Tom Cannavan came to visit the valley – see his write-up on Bot River wines and Niels ‘Man of the Mountain’ Verburg.
And this is what Tom had to say about Luddite’s wine:
Luddite Wines, Chenin Blanc 2012, South Africa
All barrel fermented in old oak, “all sorts of ferment on skins,” according to Niels. Lovely fresh colour and lots of flinty, mineral smokiness, some soft green herb notes too. The firm, crisp apple is there, but this is more about something mineral. Is there a touch of oak on this? It certainly has a little of that nutty quality, a touch of something toasty, but that could be minerality again expressed as a flinty, racy character. The sweet mid-palate ripeness and richness builds in a complex, long wine with concentration. An intriguing expression of Chenin. 91/100.
Luddite Wines, Shiraz 2008, South Africa
Meaty, gamy, northern Rhône style with lots of dark mulberry fruit and hints of chocolate, there are hints of leafiness and complexity too, a touch of pepper in a very attractive, complex nose. Beautiful palate. It has the sweetness of fruit of the Paardenkloof, but adds substantial layers beneath of full, creamy textured oak and plum, the tannins very svelte and creamy on the mid palate, and the spice and pepper filling in on the finish with a powerful freshness and length. 92/100.
For more see wine-pages.com
On Saturday it’s Barrels and Beards, a Bot Riveria ritual that all started with Niels’s pragmatic approach to personal grooming during harvest. Usually Niels shaves his head – to avoid having to fuss with hair or haircuts – and grows his bread for the same reason, one less thing to do in the morning (ie. no shaving) before getting to the grapes.
Inspired by Niels, other winemakers began adopting the same approach and so there developed a Bot River subculture of bearded winemakers around harvest time. As was bound to happen, the testosterone kicked in, and at one of the town meetings Niels suggested the men have a beard-growing competition.
The first vote for the best beard happened over a couple of beers at The Shuntin Shed. Then last year it got organised with ticket proceeds going to the Botrivier Education Foundation. Now it’s even more official; the contestants must prove they were clean-shaven on 1 February with a photograph of their smooth chins alongside the front page of a Daily bearing that date.
The addition of the ‘Barrels’ fits into the first part of the evening, when each winemaker will be offer tastings of their new vintage straight from the barrel. This year it’s not only the longest growth that will be recognised but also the most imaginative trimming. Niels has been mulling over some designs and all will be revealed on Saturday night!
A very hairy Niels
Thank you House and Leisure for making Luddite Winery of the Month!
Luddite’s latest vintage ready for shipping
Niels and Penny Verburg have just released their 9th vintage: Luddite Shiraz 2008.
The Luddite trend of warmer vintages in the even-numbered years follows through in the 2008, which translates as a fuller style with rich, dark fruit – certainly a vintage for carnivores!
And it’s because Niels and Penny favour a dry-land approach (no irrigation) that the vagaries of each harvest reflect so clearly in the Luddite vintages.
It’s also the last vintage to be made in a rented cellar space. In other words, the last time Niels had to drive up the long Highlands road to do punch downs in the middle of the night!
Here are full tasting notes from Niels.
Harvest 2009: Niels briefs his volunteers on the stoep before issuing crates and clippers
Friends of Luddite each assigned a row of Shiraz grapes for picking
It’s that time of year again and Niels says it looks like he could be picking next week. He signals the start of harvest by shaving his head and it can’t come soon enough for Penny: ‘Niels looks like a caveman with all that hair!’
Niels loses his hair and puts on his festive spirit; he sees harvest as a celebration of the last 12 months of hard work. So when the grapes allow he invites friends and family to join in plucking berries from vines, offering a breakfast of bubbly and bacon butties (made with Penny’s bacon) and keeping up morale with icy lagers and lines like, ‘It takes a lot of beer to make good wine!’
‘I’m always surprised when I hear winemakers talk about harvest being so tough and hard and that they got home so late,’ explains Niels, ‘If you’re not having fun doing harvest then you’re in the wrong game!’ Of course once the grapes come in, Niels is in the zone nurturing them into bottle with as little interference as possible.
’2013 has the potential to be a humdinger,’ says Niels, ‘The grapes benefited from having a proper Cape Winter in 2012 and the vines are looking very healthy, the best they have ever looked. It’s about making it count in a year when you’ve been given great quality fruit – it adds to the pressure but also to the excitement.’
Mark holds high the NoBull trophy - a copper-plated spittoon
The Luddites started the year with their annual Bring-and-Braai Boules day on 2 January. The winners – each the lucky recipient of a bottle of Luddite Shiraz - were Sue Stuart, Mark Howell and Karyn Formby, who as a team also scooped the trophy for the NoBull Prize. It was a great day that concluded in the traditional manner (on the foofy slide) but now it’s back to the grindstone as the Luddites gear up for harvest 2013!
Niels outsourced his braai duties and instead chose to relax with a glass of his Shiraz
Thank you to all the friends of Luddite for your loyal support this year. We wish you all a super festive season and a happy New Year and look forward to seeing you on the flip side! Love Penny and Niels
(Picture courtesy of Platter’s 2013)
There’s still a way to go before the Luddites break for the holidays – the team is working furiously to bottle and label all the Luddite Shiraz 2008 for release early next year. Niels is also working on a little surprise he has up his sleeve for January but more about that in 2013…
Penny’s happy pigs got a mention in the launch issue of House & Garden Gourmet – see No. 10 below!
Luddite's spit-roast suckling pig
Yesterday was the official launch of Cellarmasters in the Kitchen and when Wendy Toerien visited Luddite gathering recipes for this CWG cookbook, Penny and Niels decided to honour the occasion by roasting a suckling pig. ‘What Niels hadn’t considered,’ explained Penny, ‘is that we didn’t quite think through the size of the spit versus the size of the pig, so it became pig on a spit with a semi-detached nose!’ For the full recipe (with nose intact) see Cellarmasters in the Kitchen, available at leading bookstores.