Spice Route are established in Swartland, north of Cape Town, then rather better known for its wheat than its wine. However, the producers saw advantageous the mixed clay-gravel laterite and deep, red, decomposed granite soils; in the hot, dry summers of the Cape these soils retain moisture well and remain cool. A surprising feature of this hot, arid region is the relatively cool nights, which help to slow the ripening process.
Charles Back was a pioneer in the Swartland when he started Spice Route in 1998. “Without [Charles]…the Swartland would still be regarded as a rural backwater” wrote Tim Atkin. Today, the region is the source of many of South Africa’s outstanding wines, yet Spice Route remains one of the best and most credible producers in the region, due largely to the fact that they own their own vineyards. Spice Route’s 100 hectares of vineyards are situated in Malmesbury and Darling. The former, all bush trained on Malmesbury shale and red clay subsoils (the clay ensures the vineyards are dry grown), give the Grenache and Mourvèdre the intensity of fruit that makes this region so exciting. Winemaker Charl du Plessis has been with Charles for 15 years, and knows the region intimately. The winemaking is ‘hands off’, as Charl is keen to capture the flavours and structure of the outstanding fruit he has grown.
36% Mourvèdre , 22% Syrah/Shiraz, 13% Carignano/Carignan, 11% Grenache/Garnacha , 9% Petite Sirah, 9% Tannat
The grapes were hand-harvested, destalked and lightly crushed, they were then fermented in open concrete fermenters (‘kuipe’). Manual punching down took place during fermentation. The wines were then racked off and sent to barrels for malolactic fermentation and further ageing. Each wine component for the blend was matured in seasoned French and American oak for 12 months before blending occurred.
Inevitably we suggest something spicy – a gentle chicken curry or even lamb would work; but nothing too fiery!
In the Press
Silver – International Wine Challenge 2019
Silver – Sommelier Wine Awards 2018