Chateau Beau Joubert. South Africa on the American Market

South Africa has been growing grape and making wine since the middle of the XVII century, from times when first Dutch colonists came to the continent of Africa. French Huguenots arrived after Dutch and brought their homeland vines and winemaking experience with them. In XVIII – XIX centuries, South Africa exported perfectly good wines to Europe. However, the country’s winemaking was almost ruined in the XX century. Phylloxera, Anglo-Boer Wars, apartheid and its economic consequences undermined the wine industry. Fine wine production was set aside; grape was mostly used for distillation and in fruit juice industry. Fortunately, latter years of the XX century were marked by changes in politics, economic recovery and restitution of winemaking. South African wines increased their presence on the American market in recent years, and it’s definitely worth to pay closer attention to them.

My favorite shop, Arista Wine Cellar, had recently arranged a tasting of wines from South African Winery, Beau Joubert, which soon will appear on Washington’s market. Sure enough I used this opportunity to extend my practical knowledge of South Africa.

The story of Beau Joubert’s winery is an exact reflection of the whole winemaking industry of South Africa. Chateau was founded by a Dutch family in 1695. Hundred years later French Huguenot, Dirk Daniel Joubert, bought chateau, built the winery and planted French vines there. On the verge of the third millennium, American enthusiastic winemakers purchased chateau and began the restoration of its wine reputation.

Beau Joubert is located in Stellenbosch, south-west region of the country. It has Mediterranean climate and is a center of a fine wine production.

Typical grape varieties are of Southern Africa and include: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. Except made for Pinotage. Even though Pinotage is an entirely South African thing, winemaker Beau Joubert seemed to stick closer to an Old World Wine style.

The winery prides itself on its Chenin Blanc, made out of old vines that are over 30 years old. It’s a medium-bodied complex wine, three months in neutral oaks attach some butter taste to it, but yet, it has not impressed me. Well, let’s say it’s not my type. The wine, by no means, is not that bad, but it is not what I expect from this variety. For me the top choice of Chenin Blanc is undoubtedly Vouvray (Loire Valley is the place of Chenin Blanc’s origin, and I believe the best Chenin Blanc comes from there). Vouvray is bright and very aromatic wine with good acidity and aromas of flowers and honey. Ones you try Vouvray, you’ll never confuse it with anything else. However, Loire Valley is a place with cool temperature, thus, in much warmer parts of the world, like California or South Africa (France, USA and South Africa are the biggest world producers of Chenin Blanc) this grape loses its acidity, and wine becomes duller. This is especially true for Californian Chenin Blanc.

By the way, I liked a blend of Chenin Blanc with Sauvignon Blanc much more.

Red wines were much more impressive. Cabernet sauvignon, Syrah and Boudreaux-like blends are highly worthy. Their style is something intermediate between Old and New World Wines. Even though fruity notes are quite bright, the minerality and earth notes remain fully perceptible. Wines have a complex taste with a nice aftertaste.

In my opinion, wines of Beau Joubert are a worthy choice for exploring South African wines.