Occupying an idyllic position at the foot of Simonsberg mountain in the scenic Stellenbosch wine region, the 880-hectare Rustenberg estate dates back to 1682 and is a National Heritage Site. A 90 minute drive from the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, Rustenberg is well known for its excellent wines, which embody the unique terroir of the area. Ahead of the Food and Wine Pairing with Rustenberg at The Twelve Apostles’ Azure Restaurant, the estate’s winemaker, Randolph Christians, tells us why Rustenberg is so well-placed for wine production as well as his personal favourite bottle.
How does your National Heritage status influence your winemaking?
“Our National Heritage status is tied to the buildings, grounds, gardens and vineyards of the estate. Making wine in such a historic and beautiful setting with so many that have come before us is both humbling and challenging. Humbling to know that the cellar and vineyards have produced some of South Africa’s iconic wines, and challenging to keep these standards high. We are also innovating and respectfully modernising our styles as we move into the future.”
Can you describe a typical day for you on the estate?
“I oversee the winery operations and team. Our lives revolve around the harvest/ vintage, the progression of grapes to wine and finally onto a product that is of a high enough quality to bottle. During the vintage season we are closely tied to the vineyards and the wait for perfect ripeness before we can process and ferment the fruit. After vintage, each product we make has a different timeline, from the early bottling of our Sauvignon Blanc to the extensive barrel-aging of our reds. On any one day, we could be bottling, blending or racking wine but always focusing on ultimate hygiene and quality.”<
What is it about Simonsberg that makes its terroir so unique?
“There are a number of notable factors that make the terroir special. This first has be its proximity to the ocean. Most of our vineyards have a direct line of sight with False Bay. In summer, this means cool breezes during the day that allow our vines to stay out of stress in the warm months. The ocean also ensures we don’t have massive drops in overnight temperatures and therefore we avoid hail and frost. Secondly the soil is incredible. Our soils are rich and full of trace elements which tends to make our white wines full-bodied and our reds powerful and tannic, perfect for aging. Lastly we have the Simonsberg itself. The mountain’s foothills mean that our vineyards are on different aspects and at different altitudes and we have a large diversity of sites to suit the 12 cultivars we produce.”
Why did you choose to stage a food and wine pairing at The Twelve Apostles?
“The Twelve Apostles is a true icon in Cape Town. We were honoured to be invited to present a dinner paired with our wines.”
What can diners expect from the evening?
“We have chosen a selection of wines to pair with Azure’s cuisine. Diners can expect to hear about the estate’s history and our winemaking philosophy while enjoying some of Rustenberg’s signature wines alongside small single vineyard productions that are made in limited quantities.”
If you had to pick just one Rustenberg wine as your favourite, which would you choose?
“It would have to be the John X Merriman Bordeaux-style blend, which is named in honour of a previous owner of the estate and famous politician who had the foresight to replant the estate after the phylloxera epidemic destroyed our vineyards in the late 1800s. This is only ever blended from estate fruit and each year the blend will change to represent the blend that we think illustrates the strongest varietals combination of the vintage. I love this wine because it is difficult to put a blend of this size together but the reward is a wine that truly reflects the vintage characteristics of a particular year and Rustenberg’s terroir.”
The Food and Wine Pairing with Rustenberg takes place on 26th October 2018 at Azure Restaurant at The Twelve Apostles.
Image credits: Azure restaurant terrace at sunset © Red Carnation Hotels. All other images © Rustenberg Wines.