Lowerland Tolbos Tannat 2016
Northern Cape, South Africa
Bertie Coetzee represents the sixth generation of his family to farm at Lowerland, on the banks of the broad Orange River near Prieska in the Northern Cape.
Let’s not beat around the bush: this is not traditional wine country. The main crops are maize and plump, melt-in-your-mouth pecans, alongside an award-winning beef stud; but in 1999 the first grapevines were planted by Bertie’s father Hennie, literally sowing the seeds for a game changing endeavour continued by Bertie after he joined the farm in 2013.
The desert-like climate is peculiar, being at approximately 29 degrees south so on the outer limits of what’s considered prime viticultural latitude, but the African heat is moderated by over 1,000 metres of altitude and consequentially high diurnal range. Summer rains can be problematic but generally conditions are dry and therefore favourable for organic farming, with the vineyards certified by Ecocert.
Bertie and his team are striving for a holistic, regenerative model of farming, converting all land to organic practices. Bertie has worked tirelessly to put Prieska on the South African wine map and gain approval for Wine of Origin status, a landmark achievement for what is – if anything – a rudimentary bulk wine region.
Tolbos Tannat is Bertie's flagship. The grapes are picked by hand, then driven twelve hours down the N1 to Stellenbosch, where the wine is made naturally and expertly by Lukas van Loggerenberg. Whole bunches, grapes foot-stomped twice daily. Aged for 14 months in old French oak barrels. Sure, it's a big boy of a wine, but like the winemaker himself, quite the gentle giant! Stunning.