‘His manner is so relaxed he might as well be lying down,’ writes Neal Martin, describing Adi after his recent visit to Kalmoesfontein – the home of AA Badenhorst Family Wines. But don’t be fooled by Adi’s playful and coy demeanour. After a decade of farming 41 hectares of old vines, with the oldest planted in 1952, his tiny-production 2017 single vineyards are simply incredible.
How does he decide which vineyards to bottle separately? ‘These special parcels are rated 3 on the ‘golden tears’ scale,’ says Adi, referring to the tears these precious old vines make him and his team shed when entering the vineyard.
These 3 Chenin Blancs are full and textured and have a vivid freshness that will allow ageing. The reds are more deft and elegant and hold amazing precision and depth.
The Piet Bok Se Bos Steen (1,100 bottles) is named after the farmer who planted the vines in 1968 and used to make its way into the Secateurs. It is a pure and powerful Swartland Chenin with all the trimmings. The Golden Slopes Chenin Blanc comes from yellow granite soils, at a slightly higher elevation, and offers a fine acidity and fragrance. The Klip Kop Steen (just 460 bottles) is from low-vigour vines planted on shallow granite soils, giving it a more structured and stony finish.
The Ramnasgras Cinsault is from a special vineyard planted in 1964 and is one of the finest Cinsaults we have tasted. Delivering unbelievable purity and elegance, Neal Martin reckons it’s ‘very Burgundy-like’. Finally, the Geelkapel, Adi’s single-vineyard Muscat de Frontignan, which is fermented on the skins for 10 days and is his special take on a Vin Jaune.
Along with the incredible Sk’windjiesvlei Tinta Barocca and Raaigras Grenache, which were unveiled earlier this year at Young Guns™ – At Heart, Adi’s set of 2017s are some of the finest wines the Swartland can offer.
AA Badenhorst, Ramnasgras Cinsault 2017
Adi Badenhorst has been at the forefront of the Cinsault revival in South Africa. This brilliant example comes from a 1966 vineyard on his home farm. Picked early to preserve acidity and fermented with 70% whole bunches, it’s succulent and fine, with Pinot Noir-like grace. Drink: 2019-2025. – Tim Atkin MW, 94/100
AA Badenhorst, Klip Kop Steen 2017
A first release from the so-called ‘Stone Hill’, this is a stunning 2017 Chenin (and it’s not alone), this old vine white is unfined and unfiltered, with a hint of fruit sweetness, a creamy mid palate, stony intensity and remarkable palate length. Drink: 2019-2028. – Tim Atkin MW, 95/100
AA Badenhorst, Piet Bok Se Bos Steen 2017
One of a trio of brilliant Chenins from Adi Badenhorst, this comes from deeper, more vigorous soils than the other two. It’s quite a lean, tight, focused style with notes of white flowers and tangerine and piercing acidity and length. Drink: 2019-2027. – Tim Atkin MW, 94/100
AA Badenhorst, The Golden Slopes Chenin Blanc 2017
As it was in 2016, this is one of my wines of the year, sourced from yellow granite soils (hence the name) at the top of the farm. Bottled late, it’s a gorgeous wine with a combination of perfume, focus and density, showing leesy richness and thrilling, vibrant acidity. Drink: 2020-2028. – Tim Atkin MW, 95/100
AA Badenhorst, Geelkapel Muscat de Frontignan 2017
Adi Badenhorst says this comes from what he reckons is the oldest Muscat block in the Swartland, planted in 1982. The result spends a week on skins, but isn’t overly bitter or tannic. Perfumed and yeasty, it has subtle marmalade notes and supporting freshness and acidity. Drink: 2019-2025. – Tim Atkin MW, 93/100