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South Africa’s Western Cape can be called both the oldest wine region of the New World and the newest wine region of the Old World. Capensis skillfully combines these two facets — the oldest and the newest — of Western Cape winemaking. It embodies the unparalleled quality that comes from old, gnarled vines planted in some of the oldest soils in the world, and it represents the young energy of a new generation of winemakers determined to make world-class wines with state-of-the-art techniques.
Capensis, meaning “from the Cape,” is a leader in bringing South Africa to the forefront as a world-class Chardonnay producer. The commitment to Chardonnay comes from the belief that the truly great vineyard sites around the world are revealed by only a few noble grape varieties.
South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope has long been known as ideal for grape growing. This winemaking history dates back more than three centuries, to the 1600s, when the vineyards supplied wine to Dutch East India Company ships en route to India. In the 1700s and early 1800s, South Africa was known for its Muscat-based Constantia dessert wines, which were coveted throughout Europe. Then came the late 1800s, when the root louse phylloxera obliterated South Africa’s vineyards, as it did vineyards elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately, the sites often were replanted with high-production, low-quality grape varieties.
With the end of apartheid in 1994 and the opening of the world export market, South Africa’s remarkable wine-growing potential slowly became better known outside the country. To realize this potential, viticulturists began researching and selecting the best grape varieties for each site’s soils and mesoclimate. In the search for the best Chardonnay sites, the focus of Capensis has been on the Stellenbosch, Overberg, and Robertson regions in the Western Cape. Philosophically, Capensis is not limited to these regions—the only limitation is the quality of the individual vineyard site.
The versatile Marula Tree has had many uses over thousands of years: the fruits and nuts as food, the wood for carving, the bark as dye. These deciduous trees are either male or female. The Venda people believed that if a woman consumed an infusion of bark from a male tree, she would give birth to a boy, and if an infusion from a female tree, a girl.
The configuration of the Zulu shield was chosen for the shape of the Capensis label because the shield represents the strength and nobility of South Africa’s historic Zulu and remains an important symbol to this day.
For the 2013 vintage, 55 percent was fermented in new French oak, with the balance in stainless steel. All the wine is aged on the lees and is hand-stirred monthly throughout 12 months of aging to soften the texture. Winemaker Graham Weerts is
The percentage of Capensis Chardonnay that completes malolactic fermentation depends on the vintage and vineyard characteristics, with the average being 30 to 50 percent for the finished wine. Partial malolactic fermentation adds complexity and rounds some acids. However, these vineyards have such ripe acidity — without tart, green apple character — that the wines are naturally balanced regardless of the level. Gentle fining is used for most lots.
Western Cape, South Africa
55% of blend aged in 100% new French oak for 12 months
White peach, red apple, bosch pear, limestone & granite dust
Tree fruits, firm acidity, hints of vanilla, spice & subtle minerality
Capensis wines are offered in 3-bottle sets,
with limited availability, at $80.00 per bottle.
Limit two 3-bottle sets per order.
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The Capensis estate vineyard, Fijnbosch, was named after the Dutch settlers’ term for the natural vegetation in the area—meaning “fine bush” or “fine woods.” The nearly 20 acres of Chardonnay are planted in clay soils on the high-elevation, steep terrain of the Groot Drakenstein mountains in the Banghoek Valley.
In the late 1980s, when certified Chardonnay clones become available in South Africa, the high-elevation Fijnbosch Vineyard was established in Stellenbosch. The granitic and sandstone soils offer good drainage for deep rooting, yet the clay content is high enough to provide water retention. Cool-favoring varieties, like Chardonnay, develop best when planted on sites at high elevations and in close proximity to the ocean. The Jackson family acquired the property in December 2014, after being extremely pleased with its contribution to the first two vintages of Capensis, 2013 and 2014.
The Fijnbosch Vineyard fruit brings refinement, structure and acidity to Capensis and lends pronounced citrus notes. This is the heart and soul of the wine, making up about half of the blend. This vineyard, which has very little irrigation, ripens from the mid- to late season.
1,729 feet / 527 meters
12 to 15 years
Spur pruned and vertical shoot positioning
Kaaimansgat, meaning “crocodile’s lair,” is the oldest, most isolated, and highest-elevation vineyard site in the Capensis blend. The erosion around the vines has revealed that many grow on their own rootstock, rather than having been grafted. Because this dry-farmed vineyard is exposed to extreme weather, even snow, the vines bud out late in the spring and are the last to be harvested, just before the rains.
