The Exciting Young Talent Putting the Helderberg On the Global Fine Wine Map – Tasting the Phenomenal Wines of Bernhard Bredell…

As someone who is very fortunate enough to have access to almost any winery and winemaker in South Africa, I often get asked who I think are the most exciting new talents emerging on the South African wine scene. Of course, there are so many phenomenal young producers emerging in the colourful wine industry landscape of the Western Cape that it makes picking out one or two almost seem foolish. But every now and then you meet special personalities and taste new releases that leave you contemplating the wines days or even weeks after tasting. One such producer is Bernhard Bredell.

The Granietsteen Chenin Blanc tastes and smells just like the vineyard from whence it comes!

Bernhard Bredell is the 7th generation of a family that has farmed in the Lower Helderberg area of Stellenbosch for over 160 years and his own Scions of Sinai label is a project he started in 2016 in an effort to save old vineyards that were planted by his grandfather Koos Bredell around a particular granitic hill known as Sinai. Bernhard’s winery now processes 20 tons of fruit producing around 1,250 cases of wine that are incredibly exciting, premium in quality and distinctly terroir driven.

The view from Sinai across the valley towards the Helderberg Mountain range.
Old Vine Chenin Blanc planted in 1978.
Bernhard tasting the Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2021 in the vineyard it’s grapes come from with friend and mentor Ian Naudé in March 2022.

I myself grew up buying and drinking the excellent fortified wines of Anton Bredell, Bernhard’s father, made under the JP Bredells Cape Port label. But over the years, with fortified wines falling out of favour with the mass market, and after a series of unsuccessful still wine brands together with expensive marketing projects going awry, the family winery was eventually closed and sold off in 2011.

But Bernhard Bredell has winemaking in his DNA and coursing through his veins, so any notions of opting out of the wine industry to pursue other interests was never an option. The Scions of Sinai winery was launched with the 2017 vintages made from grapes sourced from vineyards grown on Firgrove, 4kms from the Atlantic Ocean. Bernhard currently uses five single vineyards and then some smaller half hectare plots. These include a Grenache Blanc made from a vineyard located in the Klein Karoo near the Swartberg Mountains and Meiringspoort, planted in 2009 on Schist and Shale soils, producing 600 bottles called the Gramadoelas; the Granietsteen Chenin Blanc; the Heldervallei Cinsault; the Swanesang Syrah; the Feniks Pinotage and the Nomadis Cinsault / Pinotage Blend. All vineyards are secured on contracts and have been farmed organically for over 5 years.

Scions of Sinai Range Tasting:

Scions of Sinai Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2019, Helderberg (1978)

Sourced from a Chenin Blanc vineyard planted in 1978 on decomposed granite soils with very low fertility, high drainage and very low cropping levels that helps create intense flavour development in the grapes. There is a pre-fermentation maceration for around 3 nights for 70% on skins, 30% wholebunch pressed. Grapes are picked when they express the purity of the vineyard site while retaining naturally high acids. After fermentation, the wine is aged in large 400 litre barrels and kept on its lees for 9-10 months before being bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

After tasting the excellent maiden 2017 vintage a few years ago, Bernhard delivers another very self-assured performance with this delightful 2019 Chenin Blanc. Made from another seriously good white vintage from 43 year old vines planted in 1978, this wine is rich and expressive and boasts fabulous aromatics of pear puree, white flowers, yellow orchard fruits and seductive top notes of freshly baked apple strudel. The palate is fresh and bright with hints of toasted hazelnuts and walnuts, pithy peach stone fruits, pineapple pastille and a delicate note of maritime salinity and brine on the finish. Wonderfully textural and concentrated, this wine makes your mouth water with its deliciously tangy acids and enticing umami characters. Dry, intense and packed full of liquid minerality from the decomposed granite soils, this wine is already building up a solid cult following among the hardcore Chenin Blanc cognoscente. Drink now or enjoy over 8 to 10 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2019, Helderberg (1976)

In 2018 Bernhard moved into the old Helderberg farm called Klein Helderberg and has since produced four vintages there from old vine dry farmed bush vines yielding 3.5 to 4 tons per hectare. The vines produce tiny grapes on very small bunches. The soils are high in silica (fine sand) making for very fragrant wines compared to those made from vines grown on heavier clay soils. 70% of grapes are whole bunch and 30% destemmed, with around 10% undergoing semi-maceration carbonique in tank. Basket pressed after 12-13 days on the skins into 400 litre oak barrels that are normally a minimum of 4 years old for 12 months of ageing.

