• Family matters for the Boustreds and Remhoogte Winery

    The Boustreds have made their mark on the South African wine scene with their Remhootge estate and wines first influenced by Michel Rolland and now driven by Chris Boustred, who is going back to a more traditional, low intervention style of winemaking.

    The Boustreds have made their mark on the South African wine scene with their Remhootge estate and wines first influenced by Michel Rolland and now driven by Chris Boustred, who is going back to a more traditional, low intervention style of winemaking.

    mm By July 21, 2016

    The Remhoogte Wine Estate is a truly family affair that showcases some of the Simonsberg region of South Africa’s greatest wines.

    Walking in to the Remhoogte Wine Estate reminds one of what the Little House on the Prairie might have looked like if it had been to transported to the winelands of South Africa.

    This is a true family wine estate where mother and father, Juliet and Murray Boustred, live side by side the homes of their two sons, Chris and Rod, with their own families, with the actual winery just across the path.

    The Boustreds also share their home with a collection of animals that reflect Murray’s love of the outdoors and interest in game reserves across Africa.

    Sit on the family terrace and you can look across the valley at zebras, wildebeest and deer all relaxing in the land across the way. Dramatic photographs of wild life and the Big Five game animals decorate the walls of the winery’s main visitor rooms.

    The Boustreds first came to Simonsberg, Stellenbosch to make wine in 1994 after making their money in interests outside of wine. The Remhoogte farm, which means ‘braking heights’ was there long before them with title deeds dating back to 1812.

    Chris took over winemaking responsibilities from his father in 2007. After graduating with a degree in viticulture and oenology from the Stellenbosch University he was keen to put what he had learnt in to practice in different wine growing regions around the world.

    This meant working vintages and at wineries in Australia (Hartwell Vineyards, Margaret River), France (Chateau Fontenil in Pomerol, Bordeaux) and in the United States (Stags Leap, Napa Valley, California).

    The 55 hectare estate is situated on steep south and south west facing clay soil slopes and enjoys cooling winds that come down the valley from False Bay. In all there are 25 hectares under vine, covering Cabernet Sauvignon (7ha), Merlot (8ha), Pinotage (2ha) and Shiraz (4ha) as well as a small two hectare plot for Chenin Blanc. But there is clearly the capacity to plant more vines if needed.

    Working with Michel Rolland 

    Michel Rolland worked in partnership with Remhoogte
    Michel Rolland worked in partnership with Remhoogte

    The site’s location, with vines growing at up to 350m, and potential attracted the attentions of famous French viticulturist and wine consultant, Michel Rolland, who worked with Murray and the Remhoogte wines  between 2001 and 2008. Prior to Rolland’s involvement the Boustreds used to sell most of their grapes to the Rothschild wine interests in the Cape. But it was Rolland who gave the Boustreds the confidence that they could make their own high quality, award winning wines. 

    Whilst highly respective of the work and advice that Rolland gave the estate, Chris Boustred is also keen now to make wines that go back to reflecting the real identity of the heavy clay soils and unique location of the farm and bought Rolland out of his share in the cellar in 2008.

    “I like to make the wines my dad made back in 1995 when he first came here,” says Chris. “I want to make wines true to the land from where we are.  I like to interfere as little as possible and make the vineyards do all the work.”

    Wines that have the characteristics of the traditional style, but balanced with the know how that Rolland brought to the winery.  “It is good to find a balance between Michel and my father. So I look to make wines that have more fruit characteristics but less new oak on the finish,” he explains.

    It was no coincidence that Chris spent time at Hartwell Vineyards in Australia and Stags Leap in Napa Valley as these were also where Rolland was consultant winemaker so he was able to see first hand how his approach to winemaking can be adapted and implemented around the world.

    “It was such a great experience to be able to spend time in those wineries,” recalls Chris. “I was able to learn a lot about how they work with different grape varieties.”

    He was able to work directly with Rolland at Remhoogte on the 2006 and 2007 vintage. “He is a good family friend and a really great guy and I learnt so much from him.”

    Terroir driven wines 

    Merlot is what Remhoogte has been traditionally famous for. It was the first grapes to be grown on the estate.

    remhoogte honeybunchBut Chris and Remhoogte also now it has a strong reputation for its unique style of Chenin Blanc, particularly its Remhoogte Estate Honeybunch Chenin Blanc, which is made with wild ferments and aged in 80% old French oak barrels from nearly 30 year-old vines.

    Here Chris is looking to extract as much flavour as he can from up to 12 hours of skin contact before pressing the grapes. The wine sits on heavy lees in a barrel for up to a year to give its depth, and richness of flavour. 

    Chris first started making Honey Bunch Chenin Blanc in 2010 and says its vintage brings out different characteristics and it is a wine he learns more about from year to year. “It is a really textured wine. It is also very different to other Chenin Blancs in the area.”

    Arguably the pinnacle of the Remhoogte portfolio is its Sir Thomas Cullinan reserve wine named after Chris and Rod’s great grandfather, on his mother side. If you have not heard of Sir Thomas Cullinan you will certainly know of his work as the owner of the South African diamond mine where the 3,000 carat Cullinan diamond, that forms part of both the Great Star and Second Star of Africa that are a centrepiece of the British Crown jewels, was discovered.

    This is a Merlot (65%) dominated Bordeaux style blend with Cabernet Sauvignon (35%) and is one of the most revered in South Africa.

    “Again I wanted to make a Merlot based wine that my dad was doing in the late 1990s. We use low yields and small bunches and only have 20 barrels for the total blend,” he explains.

    The result is a very concentrated and textured wine reminiscent of the Pomerol region in Bordeaux. “I am not trying to copy it, but try and get that opulence in to the wine,” says Chris. 

    But the grapes offer such density of flavour as they are amongst some of the most “wine pummelled” and “sun exposed” on the estate.

    Merlot driven 

    Chris is also very happy with his 100% Merlot wines that he believes offer some of the best ageing capability for a wine in the Cape. “The 1998 Merlot, for example, is a wine you have to age and you have to decant. But it is ideal with strong gamey meats as it has such pure fruit and dry tannins.”

    The Remhoogte estate is currently making around 8,000 12 bottle cases of wine but it is on course to make 12,000 cases in 2016.

    Chris says he has plans to plant some more Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc and would like to have a small amount of Petit Verdot to help in the blend for its reserve wine.

    Whilst Chris looks after the wine this is very much a family affair with brother Rob working alongside looking after the sales and marketing side of the business. He has only recently returned to the family business after spending some time learning a different side of the ropes of the drinks industry in the brewery sector.

    boustreds beer
    Rob and Chris Boustred are also turning their talents to craft beer

    His experience and brewery knowledge has been put to good use on the family winery where he is helping, with Chris, set up a separate craft beer business.

    It is early days but as most winemakers like to relax at the end of a day of tasting not with a glass of wine but a cool beer, they should have a good local market in the wine heartland of Stellenbosch.

    And there are not many better spots in the Cape to sit back and enjoy the view. And that’s saying something.

    • The Remhootge wines are available in the UK through South African wine specialists, Edgmond Wines. 

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