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2oceansvibe Partners With Number One Winery In South Africa

Story from: 2oceansvibe.com

Controversial? Look, I’m sure that headline may well get your goat, but as everyone is so clear to point out – wine is subjective. Not that we need our own personal opinion to back this one up.

Our wine go-to guide has always been Top Wine SA, and they have a wonderful list that takes into account the previous 10 years. So last year the list came out and, what do you know, Boekenhoutskloof was there.

Platter also gave them highest marks in 2012 and they’re consistently in ‘The Best‘ lists, with their Cab Sav and Syrah absolutely dominating any chance they get. It’s almost rude the way they carry on. They were ranked the leading winery by wine professionals in Mail & Guardian’s poll, they’re served in First Class on Emirates and British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal openly admits it’s his favourite New World producer. It’s no wonder Boekenhoutskloof is served in every decent Michelin star restaurant in Europe. Chocolate Block happened to be the only wine featuring in British Airways’ ‘Top 10 Most Popular Treats To Bring Home From Abroad’ list, following a study of travelers’ take-home items from 200 destinations around the world.

It also just so happened (before we partnered) that my Chocolate Block obsession had reached a point that saw me bathing in it most nights. With the current water shortage, you’ll be pleased to know I was not draining it out after each use.

Having been decanted into the bath – exposed to the elements and no longer inside the bottle – the wine was maturing rapidly. By day three I was, effectively, bathing in a 12-year-old. Just like filling up a bucket of water whilst showering, to re-use around the house, I was conscious of re-using the same wine in the bath for my evening (and daytime) drinking. I cannot recommend this process highly enough.

So anyway, back to 2oceansvibe’s partnership with Boekenhoutskloof. I went through to the secluded, fabled farm in Franschhoek to meet Chief Winemaker, Marc Kent. As I made my way up the drive I noticed there was no posh signage welcoming visitors, but rather the odd weathered sign stating they were closed or ‘by appointment only.’

I slammed on the brakes as an old man stepped into the road. He was at least 75, with bad, grey stubble and a a felt hat – almost cowboy style. He had a piece of straw in his mouth and he was chewing slowly as he motioned for me to wind my window down.

“Good day,” I said. “Are you Marc Kent?”

“You have no business around these parts,” he mumbled, in an accent I couldn’t quite place.

“No actually I do – I’m here to meet the greatest winemaker in South Africa, Marc Kent,” I explained.

“You think he’s the greatest?” he asked. Do you know what makes a great winemaker?”

I pointed to the bushes behind him and shouted, “Oh my God, leopard!”

As he turned to see my make-believe leopard, I drove around him and carried on up the driveway. Slightly shaken, I made my way up to a car park and, eventually, to Chief Winemaker, Marc Kent. The real Marc Kent.

We sat at his desk, which is made from part of the wing of a vintage airplane – symbolism perhaps of his previously planned vocation as an airforce pilot. As an aviator, that appealed to me.

We didn’t speak for about two minutes. He just stared at me. It’s almost like he wanted to get the small talk over via osmosis – probably tired of retelling the story of his ascent, which is by now the stuff of legend.

Born on Natal’s South Coast and having never worked at another winery before (but fell in love with the industry as a waiter), Marc Kent founded Boekenhoutskloof in 1993, along with partners including SA wine legend, the late Tim Rands – owner of Vinimark, SA’s largest privately owned global distributor of wine.

Other partners included John Hunt and Reg Lascaris, of Hunt Lascaris fame.

Over a three-year period the 1776 estate was restored. Ripping out old orchards, they planted Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Viognier. The old farm cellar was extended and renovated, and the first vintage went out in 1996 (500 cases).

By 2007, Marc was Diner’s Club’s Winemaker of Year. Boy done good, you might say.

Just then, in walked Christiane von Arnim, the General Manager of Boekenhoutskloof. Christiane also happens to be married to Takuan von Arnim, the Cellar Master at Haute Cabriere, our first and former 2oceansvibe wine partner. You can’t say we don’t keep these things in the family.

