For chef and wine consultant Roger Jones, visiting A.A.Badenhorst back in 2014 was the first South African winery he and his wife Sue had ever visited. The Joneses were bowled over by Adi Badenhorst’s 2012 White Blend, despite having showed up unannounced in a ‘limo’ and dressed in Henley Regatta finery. Seven years later and Jones is tasting the same wine again, but this time in chilly Wiltshire, alongside a sumptuous selection of Adi’s new wines. After the tasting Jones sits down with Robin Davis, head of importer SWIG, to ask him about the value of these Zoom tastings.
“Even post Lockdown, I hope that there will be an opportunity to continue to engage this way as, although everyone will be busy again, there may be a chance to do a tasting with a producer and sommeliers for just half an hour, like at 3.30pm or 10am,” says Robin Davis about continuing with Zoom tastings.
I first visited Adi Badenhorst at his winery A.A.Badenhorst in February 2014. Together, with my wife Sue, it was our first vineyard experience in South Africa and, in hindsight, the top-of-the-range Mercedes our driver had may not have been the best choice of transport to his vineyard which is up a long off-road track. Our attire was also more suitable to Henley than a wine farm visit on a sweltering summer’s day, but to be fair to Sue the previous vineyard visit that I took her to was at Cheval Blanc.
I do wonder what Adi thought of these two overdressed Brits turning up mid-harvest without any formal invitation, and the first few minutes were quite intense, and I think the word “Anti-Christ” was used to describe us. However, a quick change of clothing and three hours later we were still at his farm enjoying his company, wines and a conversation that gave us Adi’s view of not only wine but also everything else we might or might not need to know.
Then that ‘golden moment’ when you try a style of wine that you have never had before and you know that life will never be the same again. That wine was a 2012 White Blend and, as I write this, I am energised by drinking the same wine, same vintage, but sadly not with Adi in South Africa – instead I am in Wiltshire, England on a chilly February afternoon.
Let the tasting commence!
A.A.Badenhorst White Blend 2012
Chenin Blanc 48%, Roussanne 14%, Verdelho 10%, Grenache Blanc 9%, Palomino 7%, Colombard 3%, Chardonnay 3%, Grenache Gris 5%, Viognier 3%
At nine years old this is still fresh, bright with a wild honeyed, yellow meadow flower feel, textured, beautifully balanced, the freshness and fresh herbs evolving is majestic. There is orange blossom on the nose, fynbos, and on the palate the buttery texture is balanced perfectly with a tropical citrus freshness.
Since that first encounter I have followed Adi keenly, from his Palomino experiments, his Muscat de Frontignan triumphs, to his fabulous Caperitif and, of course, his beautiful range of Chenin Blancs, one in particular being the highly sought-after Golden Slopes Chenin Blanc 2016.
A.A.Badenhorst Golden Slopes Chenin Blanc 2016
I remember trying this after a long lunch with the SWIG team and Adi in Central London, and immediately bought it, it was priced a lot higher than his normal Chenin, and was accused by Sue of getting overexcited after a few beers but, as we opened the first bottle recently after allowing it to rest in our cellars for a few years, we both now realise what a classic this wine is.
More akin to a luxurious Chardonnay with a creamy spiced lingering wine, very finely textured with juicy dried golden apricots. Rich and opulent my notes say, went perfect with Lobster Thermidor.
But back to the current releases and it was great to catch up with Adi at a recent #67fromhome Zoom Tasting hosted by SWIG.
A.A.Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2020
One of the best value wines on the market, fresh unwaxed lemon rind, zesty, juicy and zippy. Adi says he just lets nature work on these wines, hints of pineapple, appealing.
A.A.Badenhorst Secateurs “Riviera” Chenin Blanc 2020
Fresh mango, passion fruit, clementine, hints of Campari, more depth and some chunkiness.
A.A.Badenhorst Klip Klop Chenin Blanc 2019
Vegetation on nose, funky, Turkish market, spiced, a wine to age.
A.A.Badenhorst Golden Slopes Chenin Blanc 2019
Flinty, wet stone, retrained stone fruit, focused, needs time to age, another beautiful Golden Slopes Chenin.
A.A Badenhorst Sout Van die Aarde-Palomino 2019
Sourced from the West Coast, planted some 60 years ago on fine beach sand and limestone, clean and focused with a hint of salinity. Herbaceous but fresh, hints of crushed lemongrass and juicy pink grapefruit spraying into your face. Delicious and mouth-watering.
A.A.Badenhorst Ramnasgras Cinsault 2019
I think my first words were “tastes like a Pinot Noir”, delicate perfume on the nose then ripe bilberries, touch of nutmeg, light and beautiful, very approachable, gives a delicate fruit-driven, mouth-filling experience.
A.A.Badenhorst Raaigras Grenache 2019
This was planted in the 1950s, fresh strawberry nuances, cranberries with a savoury background, would like to see this age, gives a refreshing juicy aftertaste, lovely.
A.A.Badenhorst Kalmoesfontein Family Red 2018
Shiraz led with Grenache, Tinta Barocca and Cinsault. Cherries, blackberries, redcurrants – a summer pudding of a wine, balanced with wild herbs and edible flowers and spices. Keep for a few years to allow the flavours to intermingle and grow in structure.
Now we have all become customised to the Zoom tastings so I thought I would ask Robin Davis, the founder of SWIG the benefits he sees from Zoom tastings.
“We don’t quantify it by sales, more by exposure to people who are able to spend some time tasting in a relaxed way. We had 85 attendees for Restless River and 130 for Badenhorst. Those attending are normally incredibly busy and if we tried to achieve those numbers at a lunch, if Craig Wessels or Adi Badenhorst flew over, we’d be at possibly one fifth of those numbers, as people just can’t leave their restaurants or shops often enough or for long enough. Having said that, sales have resulted,” says Davis.
“Tasting through a portfolio of wines in a massive rush with lots of distraction is not easy. If you are looking for a new value wine going to a tasting may be a good way to go about it, but if you are tasting the wines of a very good producer who you know makes good wine, and you are intrigued to taste, then this is an excellent format.”
“The cost is still high. In fact, not much different from a lunch. But you can take the costs of flights and hotels out.”
“Even post lockdown, I hope that there will be an opportunity to continue to engage this way as, although everyone will be busy again, there may be a chance to do a tasting with a producer and sommeliers for just half an hour, like at 3.30pm or 10am. And if they can’t do the slot, they’ve got tasting samples that are in better nick than if they’d poured from a bottle that had been across London, on the tube, in an Uber, and opened and closed several times if a Coravin wasn’t used. It will save an awful lot of airmiles, and people will be able to get on with their jobs – the winemaker in their vineyards and the sommelier to their tasks.”