If wineries were judged on beauty of location...If wineries were judged on how nice the people who run them are...If wineries were judged on how beautiful the drive is to said winery...then Herold Wines would be South Africa's top winery finished and klaar. Herold Wines lies just above George in a most beautiful location, a valley that is straight out of Hansel and Gretel . In order to get to the farm you need to take the Montague Pass over the Outeniqua Mountains, this must surely be in my humble opinion one of the most beautiful drives in South Africa. Even if the wine tasted like vinegar, and it doesn't, the drive alone makes this a special trek.
A trip to Herold Wines is not only about wine, it is an experience and one best not rushed. The farm, surrounded by mountains, is all of 300 hectares, of this only 6 hectares are planted with vine. We were warmly welcomed by the friendly and likable Vivien (pictured above) and Bruce Harper. This husband and wife team have been making Wines here since 2000, Vivien ever the keen gardener turned her hand to winemaking and the rest is history. Brave women indeed. Wines are made in a fairly uncomplicated way with as little fiddling as possible. Everything is done by hand where possible, some of the equipment being so small you would be mistaken for thinking it was a replica of the real deal.
What stood out for me most about Herold Wines was the notion of terroir. This truly is the expression of sight specific wines. No bought in grapes, no mixing and matching of different sites, just what their site gives them from one vintage to the next. My only disappointment is the fact that they are using cultivated yeast. I am sure as Vivian becomes a more confident, not competent, winemaker she will trust her motherly instincts and let the wild yeast do its thing. Then this magnificent site will truly be reflected in these beautiful wines. When this day comes I will be the first person knocking at the door. Being a cool climate area picking carries on till May...yes May. As a result the wines have low alcohols, 12-13% and very drinkable and elegant. In fact I would describe the house style as very old world, no fruit bombs, high alcohol over extracted wines.Here are my brief notes on the wines:
Skaam Skaap 2008: My personal favourite out of the lot, a fairly easy drinking undemanding sort of wine. A blend of Pinot, Chardonnay and Sauvi. Think of Haute Cabriere Pinot Chardonnay that people so love, just a lot better. Lovely fruit and a hint of floral. Well balanced, well made.
Sauvignon Blanc 2009: Petulant sort of wine, fizzy, lively. Wonderful nose, goose berry and a slight hint of greenness, but not overtly so, fairly long finish, again well balanced. Not everybody's cup of tea. Racy style.
Red Men: Cab, Shiraz and Merlot Blend. These varietals just doesn't work on this site. Although I think the Merlot, using the correct clone may have potential here. So they make a blend, only 3000 odd bottles made. If it was me I would rip out these varieties and concentrate on the Pinot.
Pinot Noir 2008: This is the varietal that put Herold Wines on the Wine Radar in 2006 by winning Wine Mags Pinot Noir challenge, seeing off more fancied competition. The 2008 is still dominated by wood, on the nose you would be forgiven for guessing it was a coffee style pinotage, but the hints of vegetal character, fynbos and the slightest bit of wild honey made up for this. Perfect Pinot colour. An interesting wine, certainly no tooti frutti wine. I bought a few bottles and will be watching how these develop with age.
The only other winery that I can think of that comes close in terms of remoteness, ruggedness and natural beauty is Cederberg Winery. Perhaps the wines are not in the same lofty league, but just to be spoken of in the same breath must surely tell you just how truly special this spot is.