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The Grapevine

Danie and Hugo Carinus are agter-agter-kleinneefs, which I THINK means far-off third cousins.


The Grapevine

Which then either means they are the sons of cousins of their great-grandparents, OR the sons of cousins three times removed…it’s complicated. There’s blood. Though one couldn’t possibly say how much.

Grape Growers

The Carinuses are 5th and 6th generation farmers and grape growers respectively. Danie comes from the Blue Gum Grove Carinuses in Polkadraai (Danie’s grandmother was English); and Hugo comes from the Devon Valley Carinuses, where they have two farms, Fransmanskraal (The French man’s Village) and Dwars in die Weg (In the Middle of the Way). In the early 1990s Hugo also acquired Rooidraai (Red Turn), one of the largest single farms in the Swartland, which today has 520 ha planted to vine. Together they supply around 14 of South Africa’s most sought-after brands – think Raats Family Wines, Le Riche, DeMorgenzon, Alheit Vineyards, Crystallum, Thorne & Daughters and Mulderbosch … just to make you understand the SCOPE of the operation. Which in today’s economic climate, and grapes’ relative low profitability, is remarkable – making me think that these two may very well be the key to making our wine industry, if not great again (couldn’t help it), then at very least sustainable.

A Burgundian Outlook

I met Danie at his home in Polkadraai last week, as I turned onto the dirt road he was standing in the vineyards, seemingly calculating something. At the farmstead, he invited me into his kitchen and offered me some homemade kombucha (not just a winemaker). He explained his seeming consternation in the vineyard as trying to figure out which blocks belong to which brand. You see in the past the grape growing business operated on tonnage, you promised a certain amount of grapes to someone, delivered it and went to Hermanus (as Danie put it). THAT, however, is no longer sustainable given the relatively low price of grapes, he quoted a block that was sold somewhere in the past at R2600 per ton, a shockingly low price when compared to say a block of citrus. Danie and Hugo have since adopted more of a Burgundian outlook on the way they grow and sell their grapes – each brand is allocated a certain block or even row of vines and whatever that block or row offers up, is what they get. A tactic, which in itself adheres to our fascination with site-specific wines made in small quantities, and also helps to infer more value onto the resulting grapes. 

Free Range Farming

While their grape growing seems to have chosen them and not the other way around, given their respective familial association to it, the pair don’t JUST grow grapes – another key to survival as a grape producer and winemaker in 2019 as I see it. Danie has a lucrative side-business with his free-range chickens, which at R2.20 an egg is more profitable than his grape growing, supplemented with a bit of citrus farming. Hugo does a burgeoning trade in berries and citrus. Given the diversity of their farming practices, I had to ask: Why wine? Danie answered candidly: “Because it’s the only thing you can put on your table and say, THAT’S what I did this year.” Which I think sums up the allure of wine, irrespective of all its detractors. As Danie rightly says, in the past, there was a great deal of sentimentality around the vines that perhaps kept them in the ground longer than they were meant to be. He says a vine is such a dankbare ding (a thankful thing) it won’t show its suffering, while a citrus tree will let you know immediately. The key now is to think strategically, throw out sentiment and thrive. Which the Carinuses have done to great effect, considering their wine.

Lukas

Danie and Hugo made their first vintage of Chenin blanc in 2011 and have since gone on to add a Syrah from Polkadraai and the Rooidraai Chenin, from … Rooidraai. Their wines are their business card – a demonstration of their grapes, but also I suspect, very much a demonstration of their passion. Since 2016, Lukas van Loggerenberg has been making the wine, in exchange for making his own wines in the Shed on a Hill (The Carinuses cellar in Devon Valley). Together Danie and Lukas also make the Dancho Luka “Little Trooper” from two young blocks of Chenin in the Paarl and Stellenbosch. Almost in defiance of the old vine trend, which Tim Atkin in his 2018 South African Report awarded 91 points and said: “Lukas van Loggerenberg makes this wine with his friend Danie Carinus. There are only 600 bottles, but it’s a winning début, made from first crop vines in Stellenbosch and Paarl. Textured and leesy, with lots of glycerol underpinned by appley acidity. 2018-22” Of this wine, Danie says, they make it exclusively to take their wives out for fancy meals and such. Spaarbussie (Piggybank) wine.

The Wine locker

While the Carinuses are practically related to half of the Cape wine industry, with David van Velden of Overgaauw AND Pierre Winshaw of Usana as first and second cousins (respectively), they have cultivated a grapevine much larger than that. They met Lukas in a tasting group called the Wine locker (there’s something about tasting groups and their names that NEEDS to be investigated). The Wine locker hosts some of our industry’s most auspicious names, such as Chris Groenewald previously barman at Publik now working in marketing at Mullineux, Henk Kotze who’s involved in Patasfontein, Franco Lourens of Lourens Family Wines, Reenen Borman of Boschkloof and Patasfontein, David Sadie, Etienne Terblanche of Thistle & Weed and wine consultant debonair, Pierre Winshaw of Usana and a number of other names that I couldn’t write down fast enough! In company such as this, it is no wonder the Carinuses’ passion thrived. And makes sense that when I asked him what his favourite thing about our wine industry was, he answered: The people. Together this community fans the flames of enquiry and investigates wines from all over.

Moordenaars Karoo 

Danie’s particular interest is in the Rieslings of Alsace and the Mosel. He also has a penchant for Picpoul de Pinet from France’s Languedoc-Roussillon, Picpoul meaning to sting the lip. Though he says his responsibility as a grape producer dictates his interests, specifically in researching more drought resistant varietals for our changing climate. They’re therefore constantly looking to evolve, something I think defines this brand, in the future looking to experiment with Grenache in the Moordenaars Karoo {Murderer’s Karoo} past Sutherland, and in the Upper Langkloof at 1008 m above sea level.

The spirit of innovation and excitement permeates this house and made me look forward to another year in the wine lands. As such Danie has put together three vintages for us, the 2011, their first, promising an intriguing look into the evolution of Rooidraai Chenin for those enquiring minds among you.

 

Published On: 01/23/2019

Daléne Fourie

Twitter @DaleneFourie

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