Boplaas Family Vineyards achieved a rare hattrick on Friday when its Port was named South African Champion at the SA Young Wine Show for the third consecutive year.
Presented this year for the 185th time, the competition is the oldest of its kind and gives winemakers the opportunity to showcase the best wines of the current vintage. A total of 1 783 wines were entered for the 2017 SA Young Wine Show.
“Wines are singled out by the judging panel for their potential prior to public release, which is why we’re very excited about the 2017 vintage of our Port having done well again,” says Boplaas owner Carel Nel. “Just as our other champions over the years, the 2015 and 2016 went on to win numerous awards in diverse competitions.”
Excluding the performance of its still wines, Boplaas has now been named SA Champion for Port no less than nine times and includes the very first Port it made in 1986. Achieving this consistency of excellence requires meticulous attention to detail.
“The making of a fine Port begins in the vineyard, which is why fruit quality is so important,” says Boplaas winemaker Margaux Nel. “During harvest, the grapes are deposited and pressed in traditional open tanks, or lagares as they’re known in Portugal, to ensure maximum extraction of flavour and colour. Then, after vinification, the wine is blended with fine brandy and matured in old Portuguese vats for 18 months.”
The process is never automatic or static. In fact, the Nel’s regularly visit Portugal to stay in touch with the latest innovations in the field.
Situated in the arid Klein Karoo town of Calitzdorp, the farm’s history dates back to 1880 when it was owned by Carel Nel’s great grandfather. Over the years, a variety of fruit has been grown on the property, but in 1980 the focus changed to wine once Carel had completed his BSc studies in winemaking.
It was a most fortuitous event too, because Carel is largely responsible for setting the farm on its path to becoming a star South African Port producer. The story goes that sometime during the 1970s, his father, Danie, visited the Swartland and returned home with his Chevrolet El Camino stuffed with new seedlings for a Pinotage and Shiraz vineyard. As the vines grew, their appearance piqued suspicion in Carel, who was still studying Oenology at the time. Turns out, the Shiraz was actually Tinta Barocca – a variety often used for Port. A trip to Portugal followed, as well as the wine’s first trophy at the SA Young Wine Show and the rest is history.
As a premier Port producer, it began collecting numerous awards from early one while a tradition for excellence extended to other varieties as well. For example, Boplaas was awarded the title as SA Champion Sauvignon Blanc for consecutive years of 2009 and 2010, at the SA Young Wine Show.
These days, Boplaas has set its sights on exploring the potential of the Portuguese varieties, traditionally used in its fortified wines, to produce fine table wines. To this end, it has planted Verdelho and re-established sites of Souzã, Tinta Barocca and Touriga Naçional, while all the while scouring the Cape for old vine sites to supplement its own fruit.