Putting Capelands on the Cape Winelands Map!
Experience 4.5 Helderberg Wine 5.0

Putting Capelands on the Cape Winelands Map!

Friday 2 March 2018

Experience: 4.5/5
Wines: 5/5

Capelands? Capelands? Where the **** is Capelands? I hear you ask. I would have asked the same a week ago. It’s not a misprint for Cape Winelands. I’ll give you a clue. It’s in the Helderberg, not far from Somerset West. Think Helderberg and you’ll likely think of the big name vineyards North towards Stellenbosch: boutique Yonder Hill, Chenin Blanc-specialist Ken Forrester, horsey Avontuur, and contemporary Cavalli. Think East to Sir Lowry’s Pass and you’ll think of farmers’ market Lourensford, historic Vergelegen, olives at Morgenster, and the biodynamic ‘cellar in the sky’ Waterkloof. But Capelands? Let me put Capelands on your tasting radar …


Capelands Wine Farm is right next to Waterkloof. Indeed, the 2 entrances off the Sir Lowry’s Pass Road are closer together than the drive up to the elevated Tasting Room at Waterkloof. Capelands keeps it simple – with the focus on the wine – as I shall show you, and the better for it.



I arrived at the appointed time in the beautiful colourful Tasting Room to be met by Johann Innerhofer, co-owner with accomplished, artist, wife Laura Mauri from Milan, Italy. Johann was welcoming and friendly, tall and imposing. He heralds from Italy too, from Merano in the South Tyrol, close to where Italy, Austria and Switzerland meet. He speaks German and is as familiar with the wines of Germany as those of Italy, Austria, and France.



Johann came to South Africa, to Capelands, 14 years ago. His family followed 5 years later. Meanwhile, he tells me about running the biggest wine auction in Italy. He was the first, and is the Number 1, distributor of South African wines to China. This was long before relations with the West and the US started to thaw – I know, I lived in Hong Kong at the time – and years before the Beijing Olympics in 2008.



I could have chatted to Johann for hours – he speaks 5 languages – without even tasting the wine. He fascinated. I too am well travelled and, after tasting at some 140 wine estates and a year of Cape Wine Academy studies, I feel confident to converse about wine with someone as knowledgeable and educated as Johann.


Our time was limited as he was hosting a large group from Jaguars cars later in the afternoon. This made for a tasting that was more rushed than I would have liked. Even so, I was a little late for my tasting at Onderkloof Estate after. Capelands has just 3.5 hectares of 20 year-old, single vineyard, dryland Cabernet Sauvignon. Elsewhere on the property is an Italian/Mediterranean Restaurant, Guest House with 2 cottages, and olives. It surprised to hear that all the Cabernet Sauvignon – a typically late ripening cultivar – was picked before the end of January. Ripening is aided by the stony vineyard that reflects warmth from the sun back onto the grapes. In addition, the early harvesting at 24.0-24.5° Belling keeps the alcohol concentration down and maintains the natural acidity.


Capelands produces wines under 2 labels: Whitestone and Redstone. The focus is very much on red wines. Almost all the production (90%) is exported to Europe which is why you may not heard of their wines in South Africa, except perhaps in fine dining restaurants. Johann told me his target was to ‘produce great wines – and to bring them out to the World’.


The Whitestone collection includes a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chenin Blanc. The Sauvignon Blanc was not as acidic as some. The grapes are brought in from elsewhere and showed their warm climate origins by the tropical notes. They were reminiscent of a Chenin Blanc, without the honey sweetness, and included aromatic melon, lemon and sweeter kiwi. The wine was clean and refreshing on the palate.


I preferred, just, the Chenin Blanc. Shiny and deeper in straw colour, it invited me to taste without delay. I liked the intensity of sweet citrus, honey and nougat flavours. Medium acidity gave a clean mouthfeel and a strong finish.