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 12% Abv.

There are many styles of Pinotage being produced in South Africa, but it is perhaps the fresher, earlier picked, brighter style that has started to resonate the loudest with international fine wine consumers and this is another of these vibrant examples that simply bristles with crunchy red cherry fruited energy. Fabulously energetic and intense, the aromatics boast mouth-watering notes of black cherry, black currant, lavender, dried herbs, incense and a hint of bramble berry spice. Despite its lower alcohol and bright super fresh acids, this wine manages to retain an impressive depth of fruit, ample concentration and a fine, linear texture. I’m hesitant to say this is the future of Pinotage in the fine wine market as there are so many who pour scorn on the lighter, crunchy Pinot Noir-styled Pinotages, but there is certainly a massive following already developing for this purer style of wine. Drink this on release or you can certainly expect some flavour fireworks after 5 to 8+ years of bottle ageing. Very much worth seeking out. (864 bottles produced.)

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Scions of Sinai Swanesang Syrah 2019 (1996) – SH1A Clone

Produced from apparently the last known bushvine Syrah in the Helderberg that yields spicy dark fruits loaded with rosemary and thyme herbal nuances.The fruit also retains a very low pH and crisp acids… 12.5% to 13.2% Abv. Combination of whole cluster, 30% stems intact, used for the very slow fermentation followed by 5 to 6 days maceration on the skins before being pressed to 400 litre barrels for 12 months ageing with an additional 2 to 3 months ageing in bottle.

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Swanesang Syrah 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

There is no doubt that Syrah is the hot property on the South African market garnering high critical praise and scores from international critics far and wide. Of course there is Syrah, but then there is Syrah on decomposed granite… a soil profile that definitely raises the perfumed aromatic profile of a wine while simultaneously dropping the pH levels and adding incredible freshness and tension. The Swanesang is made from fruit from a young vineyard ‘only’ planted in 1996 and the profile of these single clone SH1A vines is definitely on the purer, fresher, more perfumed red fruited spectrum of the scale. Once again, the granitic soils perform their transformative magic on the vines. In this specific cuvee, between 30 to 50% of whole bunches were employed delivering a fabulously expressive nose of violets, sweet baking herbs, red cherry, cranberry and alluring liquid mineral notes. The palate is super fresh and bright with intense red fruited concentration, revealing tart Victoria plum, cranberry sours and yet more red cherry fruit with just a smattering of black pepper and granitic minerality. A thoroughly engaging wine. Drink now and over 10 to 12+ years. (1,204 bottles produced.)

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

Another real terroir expression from old vine Chenin Blanc planted in 1978. Harvested on the 29th of January, this single vineyard expression from bush vines displays an impressive aromatic intensity with layers of peppery white citrus, white flowers, crushed granite, dried herbs green herbs and subtle fynbos notes. Like many Chenins grown on decomposed granite that aren’t picked too late, the nose and palate are dominated by an intense liquid minerality that dances across the palate with fresh zippy Sherbety acids, notes of almond skins, tart green pears, citrus peel and yet more liquid minerality. If ever a wine expressed the terroir of the vineyard it’s sourced from, this is it. Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years. (1,950 bottles produced.)

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Heldervallei Cinsault 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

Produced from beautiful old bush vine Cinsault vines planted in 1988, situated right next door to Bernhard’s Chenin Blanc vineyard. The aromatics are powerful and intense unfurling with layers of red and black berry fruits, sweet exotic grilled spices, damson plum, rose petals, grey slate and smoky crushed granitic minerality with a hint of juniper. On the palate there is real precision and focus but also Bernhard’s trademark liquid minerality, dried herbs, pithy cranberry, hints of cherry pips and phenomenal dry, stony fine grained tannins. Quite a unique style that has more in common with a young premier cru Cotes de Nuits Pinot Noir tasted from barrel than a Cinsault. This wine is fabulously delicious but also shows serious ageworthy depth and intensity. Drink now to 2030+.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Wines are available in the UK market from merchant Indigo Wines.

3 thoughts on “The Exciting Young Talent Putting the Helderberg On the Global Fine Wine Map – Tasting the Phenomenal Wines of Bernhard Bredell…

    1. Yes, sorry! We drank the 2020 in the vineyard it was picked… full immersion tasting! But the 2020 is a delicious wine which I’d rate equally with the 19 and 21 at 94-95/100 – Simply beautiful granitic minerality.

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