Classy, Small and Precious Kleinood
Thursday 25 April 2019
Kleinood Winery was the first vineyard I visited as part of a mini wine tour to the South of Stellenbosch. I had tasted the Kleinood wines before at the Charcuterie & Shiraz Festival at Franschhoek in June last year. The Rhône cultivar wines are made under the Tamboerskloof label from 10 hectares of the 22 hectare boutique estate. A further 2 hectares are devoted to olives to make the de Boerin extra virgin olive oil. This explains the multitude of listings in the Platter’s Wine Guide, other books and websites: Kleinood Farm, Kleinood Winery, Tamboerskloof Wine, Tamboerskloof-Kleinood and more. I had long wanted to visit, both to sample the excellent wines where they were made and because I lived for 2 happy years in Tamboerskloof in the Cape Town city bowl. I learned afterwards that owners Gerard and Libby de Villiers (descendants of French Huguenot Jacob de Villiers who came to the Cape in 1688 and bought Boschendal wine farm) lived in the suburb – ‘tamboer’ means drum and ‘kloof’ means valley – before buying the land in 2000.
Kleinood lies halfway down the Blaauwklippen Valley to the South of Stellenbosch, between Dornier and Keermont wine estates and opposite the better known Waterford Estate. The area is known as the ‘golden triangle’ and has some superb wines, making it one of my favourite wine regions. There is something about the terroir of the warm, dry summers with their cooling False Bay sea breezes, the winter rains, the altitude, the North and West facing vineyards, and the Moordenaarskloof, Helderberg and Stellenbosch Mountain Tukulu and Kroonstad soils that make wines from the Valley so special.
The de Villiers renamed the farm Kleinood, Afrikaans for ‘small and precious’. It was easy to see why as I entered via a narrow lane with red sandy soil that gently sloped down to the cellar and family home. It took a short while to find the Tasting Room where Nina greeted me. The setting was rural and peaceful with the sound of running water outside. She offered to show me the property before tasting. As we walked through the semi-ornamental gardens to the dam, she explained that cellar engineer Gerard de Villiers was ‘more gardener than farmer’. The estate has been transformed by the removal of alien plants by the river banks, the cutting down of pine and poplar trees that were unbalancing the soil, the planting of over 200 indigenous trees, fynbos and shrubs, re-routing the stream to avoid winter flooding, composting to improve the soils, pruning and feeding the oak trees, beehives and ducks, stocking the dam with trout, and planting of the olive trees and vines. The result of these organic and rehabilitation practices were readily visible and impressive.
It was difficult to believe too that the buildings were new also and built with the same eco-fashion and attention to detail. Sewage is treated and digested before being discharged into underground ‘French’ drains, energy use is minimized and conserved, solar panels were installed for the cellar and winery needs in 2013, drinking and irrigation water from the Helderberg slopes is fed by gravity without pumps, and all waste from the farm is recycled. The paper packaging and wine labels are all manually printed on hand made paper and pasted onto each bottle by hand. My appetite for the wines was more than ready as we returned to the cellar with its water feature and white ducks outside.
I sampled 3 wines, beginning with the Syrah Rosé, named as so often for a South African wine after daughter Katharien. It was my favourite wine of the tasting (albeit a close run thing) with inviting pale salmon pink colour. Part fermented in stainless steel and 5th fill French 300 litre barrels (15%), the wine was one of the best South African Rosés I have tasted. The nose showed great intensity and complexity of sweet strawberry, Syrah spiciness, raspberry, citrus and delicate floral notes. It was dry on the palate with a layered complexity of flavour, surprising weight, medium acidity and decent length that are rare for a Rosé.
I rated the Viognier, with 11% barrel-fermented Roussanne for perfume, almost as highly. The wine was fermented in a mix of stainless steel tanks, concrete eggs and old oak barrels and a pale light straw in colour. Viognier, from the Northern Rhône, is an uncommon variety in South Africa (below 1% by vineyard area) and not appreciated as much as it should be. The Tamboerskloof wine showed exceptional, lively aromas. I wrote at the time that it ‘was like putting my nose into an orange orchard in full blossom’ due to its aromatic, floral notes of jasmine, honeysuckle, white peach and white honey. The wine showed a smooth richness on the palate, creamy to start and oily after, with good length and a balanced acidity.
Full bodied and purple, the Syrah offered a similar deep complexity and intensity to the Rosé. The fruity intensity of the stellar 2015 vintage showed with layer upon layer of red cherry, cassis and black cherry fruits, floral white violets, white pepper spiciness, and bitter orange, cigar box, cedar notes. The 19 months of oak maturation (15% first fill) showed by angular, tightly structured tannins that were well balanced and fuller than the Syrah from Keermont further up the Valley. This wine will age well.
I bought all 3 wines, having never bought all wines tasted before during a winery visit. The Tamboerskloof wines were all superb (the accompanying Tasting Notes too) and well worth visiting to sample. The wine farm setting was tranquil and beautiful. I too have aspirations one day of completing my journey from Tamboerskloof to somewhere as ‘small and precious’, indeed ….
Wines tasted (bought *):
2017 Tamboerskloof Viognier – R170*
2018 Tamboerskloof Katharien Syrah Rosé – R125* FAVOURITE WINE
2015 Tamboerskloof Syrah – R220*