Lifestyle Uncategorized

{travel} The true beauty of the Tradouw: from shale soil to bottled excellence

June 4, 2024

As with anything authentic, meaningful and grounded in life, it starts with the roots. But dig a bit deeper and you’ll see it’s even more so the soil, than the roots, that allow beauty, abundance and prosperity to flourish. A recent glimpse into the magnificently complex terroir of the Tradouw Valley left my feet dusty and my heart full at the mere surface we’re scraping of the fruitful promises of this tiny oasis in the heart of the Klein Karoo.

Introduction

A pocket of potential, nestled somewhere between  Barrydale to Swellendam on the famous R62 route, you’ll find the Tradouw Valley. A notably small area, it’s known for producing export fruit  – particularly apples and stone fruit. This unique stretch of soil is also the home of  the Joubert-Tradauw Wine Farm, a family-owned private cellar. It is here, with my feet on this fertile soils, I was given a chance to experience the clean, crisp air, the quietness of the valley and the generous hearts of its people.




Background

The Survivor Wines label falls under Overhex Wines, which produces outstanding wines for local and international markets. Their portfolio embodies distinctive identities that are the result of sourcing our grapes from their partner growers throughout the Cape Winelands, including the renowned Stellenbosch and Swartland regions. While Survivor Wines initially set its roots in the Swartland, the journey naturally evolved into an adventurous pursuit, unveiling the unique potential of specific grape varieties within different wine-growing regions, explains cellar master Pierre Wahl.

This is where Joubert-Tradauw fits in. The most recent site for Survivor Wines, Pierre recognised the destinctive terroir of the Tradouw Valley and felt its vines would add an elegant complexity to the Survivor Wines stable. It’s here, at Joubert-Tradauw, that Pierre introduced us to the soil, the people and the new heart of Survivor Wines. A showcase of excellence, innovation and heart-felt decision-making, it was a magical 24-hours, enveloped in the abundance of this valley.

Joubert-Tradauw Wine Farm

Leaving the bustle of the city behind us, our lungs filled with crisp Klein Karoo air as we arrived at the farm. After arrival coffee and introductions to the team, Pierre couldn’t wait to lead us into a wine tasting of the Survivor portfolio. Seated under the rust-red vines on an autumn morning, with glasses of glimmering wine swirling in front of me, I couldn’t have been happier to accept the embrace of the Tradouw valley hospitality.

The wine tasting

Pierre was joined by Meyer Joubert, viticulturist and winemaker of Joubert-Tradauw Wines. They have known each other since their school days. As adults, they shared a passion for winemaking and wine growing, which led to the partnership between Survivor Wines and Joubert-Tradauw and a shared vision for authentically expressing the land. The synergy between these two winemakers were apparent and exciting, and, I would later realise, strings through into the joining of soil and vines, resulting into bottled excellence.

Pierre lead us through a tasting of the CMS Chardonnay 2022 and 2023, Pendulum 2019, Reunion 2022, Cabernet Franc /Merlot 2022 and the Blend 2022.

With a soft spot for stories, I particularly enjoyed the Cellar Master Series Pendulum 2019. With reference to its name, it showcases two noble cultivars; Cabernet Franc and Merlot. With a nod to the old world, this is a structurally magnificent wine with a boldness that speaks of confidence and trust in the fruits of this region. Old world wine is also historically known to honour and celebrate appellation, acknowledging the personality of each cultivar and the importance to bring that to the fore.

Another wine that stood out to me, was the Cellar Master Series Chardonnay 2022. I  have a particular penchant for mineral-forward, flinty wines, and this young Chardonnay did not disappoint. I loved how it embraces the Bokkeveld shale soils, forwarding a freshness and purity of fruit that is characteristic of the Tradouw Valley. Made from 22 year-old vines, you will be pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous acidity offered, leaving you wanting more of this unique offering. So much so; the Cellar Master Series Chardonnay 2022 clinched both the title of Best Chardonnay and Best White Wine at the esteemed 2023 Trophy Wine Show.

As we slowly and leisurely made our acquaintance with these wines, we had a chance to soak up the richness and  heritage of this wine farm through stories and glasses, setting the scene for the next part of our visit – the roots of it all.


The terroir and climate

With a pre-visit note to dress comfortably, Pierre and Meyer bundled us (as graciously as possible, I should add!) onto the backs of their bakkies, ready to adventure a bit uphill to the vineyards. This was truly one of the highlights of the visit for me; feeling carefree and windblown on the back of the bakkie, heading toward the pristine mountains and vineyards for a little explore.

