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From the Back of a Bakkie

Riandri Visser, winemaker at Cape Point Vineyards, is a slight, fair-skinned young woman.

From the Back of a Bakkie

Unassuming and yet deeply poised and passionate about what she does, she met us at the tasting room this Tuesday for a tour of the iconic Cape Point Vineyards. In a Billabong T-shirt, jeans and a floppy hat, Riandri had just returned from sampling her 2017 vintage (her first), of either the Isliedh or the Sauvignon blanc Reserve, I forget which. We had been instructed to wear sensible shoes for traversing the vineyards, a point Nic had overlooked. Riandri lead us to her single cab, farm bakkie and proceeded to open the flap. Nic and I stood perplexed, not wanting to be rude, but also trying to decide just HOW one would negotiate a bumpy ride in the back of a bakkie, with DECORUM. I believe we stood silently deliberating for a few moments, when Riandri, most probably picking up on our consternation, elaborated: “You can sit on the flap and look out, do not let your feet touch the ground, and HOLD on.” {Which made a lot more sense than both of us getting IN.} Given my penchant for aggressive questioning, I negotiated a seat up front with Riandri, leaving Nic to fend for himself on the bakkie flap, sans sensible shoes. And so it was that this bakkie, two girls in the front and a well-dressed Italian on the flap, made its way up the mountain. {A fact I feel Riandri really enjoyed, because when we reached the top she offered to take a selfie of us all and explained that she’d taken a number of people up the mountain like this, including suited business men and even a wedding couple. I suggested that she start an Instagram account entitled “People I took up the mountain...”, which given the diversity of her guests, should make for an entertaining follow.} Which is not to say that what she had to SAY was less entertaining. Cape Point Vineyards IS South African Sauvignon Blanc, and they have the wine to prove it. 

White Wine Only

Cape Point Vineyards is one of the few farms to dedicate their time and resources entirely to white wine, or more specifically: Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Though they HAVE experimented with other varietals in the past, none of them were capable of surviving the harsh conditions of this distinctly maritime terroir. Their lowest vineyards are situated 1.2km away from Noordhoek beach, and their highest at 350m above sea level on the slopes of the Noordhoek mountains. Three out of their four wines are made from the unforgiving 22 hectares situated here, while they supplement their Cape Town Sauvignon blend with fruit from the 55 hectares they farm in the Durbanville Hills. The fruit from Noordhoek are perfumey, with hints of peach and textured minerality, while fruit from the Durbanville Hills are much more fruitful and sweet (only by comparison and not in reference to ALL things sweet). 

The Wild One

It makes sense that Sauvignon Blanc should thrive here. It is a vigorous grower, the name derived from the French word ‘sauvage’ (wild), though prone to disease and therefore in need of a thoughtful keeper. Which they have in the form of Steffan Lochner, viticulturist (formerly of Backsberg) and Riandri Visser, winemaker (formerly of Tokara). Riandri exudes an air of calm precision, talking about the various steps taken to protect the vines from disease as well as tease out that illustrious flavour profile that defies Sauvignon detractors of the green, vegetal notes that so defines the varietal elsewhere. She interestingly tells us how she avoids that specific flavour profile by cutting away the leaves immediately once the vines start budding, so as to make the grapes used to the sun and avoid ‘sun stroke’ later on, instead they learn to ‘tan’, in effect bringing out the structured minerality, peach and lime flavours so distinctive of their wines. The blending of the fatter, perfumey Sémillon also add to the richness of the flavours. It is THIS foundation that also allows for the ageing of these wines, which as you know, it not always a given with white wine, as they do not have the tannins to support the ageing process. Riandri talks about the importance of the bottling process, how the management of sulphur, the balancing of the pH and acidity, Carbon dioxide and the levels of dissolved Oxygen all encourage the ageing potential of the wine. They also experiment, winningly, by ageing the grapes in old oak, sometimes up to 15 months and then let it rest in steel tanks. All of which make for incredibly singular examples of the Cape Sauvignon-Sémillon blend.


Somewhere during the 18th century, Sauvignon Blanc was paired with Cabernet Franc to produce the first Cabernet Sauvignon vine in Bordeaux. We like to think of Sauvignon Blanc as the mother of this prolific grape, given her distinctly feminine qualities. Simple, light and elegant, Riandri says you can’t HIDE anything with Sauvignon Blanc, it’s a true expression of its origins and when looking out over Noordhoek beach, one cannot imagine it needing to HIDE anything. The combination of Riandri’s nurturing hand - she talks about the meditative properties of pruning, visiting the vines at least once a day to keep an eye- and the natural qualities of the terroir, guarantees something spectacular. From what we could gather, though Riandri is a winemaker who only happens to be a woman by her own admission, she does impart a great sense of care and precision in her winemaking, something very well suited to her chosen varietals. {The commitment to which shines through in her choice of dog, #adognamedsauvignon - look her up on Instagram.} We suggest YOU do the tasting. 

Published On: 07/11/2018

Daléne Fourie

Twitter @DaleneFourie

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