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Rietvallei on a roll in the Top 100

Two more Double Platinum awards and two Double Gold in the latest edition of the premier fine wine competition, the National Wine Challenge 2022, bear testimony to Rietvallei Estate’s ongoing momentum in quality wine production and acknowledgement, says winemaker-owner Kobus Burger.

This means that Rietvallei has in the past three years garnered seven Double Platinum Awards – in other words Top 100 listings – including two Grand Cru (Best in Class) achievements and four Double Golds in the competition, which this year drew a record number of entries.

The Estate’s winning wines this year are:

  • Rietvallei Dark Cin (Cinsaut) 2020 with Grand Cru Best in Class and Top 100 / Double Platinum placement
  • Rietvallei Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 – Top 100 / Double Platinum
  • Rietvallei JMB Cabernet Franc 2018 – Double Gold
  • Rietvallei Classic Chardonnay 2021 – Double Gold

This follows on 2021’s impressive achievement:

  • Rietvallei Red Muscadel 2018 – Grand Cru, Best in Class and Top 100/ Double Platinum
  • Rietvallei Estéanna Sauvignon Blanc 2020 – Top 100 / Double Platinum
  • Rietvallei Estéanna Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot 2016 – Top 100 / Double Platinum
  • Rietvallei 1908 Red Muscadel 2018 – Top 100 / Double Platinum
  • Rietvallei Dark Cin (Cinsaut) 2019 – Double Gold

In 2020 the awards were:

  • Rietvallei Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 – Top 100 / Double Platinum
  • Rietvallei Natural Chardonnay (Unwooded) 2019 – Double Gold

“This shows that we receive constant acknowledgement, for which I am very grateful. I have great appreciation for the National Wine Challenge’s tasting panel for their recognition of all our hard work in the vineyard and cellar,” said Kobus.

With this positive start of the 2022 awards season, Rietvallei is looking forward to maintaining its momentum of reaping rich rewards in the country’s major annual fine wine competitions

Said Robin von Holdt, CEO of Buybetterwine that organises the annual National Wine Challenge, now in its 12th year, “A strong line up of substantially more than 600 fine wine entries made for the most competitive challenge this year. The wine quality was excellent, and organisers and judges were well-pleased with this result.

“The strong set of results in 2022 showcase a diverse portfolio of remarkable SA wines. Wine makers know how difficult it is to win a Top 100 podium award. This does not change, with this nut being as tough as ever to crack. New vineyards and new wines were again entered into the 2022 NWC for the first time. These additional fine wine entries simply make it that much harder to achieve the recognition that this very special win commands, from peers and consumers alike,” said Von Holdt.

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Shaping-up the Chardonnay way at Rietvallei

Robertson wine region has in recent years made great strides in taking its place at the forefront of the Cape’s fine wine production and has indisputably become prime Chardonnay Country. It’s been proven over the recent decades that this noble Burgundian white cultivar thrives here in the ideal soils with their high concentration of chalk, clay and limestone.

At the heart of this development, Rietvallei Estate is increasingly garnering top awards at significant evaluations, while being at the thrust of Chardonnay evolvement following the first vineyards established here some 45 years ago.

Winemaker-owner Kobus Burger explains that his late father, Johnny Burger, regrafted an existing vineyard with Chardonnay cuttings in 1985 and what followed in 1988 was the release of the maiden vintage, the barrel-fermented 1987 Rietvallei Chardonnay. The following vintage, 1988, was responsible for the Estate’s first major recognition, being chosen for a coveted listing for the South African Airways’ Blue Diamond First Class.

“Chardonnay, together with the renowned Rietvallei Red Muscadel released in 1975, was the only natural wine in our portfolio for 15 years, until we added Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon in 2002.”

Today, Chardonnay is still a very integral part of the estate’s portfolio with no less than four individual versions of this elegant, yet diverse varietal spread across the estate’s different ranges, namely:

  • JMB Chardonnay – treated with 100% French oak
  • Classic Chardonnay – delicate blend of oak fermented and unwooded
  • Burger Family Vineyards Chardonnay – fresh unwooded style
  • John B Brut Chardonnay – vibrant young sparkling wine.