Over a case of Wolftrap rosé and the full Dire Straits ‘Brothers in Arms’ album, we discussed Liverpool FC, the merits of screwtops vs. corks, as well as the legends that are Porcupine Ridge, The Wolftrap and The Chocolate Block – let alone the Boekenhoutskloof label red wines (the likes of their famed Syrah) that go for R400+ a bottle, if you can find them.

Grape.co.za had this to say:

All the Boekenhoutskloof wines benefit from the attention to detail that Kent demands from his team. Intricate carefulness marks all aspects of production, whether it’s the small volume of Semillon or Noble Late Harvest, or the bigger, ridiculously successful run of rich, sweet-fruited but refined Chocolate Block.

Some of the barrels destined for Chocolate Block but not quite up to standard get added to improve the easy-going Wolftrap blend. Marc Kent is disarmingly proud of the cheaper wines under the wide Boekenhoutskloof umbrella. He rightly points out how much harder it is to perennially over-deliver large volumes at a cut-throat price than small volumes of fine wine.

With annual production running into the millions of bottles, of which 80% is Porcupine Ridge, another 15% is Wolftrap and 5% top shelf, it seems there is no stopping Boekenhoutskloof. To that end, we can confirm they have recently brought two big farms in the Swartland (Porseleinberg and the aptly titled Goldmine), with the intent to keep pushing the limits and increasing quality.

On that note:

What’s happening at the estate is impressive and exciting – indicative of the remarkable energy and vision with which Marc Kent is directing all three aspects. (There is no one like Kent in the South African wine industry, one should come to realise despite his lack of overt showiness, in terms of what he has built and what he is building; I think perhaps of Charles Back, but Back’s achievement goes inextricably wider than wine, and he has never succeeded in achieving the wines of topmost quality that characterise the Boekenhoutskloof label and are a vital part of Kent’s vision and ambition. Boekenhoutskloof is far from being dominated by the wisdom of its accountants – however pleased they ultimately are, I suspect they might wince occasionally.)

I like that. I like Marc Kent. And it seems things are getting better with a new addition:

On the less obtrusive side of what’s happening at Boekenhoutskloof and its cellar (leaving aside the vineyards), is the quiet, modest and smiling forcefulness and skill of Gottfried Mocke, who moved here from Chamonix in mid 2015 to take charge of, above all, the Boekenhoutskloof wines. When I originally reported on this move, I suggested that “a Kent-Mocke partnership could be extraordinary”, and there are plenty of signs (including the 2015 wines that he didn’t vinify, but brought up and bottled) that it’s proving to be just that.

It’s hard not to be satisfied with Boekenhoutskloof as your official wine partner, and we are beyond thrilled to kick off this incredible alignment. Expect more updates on these pages in coming weeks and months.

In particular, their exciting initiatives that include The Wolftrap Steakhouse Championships 2017 and The Franschhoek Literary Festival, brought to you by Porcupine Ridge.

We spent the next half an hour waiting for an Uber to appear in Franschhoek, which it eventually did.

I rolled down the driveway in the back of the car with my window open. As we slowed down to turn out the gates, that strange old man appeared at my window and tried to grab my arm. I shrieked at the Uber driver, “DRIVE, DRIVE, DRIVE!!” as I managed to get out of his grips.

I looked back at him as the car kicked up dust in his weather-beaten face and heard him shout, “You’ll never know why it’s called Chocolate Block!”

I kid you not. An absolutely bizarre experience, but something I will never forget.

Whilst I’m torn as to why it’s called Chocolate Block, I’m more intrigued as to whether or not the guy on the driveway is actually hired by Boekenhoutskloof to add to the mystique, or if he was just another crazed fan, trying to infiltrate the estate and find out more.

I guess some things we’ll never know…

[images source, source, source]

This post is from 2oceansvibe.com. Click here to read the full text

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