“So, this block here, 47 year old Chenin blanc, still doing OK, I guess. Pushed out about 27 tons a Ha last vintage” …. Jaco and I looked at each other and shared the same thought “Doing OK? 27 tons a Ha at that age?” We agreed in the bakkie driving to the next vineyard, this is no country for small time thinking.
Lutzville viticulturist, Hugo Lambrechts, is guiding us to a few old blocks within the Lutzville Valley and the Koekenaap Ward. The hidden vineyards we discover are beyond surprising. There is so much potential here with these old Chenin blanc and Muscat d’Alexandrie veterans of extreme conditions – temperatures and floods beyond Boland comprehension.
This leads to the wine tourism potential. West Coast Wine Route Manager, Monika de Jager, explains how experiences have evolved in the 15 years since her appointment. “We don’t have the 350 years of history, gables and ultra-modern wineries. We have authentic experiences. When guests arrive here from the other wine regions, they want to live like we do. We just need to be ourselves and don’t have to see investing a fortune as the prerequisite to develop your destination. The challenge is packaging our way of life for tourists. We have the sunsets on our unspoilt beaches, friendly people and wholesome countryside food and wine.”
And their spatial understanding is converse to what we are used to. When we arrived at Namaqua’s Spruitdrift Cellar, viticulturist Dirk de Bruyn casually says “this will be quick, the two blocks I want to show you are just here around the cellar”. After about half an hour’s drive Jaco and I thought we’re almost back in Vredendal again. But well worth the journey, those vineyards are like trees, like nothing we’ve seen to date. Trunks thicker than your thigh.
This abundance of space, generosity of the insanely fertile soils harbouring these hidden blocks currently obscured in big volume blends, surely points to a potential for redefining. If managed with a long-term view to reposition the Olifants River to a next level, this could be the new wine sensation.