I attended an online wine tasting with Dirk van Zyl about his first vintages at Saxenburg Wine Estate. In the Polkadraai Hills in the Stellenbosch Wine Appellation. Perched on a promontory overlooking False Bay and to the West Table Bay, the Estate is affected by maritime conditions. Dirk told me once that the decomposed granite on Saxenburg produced softer wines than those of the Helderberg.
Coming from 4 generations of winemaking and farming Dirk learned hands-on from a young age about the delicate process of winemaking and fine balance of viticulture to ensure the best crops vintage upon vintage.
Dirk graduated Cum Laude with B.Sc.Agriculture, Viticulture and Oenology degree from Stellenbosch University and has previously formed part of the winemaking teams at the award-winning estates of De Morgenzon and Kleine Zalze in Stellenbosch, South Africa and Cellar 433 in Arizona, USA.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to experiment, which in some sense gives me poetic license in interpreting the wonderfully diverse Saxenburg terroir. This leads to making some interesting wines every year – not all of them will end up being bottled, but if we feel something is unique enough, we will share it. This includes my ‘Winemaker’s Blend’ and Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon Blend.
In my time at Kleine Zalze and De Morgenzon I was exposed to various techniques and winemaking philosophies. My approach takes from both of these experiences and fundamentally boils down to making wines that are balanced, nuanced and have a true sense of place.
As a winemaker, I believe that wine has, more than any other drink, the ability to imbue its consumer with pleasure by a full exploration of sight, smell, taste, touch and to tell a story – one that has personality and a sense of place. A journey that I am proud to play a sensory part.”
The perfect ripening conditions leading up to the 2020 harvest ensured a healthy crop with fantastic natural acidity. All the blocks and sections of blocks were picked and fermented separately – this gave Dirk a variety of different components to work with when putting the final blend together. Aromas of gooseberry, garden peas, kiwi and wet quartz make for a lovely mix of both green and tropical flavours. The palate is wonderfully textured, with a well-balanced and lingering acidity.
Dirk’s wine making philosophies are to allow for your terroir and fruit show through. Most of the important work is done in the vineyards – get that right and the need for intervention in the cellar is less. Do as little as possible, but as much as is needed. Mouthfeel, texture and balance are crucial. With balance the most important aspect of all.
Read more about Saxenburg Wine Estate & its wine & hospitality offerings – CLICK HERE