Where the Lions Roar in the Wild West of Bot Rivier
LEEURIVIER WYN & OLYF
Friday 29 April 2019
I highly doubt there any lions left in Bot Rivier even though there may have once been. I do know that my visit to Leeurivier Wyn was an adventure and an experience. The winery is located on the far side of the N2 motorway around 8 kilometres South East of Bot Rivier. It is off the beaten track and along several kilometres of decent dirt road. If ever you visit do not be fooled by the satnav that will take you to the main farm with its impressive stone entrance pillars. Leeurivier Wyn is on the Paardenkloof side road. Winemaker and co-owner Ewald Groenewald helped me with final directions by placing a member of staff by the roadside.
I was pleased that he did as I might never have found Leeurivier. It was nothing like I had ever seen for a winery. The Cellar-come-Tasting Room was in a stone barn built by Ewald himself. He bought 70 hectares of land that lies close to the Swart River with 2 friends in the early 2000s when the original farm was divided into 3 pieces. Four hectares of Malbec, Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir and Sangiovese have since been planted in the extremely rocky soils. The olive business is growing and sheep are also farmed.
The clues to Ewald’s former truck and transport business were visible outside the Cellar building. Parked outside were numerous agricultural and farm vehicles in different states of repair and rust. This was a far cry from the tidy modern Oldenburg, historic Cape Dutch Plaisir de Merle or trendy wooden Bartinney that I had tasted at within the last month. Ewald welcomed me inside the barn and cleared space on an old long wooden table for the tasting. He explained that he has made wine mostly for himself and his co-owner friends, with some for local restaurants, since 2005.
Ewald pulled out a dusty bottle, without label, and poured me a very full tasting glass of deep bodied and coloured red wine. ‘There’s no spittoons here’, he beamed, as he encouraged me to name the variety. Rustic and tannic with a smoothness and sweetness of red and dark fruits, with pepper spice, I was relieved to have correctly identified Shiraz, the only cultivar not grown on the farm.
‘What else do you want to taste?’, he asked, as I looked around the breezy building with scattered oak barrels on the floor. There was no tasting menu of course but I had noticed Pinot Noir in the Platter’s Guide. Another bottle opened, Ewald gave me one of the colourful labels from a dusty roll. I was pleased that I had not chosen Pinot Noir first because I would likely never have guessed the cultivar.
The wine was as dark and rural as the Shiraz and like no other Pinot Noir I had tasted before. Full bodied and with cherry, cranberry and violet aromas, the palate was structured with firm drying tannins. The wine was heavily extracted hence its deep colour. Ewald explained how the grapes are de-stemmed using a machine with a roller missing and left overnight. The whole berries are then left for 4 to 5 days in cool conditions before fermentation.
It was the end of a long tasting day and I wanted to visit nearby Anysbos before returning to Cape Town. I chose therefore to taste one more wine only and made a quiet excuse to go outside to empty my glass before tasting the Sangiovese. Ewald wrote on the Pinot Noir bottle with a white cokie as he asked me to write on the table ‘not large like some have, as I want to fill the table with many names’. I left my mark, as the wines already had, and sampled the final wine. This too was heavily extracted. The wine had a pleasant deep ruby, garnet colour, deep red and cherry fruits, and firm, drying, chewy tannins. ‘More like cool drink’, Ewald smiled as he encouraged us both to finish the bottle.
I would love to have done but time was pressing and I was having closely to watch my alcohol intake. Ewald gave me the 3 opened bottles of wine – and half bottle of unlabelled Grappa – as I left. I finished the bottles at home over the weekend and am now kicking myself that I did not buy as case or two of the Pinot Noir (R50 per bottle being unbelievably good value for money). Leeurivier was quite an experience that shall live with me for a long time. Do make an appointment and visit as you will, in the words of the rudimentary website, ‘be transported back in time, and experience wine made in the old traditional way.’
Wines tasted (bought*):
2012 Shiraz – R50
2013 Pinot Noir – R50 FAVOURITE WINE
2013 Sangiovese – R50