Rietvallei’s present Chardonnay plantings comprise a 1.2 hectares block established in 2004 in limestone-rich red Karoo soil and a 3.6 hectares block dating back to 2013 on a north-westerly slope, also in lime-rich Karoo soil.

“This vineyard planted in 2013 was incidentally the last one planted by my father in the year he passed away and the grapes for the JMB Chardonnay – ‘J M B’ of course being his initials – exclusively derive from this block,” said Kobus.

The proud haul of awards for the flagship JMB Chardonnay includes:

  • 2020 vintage – Veritas 2021: Double Gold
  • 2019 vintage – Chardonnay du Monde 2020: Gold and Top 10 selection (also Gold for 2012 and 2013 vintages).
  • 2018 vintage – National Wine Challenge 2019: Double Gold
  • 2017 vintage – Michelangelo 2018: Gold
  • 2015 vintage – National Wine Challenge 2017: Double Gold

Meanwhile, the countrywide Chardonnay planting area under vines, as reflected on the Sawis (SA Wine Industry Information and Systems) website, bears testimony to the Robertson region’s status as the country’s Chardonnay production hub.

Robertson’s total Chardonnay area under Chardonnay vineyard – grown among some 52 wineries – totals 1 660 hectares, compared to Paarl in second place with 1 217 and then Stellenbosch with 1 122 hectares. Interestingly, the Cape South Coastal Region, where specialised producers in the Hemel en Aarde Valley – like the trailblazers in Robertson, played a pioneering role in putting SA Chardonnay on the map – still represents only 319 ha of the country’s total 6 587 ha – Sawis 2020 figures.

This situation makes all the sense in the world to eminent viticulturist Francois Viljoen of Vinpro’s Gen-Z Vineyard Project – actually born and bred among the Robertson vines.

“Chardonnay production absolutely flourishes here thanks to the area’s natural terroir assets and accompanying viticultural and economic advantages. I do not believe there are many producers here who do not have Chardonnay vines.

“The market for Chardonnay has grown significantly and the wineries have mastered the art of its vinification, with skilful wood-contact, while unwooded Chardonnay is rapidly gaining ground in Robertson.”

He said Chardonnay flourishes in a Continental climate with warm days and cold nights. The good soils especially, red Karoo soils with lime-rich contents give good vibrancy and grape composition of sugar, acid and pH levels, like proven in Burgundy.

“The cultivar does not like much wind; the warmer flowering and fruitset period is ideal and promotes fruit development, which yields sustainable production. Also, a cold winter as you will find in the Robertson Valley is needed for good budding. The good climatic conditions in the ripening period ensures healthy grapes and reduces risk.

“Yes, you can indeed call Robertson Chardonnay country,” he concludes.

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John B Sauvignon Blanc 2022 Ready To Please

In its existence of almost 20 years, the Rietvallei lifestyle range John B has become synonymous with over-delivery in quality and character for a more informal wine brand. And the latest vintage release, the Sauvignon Blanc 2022 promises to even outdo its predecessors, according to winemaker-owner Kobus Burger.

Having just been bottled as this year’s first delivery from a protracted and challenging harvest season, this wine not only promises to be particularly palate-pleasing, as has become customary for the estate’s award-winning Sauvignon Blanc wines, it shows very exciting, vibrant flavour features.

“I am very excited about this year’s release,” said Kobus. “The flavours show more prominent passion fruit and guava in addition to Rietvallei’s typically more green Sauvignon Blanc tones. Also on the nose, lemon zest and grapefruit with the tropical fruit, which follow through on the palate with a touch of grassiness and minerality – all ending in a crisp, long-lasting aftertaste.”

“One hopes this unpretentious little gem is a sign that Rietvallei can look forward to continue its remarkable run of competition successes in recent years – thanks to this year’s smaller but characterful and concentrated grape yield.

“We do indeed expect more exceptional quality Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc under the Estate Range  – all still developing on the lees in the cellar and to be bottled later in the year.”

The rest of the John B range comprises a Cabernet Sauvignon-Tinta Barocca, a Rosé made from Cinsaut and two sparkling wines, Brut Chardonnay and Brut Rosé. Both the Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon-Tinta Barocca are now also available in handy 3-litre cartons.

This lifestyle brand aimed at everyday enjoyment, was inspired by the late Rietvallei patriarch Johnny Burger – a colourful and down-to-earth but influential Robertson wine personality.

