SWEET Life: Emma and Willie Dreyer's Swartland roots run deep.
SWEET Life: Emma and Willie Dreyer's Swartland roots run deep.
Swartland simplicity: Leeuwenkuil farmstead was built in 1705.
Swartland simplicity: Leeuwenkuil farmstead was built in 1705.

Why ever did they wait so long to make their own wine? I asked this question after sampling Leeuwenkuil’s exciting debut range selling at incredibly modest prices.

Willie Dreyer and I were having one of those mixed English/-Afrikaans conversations interspersed with a chuckle or two, but the short answer was, that until 2008, the farm was a member of the Perdeberg Co-operative.

Once they broke away, farmer Dreyer appointed an enthusiastic, well-qualified threesome – viticulturist Koos van der Merwe, winemaker Pieter Carstens and MD Koos de Kock – and gave them free rein, while he focused on farming grapes, wheat and cattle.

They have done him proud with this screwcapped 2011 quartet – shiraz, chenin, and Rhone-style red and white blends led by the same two cultivars – offering outstanding value in the R40-R60 price bracket.

Along with Leeuwenkuil, the Dreyer family owns two other Swartland farms, plus one in Voor Paardeberg and another in Agter-Paarl.

The five collectively make up the largest single-owned vineyards in the Coastal Region, harvesting 9 000 tons from more than 1 100ha annually. Not only does the cellar have access to an impressive variety of soil types and vines ranging from 35 to seven years old, but the cultivars include low-yield bushvine shiraz and chenin that produce the Rhone-style blends for which the Swartland is renowned today.

The 2011 racy chenin combines discernible minerality with prominent fruit while the Family Reserve White (R55) is considerably more complex, blending 50 percent chenin with roussanne, grenache blanc, clairette blanche and a little verdelho. It’s not only delicious with delicate stone fruit and melon flavours but is finely structured – matured in both small and large oak for five months – with a long finish that augurs well for ageing.

The shiraz (R55) is New World in style, fresh and fruit-driven, berries and spices mingling nicely with smooth tannins. In the Family Reserve Red (R60) shiraz fruit and pepper are complemented by firm tannins, lent depth with a little mourvèdre and grenache, finished with a splash of cinsaut, an old-fashioned stalwart making a comeback. The result is an elegant, enjoyable and well-balanced partner for mature cheese and sustaining well-seasoned fare.

Sited alongside the Mosselbank river, a watering hole for cattle on route to Cape Town but also a resting place for the now-extinct Cape lion, the farmstead was built by Arij van Wij in 1705, the simple triangular gable, based on the “A” of his first name. The Dreyers came on to the scene in the mid-19th century. Having grown up on Leeuwenkuil, Willie and wife Emma restored the building to its original exterior while raising their family of five. Both his love of this land and enjoyment as custodian are unmistakable.

Given the present economic downturn, Willie Dreyer sees no point in building a cellar when there is so much spare capacity, so he will continue to rent space to make his wine. Leeuwenkuil will not be open to the public any time soon, but you should find these stellar products in two of the big liquor chains and two popular wine boutiques in the Cape Peninsula. If not, perhaps you should ask why not… - Weekend Argus