Perhaps its Adi’s success with Secateurs, his Caperitif endeavours or just the tiny volumes, but somehow the AA Badenhorst single-vineyards are often overlooked. ‘The top wines translate Swartland through Adi’s fuzzy logic and irresistible charm,’ writes Neal Martin after a recent visit. Adi’s 2018 releases are just as thrilling as his iconic neighbour’s.
Over the last decade, 41 hectares of old vines on Kalmoesfontein, the oldest planted back in 1952, have been farmed back to glory. His revolutionary custodianship of this special Paardeberg terroir has not only lead to a new level of quality, but also bled into neighbouring farms. These 2018 bottlings capture the very essence of each vineyard in dramatic fashion. ‘No make-up, all vineyard,’ says Julia Harding MW on the 2018 Ramnasgras.
The drought seriously impeded yields in 2018 and some vineyards produced just 500 bottles. Allocations are down, but the quality is up. Order quickly or attend our upcoming tasting with Adi on 9 October in Cape Town.
There are FIVE incredible old-vine Chenins. The Klip Kop is from a very rocky ‘haut granitika’ site and shows haunting structure. The Kelder, from deeper soils, is made in a more pretty style with beautiful acidity. The Piet Bok Se Bos, from a cooler vineyard on the farm, is also on the steely side. The Golden Slopes was planted in 1968 on granite and clay and offers rich, flamboyant styling. The high-lying Dassiekop vineyard was planted in 1964 and is the most powerful and opulent of the set.
Along with the fragrant, but concentrated Ramnasgras Cinsault, Tim Atkin describes the Ringmuur Cinsault as ‘delicate, ethereal and graceful’, saying, ‘it’s one of the best Cinsaults I’ve ever tasted.’ The Sk’windjiesvlei Tinta Barocca is once again my favourite red of the line-up. It combines bright, succulent and savoury fragrance with tremendous purity and power, fine acidity and superb concentration of fruit over serious tannins. It is a totally incredible wine!
There are tiny volumes of the Sout Van Die Aarde Palomino which Tim Atkin says, ‘wouldn’t look out of place among the best Listán Blancos from Tenerife.’ And finally, Adi has also produced a more cheerful Bokveld Pinot Noir from high-altitude Ceres vineyards.
All the 2018 single-vineyard releases are limited to 3 bottles per person, except for the Ramnasgras, while the Sout van die Aarde and Ringmuur are limited to 1 bottle per person.
AA Badenhorst, Klip Klop Steen 2018
It’s an invidious choice, but this is my pick of the array of superb Badenhorst Chenins in 2018. Sourced from a very rocky “haut granitika” site, as it says on the label, this is a world class white. Stony, pithy, chiselled and complex, it’s appley and saline, with the faintest hint of wood and a finish that lingers hauntingly on the tongue. 2020-30. (14.5%) – Tim Atkin MW, 96/100
AA Badenhorst, Kelder Steen 2018
Kelder used to be a component in the Family White, but has now been elevated to single vineyard status. Planted in 1968 on decomposed granite, it’s a linear, crunchy, appley and boiled sweets flavoured Chenin Blanc with undertones of aniseed and nutmeg spice. 2019-26. (13.5%) – Tim Atkin MW, 92/100
AA Badenhorst, Dassiekop Steen 2018
Not made in 2017 because of the drought, Dassiekop hails from a high, rocky site on a neighbouring property planted in 1964. Foudre-aged with no skin contact, it’s a rich, broad, comparatively opulent style with higher alcohol than the other Badenhorst Chenins, baking spice, cream and apple tart flavours and a taut finish. 2020-26. (14.5%) – Tim Atkin MW, 94/100
AA Badenhorst, Piet Bok Se Bos Steen 2018
Piet Bok Se Bos comes from a cooler block on the farm (although everything is relative in the Swartland) and has the classic Badenhorst hallmarks of old wood, moderate alcohol and stony minerality. Taut, saline and very focused, it’s a deliciously refreshing Chenin Blanc. 2020-28. (13%) – Tim Atkin MW, 94/100
AA Badenhorst, The Golden Slopes Chenin Blanc 2018
The Golden Slopes is another superb Chenin from Adi Badenhorst and his team, grown on decomposed granite soils with a high percentage of clay. Planted in 1968, the site has delivered a wine with considerable grip and concentration, with some skin tannin notes and memorable palate length. 2021-30. (14%) – Tim Atkin MW, 94/100
AA Badenhorst, Ramnasgras Cinsault 2018
Located just inside the gate at the start of Adi Badenhorst’s farm on decomposed sand and granite soils, this firm, grippy Cinsault is fermented with 20% whole bunches and is structured, sappy and appealingly low in alcohol. A Cinsault for Grenache lovers. 2021-30. (12%) – Tim Atkin MW, 93/100
AA Badenhorst, Ringmuur Cinsault 2018
Lovers of fine Burgundy should rush to get hold of a few bottles of this wine, and not only because it comes from a walled vineyard, or clos, that looks like something in the Côte d’Or. Delicate, ethereal and graceful, it’s one of the best Cinsaults I’ve ever tasted, demonstrating remarkable finesse and understated old vine complexity. 2020-28. (12.5%) – Tim Atkin MW, 95/100
AA Badenhorst, Sk’windjiesvlei Tinta Barocca 2018
Easier to drink than it is to spell, let alone pronounce for a non-Afrikaans speaker, this Tinta Barocca is purchased as grapes from a neighbouring farm. Opaque, tannic and typically spicy, rich and brooding, it has flavours of damson, fig and liquorice and some added texture from 10% stems. 2022-30. (13.5%) – Tim Atkin MW, 93/100
AA Badenhorst, Sout van die Aarde Palomino 2018
The Palomino grapes from this coastal Swartland vineyard are always delivered with a little sand, but it’s the limestone bedrock that has a greater influence on the style of this incredible wine. Saline, focused and refreshing, with a finish that lasts for over a minute, it wouldn’t look out of place among the best Listán Blancos from Tenerife. 2020-30. (12%) – Tim Atkin MW, 95/100
AA Badenhorst, Bokveld Pinot Noir 2018
Pinot Noir isn’t the first grape you associate with Adi Badenhorst, but this comes from the cool Ceres Plateau rather than steamier Swartland. Now in its third vintage, it’s a fresh, tangy, crunchy style with 30% whole bunches and the focus on cherry and pomegranate fruit rather than oak. 2020-26. (12.5%) – Tim Atkin MW, 91/100