There are more than a few top Chenin Blanc wines made in South Africa that capture ones attention when new vintages are released. Indeed the list of iconic high scoring collectable whites from South African grows longer by the day. But one of these benchmark wines, year on year, comes from the Chenin King himself, Bruwer Raats.
While the Raats Family Wines Original Chenin Blanc and Raats Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc are both exceptional wines offering excellent value for money, it is undoubtedly Bruwer’s super-premium Eden High Density Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc that regularly pulls in the star ratings. A Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc vineyard planted in the late 2000’s right behind Bruwer’s house in the Polkadraai Hills, the Eden wine range was conceived with extreme precision viticulture in mind.
This 0.6 hectare Eden Chenin Blanc vineyard is planted with the unique and now rare Montpellier clone that was sourced from the last remaining mother block in the Nuy Valley. Known to give very small, loose bunches, this clone eventually fell out of favour despite its ability to yield very high quality fruit.
Raats Family Winery High Density Eden Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Polkadraai Hills, 13% Abv.
2019 was an exceptional vintage for Chenin Blanc and the quality is clear for all to see on this impressive wine. The aromatics are subtle but sophisticated with delicate notes of yellow peaches, crunchy pears, wax and incense, wet thatch, oat meal and hints of dried orange peel. On the palate, the texture is taut and focused, crystalline and pure with a delicately weighted fruit concentration, vibrant tangy acids and a genteel melange of ripe peach, yellow apple and tangerine fruit zest. This is a very understated wine, an elegant but complex offering with incredible drinkability and a generous accessibility that results in the bottle being finished long before expected. Like all the very best bottles of white, this wine just somehow seems to evaporate out the glass! Drink on release or cellar for 8 to 10+ years. (Only 2,390 bottles produced.)
No two single wines in South Africa signal a higher quality ambition than the production of the Raats Family Wines’ Eden high density red Cabernet Franc and white Chenin Blanc. Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8,000 vines per hectare) meticulously planned and planted 9 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, the grapes were fermented in tank and then aged for 9 months in new French oak followed by a further 9 months elevage in older French oak barrels.
Ever since tasting a barrel sample with Bruwer Raats back Cape Town in February 2020, I have been awaiting this impressive new wine release. It is now quite simply the leading single varietal Cabernet Franc in South Africa and continues to gain an obsessive following among collectors and connoisseurs across the globe.
In reality, the only thing holding back its even faster success and popularity is the impossibly tiny quantity of wine produced. One single barrel or 365 bottles. This is a true unicorn wine offering and certainly a fine wine that should find a happy home in any of the greatest wine cellars around the world.
Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2018, 13% Abv.
The 2018 vintage yielded another impressive expression of Cabernet Franc and who better than Bruwer Raats to perform his own kind of magic and conjure up another enchanting, seductive rendition of this iconic single vineyard wine. The nose is initially discreet and classical, leaning towards a purer, black and blue berry fruit driven expression with delicate floral notes of violets and rosemary with a youthful backing chorus of fresh brown toast, mocha, sweet tobacco, black currant and sappy cedar notes. Medium bodied but fabulously concentrated and intense, this sleek textured wine shows plenty of power with smooth mineral granitic tannins, mouth watering vitality and simply awesome persistence. This has all the finesse and pedigree you could ever want from a benchmark Cabernet Franc. Give this wine 3 to 5 years to mellow and then enjoy over another 10 to 15+.
It is rather refreshing to engage with the master winemaker Bruwer Raats for many reasons but primarily because of his obsessive and unerring quality focused approach to making wines from two specific varieties – Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. With his skills and expertise he could undoubtedly pull rabbits out of any varietal hat but instead he has always gone about resolutely trying to make the greatest wines he can from these two Loire Valley premium varieties. An admirable quest indeed.
No two single wines in South Africa signal a higher quality striving than the production of the Raats Family Wines’ Eden high density red and white. Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8,000 vines per hectare) meticulously planned and planted 8 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, the grapes were fermented in tank and then aged for 9 months in new French oak followed by a further 9 months elevage in older oak barrels. The 2017 Eden Cabernet Franc is due for release on the 28th August 2019 in South Africa.
Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2017, 13.5 Abv.
While the 2015 Eden Cabernet Franc was undoubtedly an awesome thing of beauty, the 2017 release feels intuitively like the fruit comes from a vintage even more suited to this variety. Perfume, elegance, purity, intensity and freshness are the calling cards of this wine. Lifted high toned perfume notes waft endlessly from the glass confounding the senses with a complex aromatic offering of saline cassis, sour black cherry, cedar and cinnamon spice, wet thatch and the most mouth watering notes of granny’s freshly baked blue berry pie newly out the oven. Fabulous varietal purity and typicity follow to a pristinely focused, vibrant, electric palate that shows incredible concentration, piercing intensity and high voltage acidity. The linearity and tension on the wine are classic hallmarks of the decomposed granitic soils of the vineyard with the 2017 vintage lending an extra tart brightness, precision and finesse. Cabernet Franc is never about brute force and while the 2015 certainly carried a bigger arsenal of tannin fire power, this wine is understated and supremely classical in construction but also finely chiselled and delineated. Finishing with dusty graphite, sweet baking spices and satin mineral tannins, this wine has to stand alongside the greatest Cabernet Francs ever produced in South Africa to date. Drink this incredible wine at as many points of its evolution as possible over the next 25+ years.