Scions of Sinai

Bredell and the Helderberg are as synonymous a wine family and area as they come. Bernhard Bredell represents the seventh generation of wine farmers in the area; many grapes come from his late grandfather’s vineyards, also from cousin, Peter Bredell on Rusthof close by on the Helderberg.

Bernhard Bredell

Wishing this particular area on the Helderberg receives better recognition than the usual reference to Firgrove or Faure, Bernhard introduced Sinai hill, a granite rise at the lower part of the Helderberg and close to False Bay, into his brand name. Scion has a dual meaning, both relevant; one being the top and bearing part of the vine grafted on to the rootstock; the other a descendant, which ties into his story. One he related at a tasting to launch his latest releases earlier this week.

Production might remain small, his crush is around 35 tons, limited by cellar space, but each of the wines is worth hunting down, such is their individual character, precision and unmanipulated feel. The latest releases are all from 2021, which again is showing wonderful balance and purity.

Much of the fruit comes from the granite soils around the Sinai hill, but Voor Paardeberg supplied grenache and roussanne to go with Helderberg 1972-planted chenin bush vines are equally blended in the new Rocinante. An overnight on skins for the destemmed grapes, spontaneous fermentation (as in the entire range) and ageing in 400 litre older oak results in this aromatically rich and broad blend with its earthy, waxy tones and multi-layered texture. Underlying acid and freshening grip ensure there’s no sense of heaviness. Very, very moreish! Not at all what the name suggests, as fans of Don Quixote will attest. Sadly, there’s very, very little. Sadly, very, very little.

Bernhard is now giving a lot of focus to single vineyards, as in his Gramadoelas Grenache Blanc, Granietsteen Chenin Blanc, Heldervallei Cinsaut, Feniks Pinotage and Swanesang Syrah.

Gramadoelas Grenache Blanc comes from a schist vineyard near Meiringspoort in the Klein Karoo. It’s full of energy, tension and zesty lime, fresh hay features, complemented by just 11.5% alcohol.

Bernhard puts great store by having a hand in the farming, which he does with the Meiringspoort and Voor Paardeberg vineyards.

Scions of Sinai range

Planted on the Helderberg in 1978, Granietsteen Chenin Blanc is fermented in large concrete eggs and aged a further nine months on lees. Aromatically quite introvert to begin with, a sprightly, lightish body is then revealed, powering through to the briskly dry,, tuck-of-tannin tail. Texture is the main story with flavour rather than overt fruit.

One wine that needs and will benefit from time is Heldervallei Cinsaut. Think tannin, compact core and a saline edge for extra puckering. Yet Bernhard treated the juice with kid gloves. Some whole bunches were placed on top of destemmed berries and submerged over the two-week fermentation; a daily run over of juice kept things healthy and moving.  A gentle squeeze through a basket press and a spell in old 400 litre oak produces this punchy wine. Time promises to release the full spiced blueberry concentration. It is very good but I’m sure most will prefer Feniks Pinotage, a name which reflects his cousin’s threat to chop out the 46-year-old vines every year; thankfully, Bernhard ensures this doesn’t happen. Bright and eye-catching purple ruby, an entrancing pinot-like perfume, sweet fruit and freshness (some carbonic maceration helps) with pinotage announced in the clip of edgy tannins, Feniks pretty much says ‘drink me now’.

Swanesang Syrah commemorates the last vineyard Bernhard’s grandfather planted in the late 1990s, just .7ha of close-planted (treinspoor = train track) bush vines, producing an aromatic, pure, fresh syrah with red fruit, black pepper and fine, gentle grip. Cooler-climate syrah lovers, this is for you.

There is always a time to enjoy what I call a country-style red, one that’s unpretentious and unrestrained in its fruit and freshness. Nomadis Cinsaut-Pinotage well fits that description. The fruit is brightened thanks to half the cinsaut undergoing some carbonic maceration, concentration deriving from these old vines, planted at the bottom of Sinai hill in mid-1970s.

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