Johann treated me to a ‘tank sample’ of Chardonnay that was a month away from bottling. He showed me too the artwork for the new label. The wine was similar in colour to the Chenin Blanc but slightly more yellow. This too had warmth to the bouquet. The fresh, mineral flavours of baked apple and luscious lemon were Champagne-esque in character. Less creamy than many a Chardonnay, the mouthfeel was vibrant, light, fruity, and clean with a long length.



Johann explained that the label for each vintage changes with new artwork from Laura. The original painting is later auctioned for charity. The white wines were superb but the red wines were even better. I was treated next to 2 tastings of the same wine – the Klein Redstone – the only difference being that one was bottled using a screw cap and the other with a cork. The second vintage Klein Redstone, Johann told me, was ‘baby brother’ to the Cabernet Sauvignon Redstone due to the 20% added Malbec.


Comparison of the two wines was fascinating. I scored them the same but they were not identical. Both were fuller than medium bodied and ruby red in appearance. Subtle differences showed on the nose and then the palate. The screw cap wine was more angular in character with smoky, red berry, mulberry and blackberry notes. The mouthfeel was light, fruity and smooth. The Klein Redstone sealed with the cork was less smoky but with smoother and stronger fruity aromas. Tannins were softer and silkier too, being more integrated, rounded and developed as one might expect due to accelerated micro-oxidation via the cork.



As if not enough, Johann gave me the chance for another side-by-side comparison: between the Redstone of 2013 and 2014 vintages. The Redstone is more a food wine as it is made in a bolder and livelier more European style. Matured for 30 months in French oak barrels, the wines showed a richness of fruity blackberry, cassis and mulberry aromas. These were ‘big’ wines in flavour but with contrasting freshness, elegance and lightness of touch on the palate. Don’t confuse the lightness with lack of weight for these wines showed finesse by their deft acidity, great tannin structure and fabulous length. It was hard – even when pressed by Johann – to choose a favourite. The 2014 Redstone just shaded it for me due to a greater concentration of flavour and all-round balance.



The Reserve Redstone, the first Reserve wine to be made, was exciting too. The bouquet was elegant and refined. Soft tannins were smooth in texture to give great balance between fruit and tannin and alcohol concentration. Johann explained how he uses Revolution barrels – these are refurbished oak barrels that have the staves shaved – which allow micro-oxidation and ageing but impart little tannin. This gives elegance to the wine. A further sign of his commitment to excellence is that the wine is bottled in April but not released until the subsequent May/June to avoid ‘bottle shock’.


The last wine of the tasting was a magnificent Redstone, from 1.5 litre bottle, of the maiden 2010 vintage. The first signs of ageing, a slight garnet colour at the rim, showed for this classic Cabernet Sauvignon. The aromas were deliciously fresh yet subtle. The wine excelled on the palate with an elegance of smooth (not too grippy) integrated tannins that held onto a firm finish.



Not to be outdone by the wines, Johann made me a tasty lunch of fresh home-made al dente pasta with vibrant pesto sauce, served with ciabatta and mortadella. He had asked me when I made the tasting appointment if he could make me a small lunch but I did not expect this, in perfect setting with the vineyard below and False Bay in the distance. Is it any surprise that we love Italian food?


I reflected on the tasting experience as I chatted with Johann before leaving. The conversation as we talked about the market in China, about winemaking in South Africa, and wine itself was easy. I was fascinated to hear his opinions on fine wines and their style. ‘It is easy to make powerful wines’, he said. ‘Anyone can do that. I just need leave the grapes on the vine a month longer before harvesting’. The trick is to make an elegant wine which is much harder to achieve.


The Capelands wines certainly showed great finesse. The Burgundy style combines an intensity of aroma on the nose with a fresh elegance on the palate. I was particularly struck by Johann’s strength of purpose and determination to produce the best of fine wines. He has the knowledge and experience too to achieve his goals, for I have rarely seen anyone so focussed on their dream. Capelands showed too – as did Rainbow’s End Wine Estate in the Banghoek Valley to the East of Stellenbosch – that big is not always (if ever?) beautiful. Quality here trumps quantity and the big name vineyards surrounding for sure.