Die rest of Rietvallei’s diverse portfolio of 20 wines, comprises the Heritage Collection, Classic Collection and Burger Family Vineyards – all available on-line for countrywide delivery or on the Estate, just off the R60 in the picturesque Robertson Valley.

JOHN B SAUVIGNON BLANC 2022

Residual Sugar: 2.9 g/l
Alcohol: 12.03%
Acidity: 8.1 g/l
PH: 3.20
VA: 0.56 g/l
Total Extract: 24.9 g/l
Total SO²: 128 mg/l
Free SO²: 44 mg/l

A perfect partner for any seafood, salads and light meals. Visit our online store to try our John B Sauvignon Blanc 2022.

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WINEMAKER UPDATE

“Our 2022 harvest, tough but totally on track”

With a long and challenging 2022 harvest season now complete, Rietvallei Wine Estate’s winemaker-owner Kobus Burger is upbeat about the quality and character potential of what he’s working with in the cellar.  

In line with wine grape producer organisation Vinpro’s statement at the end of March that, pass the halfway mark, a smaller overall South African crop than last year, but with exceptional wines, was being expected – Rietvallei’s wine portfolio of 24 products shows good promise for excellent wines. The Estate comprises 95 hectares of vineyard in production, spread over six white and nine red cultivars.

Said Kobus, “Our harvest is definitely smaller this year, most noticeable on cultivars like Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Cinsaut.

“Our Sauvignon Blanc harvesting started as early as the 22nd of January and we finished with the last reds, which was our Cab Sauvignon, right before Easter weekend. So, it’s a very long vintage. Although it‘s been a very challenging year, the quality of the white wines that are already fermented dry, is looking very promising.

“We do indeed expect exceptional quality Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, and some of the reds which are still fermenting, the Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are showing fine potential.

“Definitely a challenging year. A cool December and early January, followed by the extreme heat waves, have had a big impact. Quite a lot of sunburn, natural acidity dropped, which meant pH’s went up. All making it more challenging in the cellar this year. Despite all this, the quality of the wines so far is exceptional.”

Rietvallei is looking forward to continue its remarkable run of competition successes in recent years – thanks to this year’s smaller but characterful and concentrated grape yield, especially of the Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. These two cultivars – in the form of the  Estéanna Sauvignon Blanc 2020 and Chenin Blanc 2020 –  among other achievements, were last year named as the national winners in the Novare SA Terroir Wine Awards and contributed to the Estate being named here as SA Terroir Top Estate and Top Producer.

  • Meanwhile, the final overall crop estimate by viticulturists and producer cellars will be issued in May 2022, together with the official SA Wine Harvest Report. This according to Conrad Schutte, manager of Vinpro‘s viticultural consultation service, which issued the fourth crop estimate with Sawis (SA Wine Industry Information & Systems) on March 30 – stating that the SA crop was still estimated to be smaller than in 2021, but larger than the five-year average. Also that the  2022 season was characterised by cooler weather conditions from winter to mid-December last year, which resulted in later-than-normal budding, flowering, veraison and ripening, with the harvesting programme for most cultivars still delayed by about seven to ten days.

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THE ROBERTSON WINE VALLEY – HOME TO FINE WINES

Situated in the fertile Robertson Wine Valley, Rietvallei Wine Estate enjoys one of the best locations for wine production. This fertile valley is the birthplace of some of South Africa’s finest wines. 

This wine-growing area is situated in the Breede River Valley region in the Western Cape, roughly 160km east of Cape Town. This is where some of the county’s leading wine estates are found. An ideal climate, terroir and soil make the Robertson Wine Valley the perfect place to grow red and white wine varietals. In this guide, we share some of the factors making this valley a prime location for wine production.

WHAT MAKES THE ROBERTSON WINE VALLEY UNIQUE?

The Robertson Wine Valley is home to a selection of acclaimed wine farms. As an award-winning estate and one of the oldest family-owned in the region, Rietvallei is proud to be part of the region’s esteemed wine route. The location of any wine estate makes all the difference to the diversity and quality of wines produced. In the Robertson Valley, there are a few key factors that contribute to the region’s success in grape growing and wine production. 

