Bruwer Raats has been at the forefront of premium Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc production in South Africa for over 20 years. Now that these two varieties are riding high on a wave of global collector popularity, it is easy to forget the hard yards that were navigated all those years ago when critics wondered why Bruwer Raats persisted with championing two varieties that were broadly speaking unfashionable with little to no mainstream popularity.
Nowadays, Bruwer is lauded for his premium creations of Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, none more so than for the small production Eden Cabernet Franc produced with extreme precision viticulture, or “quality by design” as Bruwer likes to describe his viticulture and winemaking. I recently caught up in London with Bruwer to taste his new releases.
Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8000 vines per hectare) meticuously planned and planted 11 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, 5% of the grapes were whole bunch fermented before being aged for 8 months in new French oak, followed by a further 10 months elevage in older oak barrels.
Raats Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2020, 14% Abv.
The Raats Eden Cabernet Franc is always classical and impressively premium in feel and this 2020 is certainly no different. The aromatics are initially tight and compact at this embryonic stage of development before slowly blossoming into a pristinely pure, precise and wonderfully perfumed offering showing notes of violets, lilac, rose petals, pink musk, sweet sandalwood and subtle hints of crème de cassis, earthy mulberry and sweet vanilla pod spice. The palate displays an incredible tensile linearity together with fabulously compact, tight grained tannins and a sleek graphite laden minerality. This small production wine flaunts its premium pedigree, its supremely manicured textural elegance and effortless finesse to perfection. There is no mistaking that the high-density planting lends an extra dimension of intensity and concentration to the wine. Allow this wine a few more years in the cellar before enjoying over the next 15 to 20+ years. (359 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Wines available to the trade in the UK from Alliance Wines.
When Bruwer Raats released the first vintage of his high density planted Montpellier Clone Chenin Blanc in 2014, the wine represented a culmination of years of planning and work to produce a wine unlike anything else produced in South Africa. What Bruwer, the Chenin King achieved with his young vines is genuinely astonishing.
With the UK release of the third vintage imminent, I thought it would be fascinating to revisit the second vintage produced from the seriously stellar 2015 vintage to remind myself just how impressive this wine really is.
Raats Family Wines Eden Chenin Blanc 2015, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.
Only 1,176 bottles produced from this young, high density vineyard planted to the Montpellier Chenin Blanc clone. The 2015 is an incredibly tight, serious, mineral and aromatic white with visceral tension and intensity and fruit slightly masked by vintage restraint. The aromatics are super complex with crushed gravel, wet grey slate, oyster shell, dry bush veld, white citrus blossom and crunchy yellow peaches. Restraint and reserve continues on the palate that is linear and slightly closed up, broody and restrained but with underlying generosity and depth temporarily bound up by tight fresh acids, tart lemon and pineapple fruit depth. This is a wine that needs to be tucked away in a dark cellar for 6 to 8+ years before reexamination! A profound expression of this variety.
Just a week or so after Bruwer Raats released both his 2015 MR de Compostella and 2015 Eden Cabernet Franc in South Africa, he was in London presenting both of these wines to the fine wine trade. The 2014 Eden Cabernet Franc scored an impressive 96 points here on the Fine Wine Safari site when reviewed in February 2017. With the follow up 2015 coming from an even better vintage that is being widely touted as the greatest modern-era vintage in South African wine making history, it’s an understatement to say the anticipation pre-tasting was high.
Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8000 vines per hectare) meticuously planned and planted 6 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, 5% of the grapes were whole bunch fermented before being aged for 8 months in new French oak, followed by a further 10 months elevage in older oak barrels. (UK recommended retail £65 per bottle).
Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2015
Tasting the second vintage release of the Eden Single Vineyard High Density Cabernet Franc after the Raats Dolomite and Raats Family Cabernet Franc cuvees illustrates graphically the power, precision and intensity of this profound wine. Piercing lifted perfumed notes of blueberry, cassis, violets, cherry blossom, cedar spice and liquid minerality all play at full volume. Real intensity of fruit, showing red cherry, kirsch liquor, powerful grippy tannins, delicious salinity and an impressively bold structure define this impressive wine, which simultaneously wears its elegance and finesse proudly on its sleeve. All the building blocks for greatness are present. This is certainly one of the most accomplished red wines conceived in South Africa and looks set to not only age extremely well but also improve in bottle for 15 to 20 years, and drink well for over 30 years. Well done Bruwer. A towering achievement in the context of fine wine.