays wearing a virginal wedding-dress, which must have led to the birth of some atrocious verbal mockery from the farm-labourers. Jou Ma se veiled poes, springs to mind.
Cecil John Rhodes, also known for being in touch with his feminine side, bought Boschendal in 1887. Showing the signs of a true butch Boer, though, Rhodes set about improving the viticulture as well as the fruit-farming, in the process building-up the region’s reputation for fruit and wine. It is thus quite right that the current owners of the Boschendal brand, DGB, have honoured Rhodes with the Cecil John range, which you will obviously not find being served at a cocktail party of UCT deans or at one of the famous marog-smiley-and-kwaito parties held in the residences.
In fact, the Cecil John wine label maintained a low profile during the recent barbaric tumbling of the Rhodes statue on UCT. Only serial screamer and sometime journalist Mandy de Waal picked up on it, penning a passionate and apparently PMT-induced piece on the influential blog The Daily Vox.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s Boschendal was in the hands of Anglo-American, with the spirited and individualistic Achim von Arnim in charge of winemaking. A martial arts expert, painter and poet, Von Arnim also helped build-up the farm’s formidable reputation for wines with pioneering work in the fields of Blanc de Noir and Cap Classique.
So if storytelling is not just a cliché hauled out by wine marketing departments but actually a vital element to building and sustaining a wine brand, Boschendal shows that it does have traction.
The party to celebrate 330 Years and Still Going Strong was an expected slap-up, no-holds-barred event. Bow-ties were suitability called for, with ladies donning those evening gowns that cling pleasantly like labels stuck to a magnum of Dom Perignon 1992. MC Michael Olivier ensured we had a whale of a time, regaling us with tales of Boschendal past and along with plenty of others I was permitted to get gloriously pasted as transport had been laid on.
The wines were, obviously, all Boschendal: buckets of Cap Classique (dry, and brisk) Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (tropical with citrus), Chardonnay (brioche oozing pear) and some tremendous Grande Reserve 2012. Just over 70% Syrah finished with Petit Verdot, the wine has extremely good manners. Firm and reserved, it bears scents of potpourri and cut pomegranate, while in the mouth the taste of ripe plum, mocha and some fynbos is not overpowering, but there.
Pretty much like the wine of the evening, the just-released Boschendal 330, vintage 2013.
The bottle is vastly unique, looking like it was stolen from the set of a movie about French people in the old days. What is inside is Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, and although I expected a massive punch, it was actually like being tickled with an ostrich feather soaked in Left Bank Bordeaux.
Airy and roomy on the palate, the Boschendal 330 pleases in a careful and skilled way. Like usurping a touch of manual pleasure from a trained Geisha girl wearing silk gloves. The softest notes of pine-needle and ripe blackberry meet faint, fragile chords of four-day charcuterie to gush and flow around the mouth as an incoming high-tide on Biscayne Bay on full-moon.
All classical elegance, and thankfully as civilised a good wine as Hemingway would have liked it to be.
Cheers, Boschendal. Thanks for the memories.
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