South Africa’s Lukas Van Loggerenberg has only been releasing his wines since 2016 and yet the expectancy and excitement are raised with every new vintage. A one-time South African ‘Young Winemaker of the Year’, Van Loggerenberg is a self-confessed Loire Valley wines fanatic, who puts a decidedly South African spin on his Chenin and Cabernet Franc. Malu Lambert met up with him at this Paarl Mountain winery, to taste through his superb new 2022 vintage wines which also include two Syrahs and two Cinsaults.
“Mouth-filling and generous yet neatly tucked in by a vibrant acidity, tailing to a dry finish, which is seemingly the calling card of this 2022 vintage for the Chenins,” writes Lambert about Van Loggerenberg’s wines.
‘Freshness and purity are paramount’ is the drum winemaker Lukas van Loggerenberg bangs: “I want to express vineyard sites with elegance.” This is no mere lip-speak; Van Loggerenberg is one of South Africa’s greatest young winemakers. Though he certainly wouldn’t tell you that. Humble as they come he says; “I just want to make delicious wines.”
He’s also growing up. Shrugging off his Young Gun status and moving firmly into cult adoration, Van Loggerenberg is now in his seventh vintage (2022). The father of two has just moved to a new home on a Stellenbosch farm. He invited a few of us rabble-rousers to taste the new vintages while taking in his new dam and vineyard views.
When I last visited him, it was at a smaller cottage on another Stellies’ estate. Then it was that favourite South African pastime of load shedding (when the power cuts-out to relieve the national grid…). Candles lit the scene, and Nirvana Unplugged played in the background. On this latest visit the light streamed through cathedral-like bouncing off the high, A-framed ceilings, and while the setting was a bit more glamorous Van Loggerenberg assures me the ‘90s grunge god is still a regular on the stereo.
“I just want everyone to drink wine,” he says good-naturedly. “Wine can tell a story that’s unique to South Africa.”
Van Loggerenberg Wines is a small, family owned-label, wife Roxanne does the ‘numbers’ while Van Loggerenberg makes the low-intervention, site-specific wines at a cellar on Paarl Mountain. The grapes come mainly from vineyards in the Stellenbosch and Swartland. They characteristically proffer low-ish alcohols, without sacrificing fruit weight. And the 2022s – are pure rock and roll, emphasis on the pure.
And in the spirit of Don’t Bore Us, Get to the Chorus! Here they are:
Trust your Gut Chenin Blanc 2022
Continuing from 2021; grapes are from a Swartland (61%) and a Stellenbosch site (in the Polkadraai Hills). Both are planted on granitic soils. Vinified separately the components spent 10 months on the lees (no stirring) before being blended and bottled. Top notes of white blossom and fynbos-in-flower graduate into sun-warmed hay and fresh apricot. The cool, flintiness of the Paardeberg bushvines seams the more peachy fruit of the Polkadraai with a stony elegance. The finish is resolutely dry, pulling that stony acidity taut right across the palate. Super smart and engaging. All this intensity for 12.3% alcohol.
Kameraderie Chenin Blanc 2022
Old vine Paardeberg Chenin (planted in 1980 and 1966, respectively), brought to bottle via a mix of concrete and 500-litre barrels. Gentle, savoury aromatics of creamed macadamia nuts, toasted hazelnuts, touch of oyster shell reduction; then yellow plums and peaches on the palate. Mouth-filling and generous yet neatly tucked in by a vibrant acidity, tailing to a dry finish, which is seemingly the calling card of this vintage for the Chenins. And the alcohol surprises again at just 12.2%.
Geronimo Cinsaut 2022
Compelling aromas of cassis, potpourri; so beautifully and subtly perfumed this wine makes the case for Cinsault quite emphatically. Van Loggerenberg has used 40% whole-bunch fermentation to magnify this inherent fragrance as well as layering in some stemmy-spice. Maturation was nine months in older French oak. These grapes have tales to tell, sourced from an old vineyard in Stellenbosch (Firgrove) planted in 1978. Zippy, almost Fanta-Orange like acidity whips through its abundance of black and red fruit to a refreshing – go back and sip again – finish. 12.7% abv.
Lötter Cinsaut 2022
Made from the second oldest red wine vineyard in the country, planted by Koos Lötter in 1932. Almost a century later these bushvines are still rooted firm in Franschhoek, planted in decomposed granite with underlying sandstone. 100% destemmed, the sumac-spice on the nose is all site, unfolding into roses and jasmine tea. Though lithe and light-bodied, there’s tannic grip here, which dissipates and melts to the finish.
Breton Cabernet Franc 2022
Stellenbosch Cabernet Franc from two sites, Polkadraai Hills and another closer to the ocean. A mix of decomposed granite and that South-Africanism for ferricrete – ‘koffieklip’ meaning ‘coffee stone’ for the soil’s resemblance to instant coffee granules. The sites were vinified separately – 25% of which was whole-bunch fermented – and the components spent 10 months in older oak before being blended and bottled. Crushed fynbos aromatics, wild rosemary, pencil shavings and pomegranate sketch in the fragrant nose; juicy red fruit continues on the palate, luminescent in its delivery with paper-fine tannins and a gentle acidity.
The ‘Graft’ 2022
There’s an austerity here, the scent of flint rising up like rain through wet gravel. Ground wax crayons, garrigue, night flowers in bloom. The fruit hails from a southern slope on Karibib farm in the Polkadraai Hills, this tiny ward is fast growing in recognition for high quality Syrah and this is a great exemplar. Pure red fruit washes in on the palate, walking the tightrope of mineral acidity hewn from the granite-rich soils. 100% whole bunch fermented this is a mirror held up to site.
High Hopes Syrah (blend) 2022
Syrah-led (88%), this joyful Swartland wine is seasoned with Grenache and Cinsault. The Syrah saw 30% whole-bunch fermentation and maturation in 500Ls, the others barrique, all for 11 months. Hibiscus, crushed cherries and summer plums unspool on the expressive nose. Concentrated and engaging red berry fruit on the palate with a juicy cherry core is framed in fruit-coated tannins with a lifting acidity that refreshes.
And finally, a little bit more about Van Loggerenberg Wines
Family-run Van Loggerenberg Wines released its first vintage in 2016. They quickly grabbed attention with their elegant, site expressive wines using low-interventionist techniques (wild ferment, and no additives or enzymes). In 2018 Lukas Van Loggerenberg was named Young Winemaker of the Year by Tim Atkin MW. Van Loggerenberg makes his wines on Paarl Mountain, and sources most of his fruit from Stellenbosch with important parcels coming from Franschhoek and Swartland.
There is a luxuriousness and generosity to Van Loggerenberg’s wines, but certainly not at the expense of balance or finesse. A total Loire Valley fanatic, both Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc are close to his heart. While Van Loggerenberg is inspired by the likes of Touraine, Saumur, Chinon and Vouvray, he is certainly not out to produce replicas of these wines. His aim is to create great, truly South African wines.
The Buyer’s Roger Jones was the first UK wine writer to visit Van Loggerenberg in December 2016. You can read his report here.