Capelands is a hidden gem. It will be a challenge to find a better one in 2018, though that will not stop me looking. Meanwhile, put Capelands on your tasting map. Pass by the Helderberg wine estates with the larger reputations and you will not be disappointed. I promise.

Wines tasted (bought *):


2017 Whitestone Sauvignon Blanc – R100
2017 Whitestone Chenin Blanc – R100
2017 Whitestone Chardonnay – N/A (tank sample)


2012 Klein Redstone (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec) – R150 – screw cap
2012 Klein Redstone (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec) – R150 – cork
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Redstone – R300
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Redstone – R300 FAVOURITE WINE
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Redstone Reserve – R600
2010 Redstone (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec)(1.5l) – R1000


You Might Also Like

Well and Truly Oaked!

1 Night, 7 Oaks, 3 Wine Tastings for Visit 2!

Magnifico – Grazie Mille Idiom!

Grand Wines at the Big Top!

Excelsior Blends Quality with Price

Back to the Future in the Berg of Paarl


Rickety Tram Passengers at Rickety Bridge

The Terroir is Honoured in the Bottle at Springfield

Wine Passions Mounted at Cavalli

Barrels of Fun at My First Stellenbosch Street Soirée

Masses of Fun and a little Chaos at the Ambeloui Harvest Festival

Fun(ny) Times at Lourensford

Real Wines in the Place of God

Idiom Wines Make a Statement

Red and White Wines with Frog’s ‘Legs’

Cork and Talk with Dave

Grape Fun – Stomping Well Worth the Journey!

A Sparkling Tasting at Charles Fox

View from the E-Skaap-ment

South over the Hills in Elgin

The Bestbier Family produces Best Wines at Goede Hoop

Lithos Wines Soar above Mountain and Forest

Onderkloof Beats All the Odds Below The Valley

Oh-MG at Anthonij Rupert

Virgin Whites Led Me into the Last Temptation

Where Eagles Care

Try as I Could I Did not Find Waterkloof Wines Dynamic

This Vineyard Touched My Soul (aka, I Bought My First Bottle of Petrus)

Two Dam Good!

Marching into France

Peter Puts into Hermanus

Linga-ring in a Winery in Malawi

Hout Bay Vineyards – Simply the Best!

Latching onto Superb Wines at De Grendel

Straw Berry Yields for e-Ver-gelegen

A Hidden Gem of Rare Excellence

Diemersdal has Six Appeal

Englishman Meets Mrs English at Classic Lanzerac

A Cracker and a Stormer at Paul Wallace

Delaire Graff Wines Sparkle

Warwick Wines Win their Colours

Simonsig Excellence Today with a Traditional Legacy

Seven Reasons To Visit Seven Oaks Wines

A Family Occasion – the Story behind the Bottle

Maiden Visit to Lord’s Bowled Me Over

Golden Wines at the End of the Rainbow

High Living on the Stoep Sipping Aged, Luscious Red Wines

Always a Favourite – Guaranteed to Delight

Lemberg Punches Above its Weight

The Early Bird Catches the Wine

‘Out of the Office’ at Groot Constantia

Classic(al) to Barrique – De Morgenzon Hits all the Right Notes

2017 Annual Cape Wine Lovers’ Society Awards

Wines Made to Stand the Taste of Time

Fish (and other foods) with Wanda!

Mooi Mooi Mooi Mooiplaas

Excellent Unstated Wines and Service – Naturally!

I-own-a Wine Farm!

Pedigree Stud Grub at Cavalli

A Cape Wine Master-class

Wines to Love on Love Street

It’s all Art and Wine at Almenkerk

A Myth, a Princess, History and Destruction, 2 Names and 4 Styles – Shiraz with Pizzazz

King Chenin Kens (Knows) the Wood from the Trees


  1. Onderkloof Beats All the Odds Below The Valley – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] estate. It also suited as I was in the Helderberg area for visits to Lithos Wines, Skaap Wines and Capelands Wine Farm during the […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *