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The Wijn of Donkiesbaai

In December Capetonians, nay South Africans, make their pilgrimage to the sea.

The Wijn of Donkiesbaai

All roads lead there and all of us have some childhood recollection of a summery Christmas by the sea, eating watermelon, braaiing at some seaside house/hut with a name - those little seaside towns always have houses with names. Like the rest of us, the Engelbrecht family of Rust en Vrede also made their pilgrimages to the sea, to a small village named Donkin Bay, north of Lambert’s Bay on the Cape West Coast, a renowned surfer spot. It was named for Sir Rufane Donkin, one-time Governor of the Cape Colony, for a year only in 1820. Given the outcome of the Anglo-Boer War it is no surprise that the Afrikaans version of the name is the ironic “Donkiesbaai” (Donkey’s Bay), an eternal snub to the Englishman, and the name of Jean Engelbrecht’s alternate wine label.

Die Wijne

The range consists of four wines: Hooiwijn (Straw Wine), Steen (Chenin Blanc), Rooiwijn (A blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsault and Syrah) and Pinot Noir. Afrikaans named because the whole range is modelled on life at Donkiesbaai as Engelbrecht remembers it - feet in the sand, no electricity (though if Eskom had its way, it would merely be life in SOUTH AFRICA not just a seaside town on a forgotten stretch of coastline), simple. One might argue however that the making of the wine is all but SIMPLE. Roelof Lotriet, former assistant winemaker at Rust en Vrede and now head winemaker at Donkiesbaai, makes the Steen (Afrikaans for ‘Chenin blanc’) essentially from 5 wines. The first fermented in stainless steel tanks and then matured in barrel for 6 months. The second 50% fermented in French Oak, then racked off the gross lees and matured in a combination of new and old barrels. The third spontaneously fermented and matured in concrete eggs and left off the lees. The fourth fermented in clay Amphora pots and the fifth is stored in tank to boost the freshness of the wine before bottling. Each wine is vinified separately and tasted to ascertain when blending should occur- with fermentation done by wild yeast found on the skins of the grapes and a few instances of commercial yeast. Though not simply made, the resulting WINE is a perfectly balanced snapshot of PLACE - Piekenierskloof. 


The Steen vineyards in Piekenierskloof were planted in 1979, thus legitimately OLD vines by South African standards belonging to the Moutons. (Mr. Mouton’s son Dirkie is Rust en Vrede’s Vineyard Manager, thus keeping it in the family). While the Chenin Blanc vines aren’t necessarily well-suited to the harsh conditions of Piekenierskloof, their sheer age and established root systems have allowed them to adapt as weather patterns have changed in recent years, bringing forth something truly unique. The Rooiwijn’s Grenache Noir, Cinsault and Syrah are also farmed in Piekenierskloof, while the Pinot Noir vineyards are situated on the Ceres Plateau and made from 8-year-old vines. Of the standout Hooiwijn (also made of the old Chenin vines), rated 95 points by Tim Atkin, he enthuses: “What an amazing wine this is! Dried on straw mats before fermentation in old barrels, it has a haunting combination of fruit, acidity and 214 grams of sweetness. Sappy and fresh, it combines nectarine and citrus fruit with hints of orange zest and crème brûlée.“ Lotriet as the grapevine grows, draws inspiration from a number of South African winemakers and of course Northern Rhône and Bordeaux. Of the winemakers he admires he says: “Coenie Snyman (Rust en Vrede), Reenen Borman (Boschkloof) and Miles Mossop are making the best wines in the country in my opinion. They are CONSISTENTLY producing quality year in and year out. No vintage misses the mark, they express the conditions of the vintage and maintain exceptional quality that doesn’t deviate from their brand style. They stay true to their beliefs and winemaking philosophies.” Something HE has consistently done since their first vintage of Donkiesbaai Steen in 2011.

All-in-all this is the ULTIMATE survival kit of wine for a holiday by the sea. Dis lekker by die see. {Old Afrikaans adage specifically reserved for Christmas by the sea.}

Published On: 12/12/2018

Daléne Fourie

Twitter @DaleneFourie

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