The small crop, which struggles to ripen before winter sets in, gives intense minerality, purity of focus, and fine-textured length to the finish of Capensis Chardonnay.
kaya· MANS· got
2,484 feet / 757 meters
Sprawl system, spur pruned
Rooted in blistered limestone soil, the 16 rows of vines in the E. Bruwer vineyard produce grapes that contribute rich texture to Capensis Chardonnay, as well as abundant notes of peach and other orchard fruits.
Because the site is warmer than either Kaaimansgat or Fijnbosch, this vineyard is the first of the three to achieve maturity. The vines are trained in a method typically referred to as single cordon sprawl, which suits the site, and are primarily budded to Clone 95.
ee· BREW· er
571 feet / 174 meters
Limestone (very rare in South Africa)
Sprawl system, spur pruned
“It’s spiritual to come back to the place of one’s birth. South Africa is in the blood and marrow of my soul. I am drawn back to the Western Cape by the strong motivation to put my birthplace on the forefront of the world of wine. I believe in the potential of South Africa.”
Graham Weerts is a Cape Town native, where he spent his childhood and the early part of his winemaking career. It was almost inevitable that Graham would pursue winemaking. It’s a career that draws upon his agricultural heritage and his love of the outdoors, while also offering creative outlets and an intellectual challenge. To him, no other product that humans make offers the complexities and artistic value of wine. It unites people of all cultures. As Graham likes to say, “few wars were started over a great bottle of wine.”
Graham began his career working harvests in South Africa, later moving from the vineyards into the winery as a cellar hand. His stint as a cellar rat secured him the post of assistant winemaker at Mulderbosch Vineyards, where he assisted with the production of their iconic Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Graham then spent a season working for Chateau de Terrefort-Quancard in Bordeaux. In that time, he earned his degree in viticulture, wine science and pomology from the Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch in 1996.
In 1999, Graham found himself in California’s Sonoma County, working harvest at Vérité. After that season, he returned to South Africa where he worked as a winemaker for a few smaller wineries before joining Bellingham Winery. By 2004, he made his way back to California to become winemaker for Stonestreet in Alexander Valley. In 2014, Lisa Valtenbergs took over winemaking at Stonestreet. Graham now oversees winemaking operations for several wineries within the Jackson Family Wines portfolio, including Arrowood, Stonestreet, Freemark Abbey and Matanzas Creek.
Capensis represents a return to Graham’s South African roots.
“Kruger is a preservationist at heart, saving old patches of Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Cinsault, Palomino, Muscat and Clairette Blanche for the good of the industry, but she’s also involved in planting new vineyards too, such as the one at Porseleinberg. She has been crucial in encouraging a back to the land philosophy in South Africa. ‘We are at the gates of a new viticultural era in the Cape,’ she says. ‘It’s very exciting.’ ” — Tim Aktin, MW, South Africa Report, 2013
Vineyard Manager Rosa Kruger was born in South Africa and first began working in the vineyards on an Elgin farm in 1997. Her early work also included the vineyards of Uva Mira and Cape Point. Four years ago Kruger established her vineyard management firm and currently works with a small handful of producers with vineyards located throughout the Western Cape, from Barrydale to Piketberg and from the Swartland to Stellenbosch. Kruger has purchased fruit from the Fijnbosch Vineyard for the past ten years and works hand-inhand with Capensis winemaker Graham Weerts.
Kruger is actively involved in the training of farm workers to preserve the knowledge of the old generation and ensure it is passed on to the new generation. She relishes the challenge of finding the perfect planting sites and matching them with the most suitable cultivars, so expressing the diverse landscape of South Africa. Having visited some of the most historical vineyards in the world, Kruger believes that the culture, heritage, and history of a country shape the viticultural landscape and ultimately the character of the wines. She makes her home in Riebeek-Kasteel in Swartland.
Capensis is a joint venture between two longtime friends, Antony Beck and Barbara Banke.
Antony serves as Director of Graham Beck Wines, founded by his father in 1983. In 2006 Beck and his wife, Angela, established Angela Estate in Willamette Valley, Oregon, which includes two estate vineyards, Angela Estate and Abbott Claim, and is focused on Pinot Noir.
Chairman and proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, Barbara has spent the last two decades leading the company she co-founded with her late husband of 25 years, wine visionary Jess Jackson. Barbara takes a passionate hands-on role in the development and promotion of the Jackson Family Wine estates, as well as new projects and vineyard acquisitions.
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Last Updated March 2015
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