We stopped along the way for Meyer to jump out and  show us the shale formations, explaining the fragility of these sedimentary rocks, and how the roots of the vines find their way through the fissile layers, drawing moisture from the clay components. He also explained the unique microclimate and terroir of the Tradouw Valley and how it’s ideally suited for grape cultivation.

Pierre emphasized the purity of the wines, with naturally softer acidities observed in red and white grapes. The quality of the fruit and subsequent wine styles are shaped by the valley’s diurnal temperature variations, characterized by warm days and cool nights. While sunlight fosters fruit expression and concentration, cool evenings, fanned by breezes from the Langeberg Mountains, contribute to colour and pH stability. This diurnal temperature fluctuation facilitates optimal conditions for grapes to ripen slowly and evenly, resulting in wines of exceptional complexity.

New additions to the Survivor Stable

Our second stop was along a block of  newly planted Albariño vines, bright green and glossy in their youth. Albariño, or Alvarinho, is a variety of white wine grape grown in Galicia and in Northwest Portugal where it is also used to make varietal white wines. Relatively new to South Africa, I’ve fallen deeply in love with the few local iterations of Albariño I’ve tasted over the years, so I found the addition of these vines to the Survivor stable very exciting.

In the past year alone, Survivor Wines has expanded the vineyard holdings in Tradouw, planting an additional two hectares of Chardonnay, one hectare of Albariño, one hectare of Malbec, and another hectare of Cabernet Franc. This expansion reaffirms their belief in the potential of this ‘untouched’ terroir.


Beate’s lunch

Meyer’s wife, Beate, is a published cook-book author and runs the deli-restaurant on the farm, spoiling visitors and guests with wholesome, fresh and delicious food, prepared simply as an ode to Mother Nature. She is also a hostess-extraordinaire and beautifully joyful person, bubbling over from that signature Tradouw hospitality I’ve come to know in this short time.

Lunch included the most amazing oxtail stew, pasta and salads, pre-empted by a tapas-style selection of starters. Coupled with a few bottles of icy Survivor wines, we washed the dust from our throats and relaxed into the caress of the afternoon.

Wine blending

A late afternoon wine blending class commenced after lunch. Working with two of my favourite varietals, we got a taste of the nuances and intricacies of wine blending with Cabernet Franc and Merlot, freshly drawn from the barrels by Pierre that morning.

Corked and labelled, we sealed our personalised blends with bright orange wax; a colour which became deeply symbolic of my visit to the Tradouw Valley. I’ll forever long for the orange-tinted afterglow of sunset, the smell of the fynbos as the night settles in, and the full mouth-feel of a sip of Survivor Pinotage.


Barrydale Karoo Lodge

Our accommodation for the evening was booked at the newly renovated Barrydale Karoo Lodge. Situated in the main road of Barrydale, just down the way from the well-known Diesel & Crème Café, this iconic landmark captures the true essence of Barrydale. We had a couple of hours to check in, freshen up and rest before dinner, so I was adamant to enjoy my surroundings to its fullest.

With all the modern amenities available, the Barrydale Karoo Lodge is a well-deserved resting place for the adventurous traveller. Designed with comfort in mind, the rooms are beautifully adorned and becomes an oasis of refreshment after a long day of exploring.




In conclusion

After sundowners from the most picturesque hilltop in the valley, Meyer and Beate invited us to their home for a braai and bonfire. It was a lovely chance to ground  and connect after the excitement of the day. There’s nothing quite as special as a roaring fire, a seat under the starry night sky and a full glass of wine as you breathe the goodness of the earth in and out.

Having travelled up and down the R62 so many times, I never realised how unique and proliferous the soil under my feet were here in the Tradouw Valley. Now knowing that Survivor Wines will soon be harvesting from this small pocket of land for their wines, fills me with delight and sweet anticipation. What a historically and naturally rich stretch of land, offering a home to people who are dedicated to its soils and celebrates its diversity and unique climate in beautiful ways.

Next time you’re on the R62, turn off at Joubert-Tradauw Wine Farm, and experience a little taster of the Tradouw through their food, wine and people. Their stories will keep you enchanted; their spirit will ignite yours and their resilience will leave you inspired.

Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.

The Little Hedonist endorses responsible drinking.
Don’t drink and drive. Not for persons under 18.

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