Categories
Drink The Connected Table SIPS

This Young South African Wine Producer is Breaking Down Barriers

There was a time in South Africa, when a woman of color would not have the opportunity to run a winery. Berene Sauls represents a new generation breaking down barriers as owner of Tesselaarsdal Winery, located in the Overberg. Opened in 2015, Tesselaarsdal produces cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with grapes sourced from nearby Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. The name Tesselaarsdal is an homage to Sauls’ ancestors who were freed slaves and farmers in the area.

Berene Sauls, owner, Tesselaarsdal

Believe in a Dream: A Former Au Par Turns Vintner

Much of Sauls’ hands-on training has been under the mentorship of Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell, whose namesake winery is among the finest in South Africa’s Overberg region. Sauls began working as an au par to the Hamilton Russell’s four daughters. She expressed an interest in learning the wine business, and the couple encouraged her, giving her more hands-own work at their winery and serving as her mentor.

Sauls says the learning experience of working every department of Hamilton Russell Vineyards was invaluable. Eventually this led to the Hamilton Russells offering to help Sauls start her own winery in 2014. They have provided her a production facility at their winery and seed money to build a winemaking facility.

tessalarsdall vineyards
Tesselaarsdall vineyards

Tesselaarsdal – A Symbol of Freedom and Heritage

Located in the Overberg, Tesselaarsdal is a rural village with historical significance. The widow of its namesake settler, Johannes Tesselaar, left his farmland to his freed slaves upon his death in 1810, a bold move at the time.

Sauls glows with excitement talking about her future as a winery owner, something she knows would have made her mother and grandmother proud. “I named my winery Tesselaarsdal to honor my roots and legacy, and the women on wine’s label represent my mother and grandmother who both loved the land,” she shared.

Eventually Sauls plans to grow her own estate fruit. For now, she sources her grapes from nearby Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge whose higher elevation and cool winds provide ideal growing conditions.

We tasted Tesselaarsdal’s two wines.

Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2020

Sauls second vintage, is aged in both amphora and six months in oak, giving it a light toast blended with soft tropical and citrus notes and a nice minerality. As we tasted, visions of Asian curry, Cajun blackened redfish and fresh grilled trout crossed our minds.

Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir 2019

This wine is aged just over nine months in French oak, imparting notes of allspice, wild strawberries, and fresh cherries on our palate. In South Africa this would be the perfect wine for a classic braai. Here stateside, we call that a cookout on the grill with sausages, lamb, chicken skewers and grilled vegetable. The night we tasted this wine we had cauliflower pizza with bitter greens, anchovies, and caramelized onions.

Tesselaarsdal means “heaven on earth” in Old Dutch and Afrikaans. And for Berene Sauls it is a place to honor her heritage and plant her own piece of heaven, writing an exciting next chapter for this vibrant young woman.

Importer: www.vineyardbrands.com     www.tesselaarsdalwines.co.za

Meet Berene Sauls and hear her story on The Connected Table SIPS

 

Categories
David Ransom Drink Explore Melanie Young THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

South Africa’s Simonsig Wine Estate – Johan Malan

 

images
The View from Simonsig. Photo: Michael Oliver, South Africa

 

legal_logoSouth Africa has a winemaking industry that dates back to the 1600s, and the Malan family, whose Simonsig Wine Estate in that country’s renowned Stellenbosch region in the Cape Winelands is one of the most recognized names in the world of wine, helped create it.

Grape growers in South Africa since Jacques Malan first planted vines in 1688. The Malan family has been involved in the wine industry on many levels in the ensuing years, and Simonsig, which takes its name from the region’s Simonsig Mountain range, in whose foothills descendent Frans Malan planted a vineyard in De Hoop in the 1950s, has made a name for not only itself, but for the entire country by consistently making exemplary wines from South Africa’s star grape varietals, Chenin Blanc and Pinotage.

While Chenin Blanc, one of the world’s great white varietals, is grown most notably in the Loire valley in France, it seems to have found a second home in Stellenbosch, where wineries have been bringing out beautifully crafted versions for many years. Simonsig’s Chenin Blanc is one of the benchmarks. They also make a barrel fermented Chenin, a rarity for that varietal, but a stunner of a wine that breaks the stereotype that Chenin can’t stand up to extended time in oak.

CIMG2434
The view in Stellenbosch

Another varietal, and one that helped put South Africa on the map, is Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, it is a grape unique to South Africa, and was “invented” there in the 1920s and then forgotten for many years until it was rediscovered and propagated on a commercial level. Loved by some, dismissed by others, Pinotage makes an interesting wine, medium to full bodied, with interesting notes of spice, earthiness, and smoke. Yet, it’s the polarizing character of acetone or paint, which tends to

drive the discussion on it, though to be honest, a well made Pinotage such as the consistently award-winning ones made by Simonsig are beautiful wines and can not only stand the test of competition, but can age and stand the test of time, as well.

Wines_2Simonsig makes many other wines, as well. Chardonnay, Riesling, Shiraz, and the Bordeaux varietals all grow well in South Africa’s Cape where no vineyards are very far from the moderating influence of the Oceans that surround it. There are also a handful of world class sparking wines made – another Simonsig innovation, as they were the first winery to make what is called Kaapse Vonkel (Cape Sparkle)

wines back in the 1970s.

For all the wonderful wines being made in South Africa, There still seems to be a bit of a disconnect with the American consumer, maybe due to the location (it’s a 20 hour flight at least). Yet the wines are world class, and only getting better. Simonsig, with its long history in the region and wonderful wines, continues to lead the way.

Johan Malan- Winemaker
Johan Malan of Simonsig

We welcome Johan Malan to The Connected Table LIVE! on Wednesday April 13th to speak about his family’s winemaking legacy and get his take on the wines being made there that are making South Africa one of the most exciting places in the wine world these days.