THE CLIMATE

Climate plays a major role in wine-growing. Globally, there are many grape varietals that thrive in numerous climates. Robertson’s climate is hot and dry, making it optimal for the growth of premium grapes. While the region has low rainfall, irrigation is provided by the Breede River. Moisture blown in by south-easterly winds coming from the Indian Ocean 90km away brings further cooling and moisture. During the day, temperatures reach 30 degrees Celsius and higher, while temperatures drop significantly at night. The diurnal temperatures give grapes a chance to cool at night. This ensures that acidity is retained, without losing the complex flavours of the grapes. Cool winters give vines a dormancy period before the next growing season. 

THE TERROIR

Terroir plays an integral role in wine production. Robertson has a diversity of landscapes, each influenced by meso-climate, soil type and soil aspect. The main part of the valley is situated next to the Breede River. Here, the land is fairly flat, with a variety of terroirs. The land changes to rolling hills near the base of the Sonderend and Langeberg Mountains, with many different terroirs. This variety in terroirs allows for different grapes to thrive.

THE SOILS

Another key factor in wine production is soil. The diversity of terroirs means a diversity of soil types, each suited to different grape varietals. Gravelly, red loam soils from the Karoo are the most dominant soil types and are often very calcareous, with a high capacity to hold water. Residual soils such as the Malmsburg and Bokkeveld shale soils include weathered sites with a high water-holding capacity and less weathered sites with a moderate to low water-holding capacity. Another soil type, rich alluvial soil can be found on the banks of the Breede River.

The unique combination of climate, terroir and soils give every wine produced in this region its rich, complex flavour. Explore the Rietvallei wine collection and you will soon see why the Robertson Wine Valley is considered the home of exceptional wines.

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HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST PICNIC WINES

Wondering how to choose the ideal picnic wines? Wine and picnics go hand in hand. On warm summer days, there is nothing like heading out into the fresh air to enjoy a relaxed meal with friends and family. With a good bottle of wine, good food and good company, you will have everything you need for a good day out. Keep reading to get our tips on how to choose picnic wines the easy way.

IDEAL PICNIC WINES

The general rule of thumb with food and wine pairing is to pair white wines with lighter dishes and reds with heartier dishes. While this is easy at lunch or dinner, it’s not always as straightforward at a picnic. Picnic food is usually finger food. Sandwiches, cold meats, salads, snacks, and other food isn’t always as easy to pair as a sit-down meal. To help you know which picnic wines to choose, we’ve put together a list of things to consider.

WHITES

You can never go wrong with a versatile white served chilled. Although they are especially good with most seafood and poultry dishes, salads and snacks, they can be enjoyed with other dishes, too. Versatile whites to go for include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. For cheeses, pair these wines with fresh cheeses such as goats cheese, feta, ricotta and mozzarella, or soft, pungent cheese such as camembert. Make sure you pack your cooler bag to keep the wine nice and crisp.

Recommended white wines: Rietvallei JMB Chardonnay 2020, Rietvallei Classic Chardonnay 2021, Burger Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2021, Rietvallei Sauvignon Blanc 2021 or John B Sauvignon Blanc 2021 and Rietvallei Chenin Blanc 2020

REDS

Red wines go well with cold meats, braai meats, boerie rolls, richer pasta salads, and other flavoursome dishes. For picnics, a more versatile red is ideal. Pair red wines with aged cheddar, gruyere and other hard cheeses or bolder aged cheeses that bring out the complex flavours of red wines. Berries, chocolate, cake and richer sweet treats will be perfect with most reds. 

Recommended red wines: Rietvallei Dark Cin (Cinsaut) 2020, Rietvallei Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Rietvallei Shiraz 2018, John B Cabernet Sauvignon, Tinta Barocca 2021 and Burger Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2019.

SPARKLING

What about sparkling wines? A light Brut varietal can be surprisingly versatile, whatever food you are including in your picnic. This wine is a good choice if you are at a picnic that includes dishes contributed by various people. If you are not sure what will be served, this type of wine will be versatile enough for most dishes. 

Recommended sparkling wines: John B Brut Rosé 2021 or John B Brut Chardonnay 2021

In the Rietvallei online wine shop, you will find a wide selection of wines to suit every taste. Browse our collections and find the perfect picnic wines. 

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