Black Elephant Vintners
Visiting the Franschhoek wine valley, South Africa, part 2


Kevin Swart with his parrot

This is an interesting new project in Franschhoek, that's a partnership between Kevin Swart, who came to wine after a career in finance, and winemaker Jacques Wentzel. ‘We have been here for just over three years,’ says Kevin. ‘We fell into the wine industry by accident. We were ardent drinkers but we didn’t know too much about it.’

'I think we started the business the wrong way round,' he continues. 'We made wine, labelled it and started selling it to friends. We then established a wine company. We only make what we like and drink.'


Black Elephant was formed by a merger of Kevin's wine farm, La Petite Vigne, and Amistad, a wine company that Jacques had been involved with. The current portfolio consists of a horizontal range of wines, each its own separate brand, and not obviously connected. It's an interesting strategy that seems to be working for them.

Jacques Wentzel

‘Our thing is Wine of Origin Franschhoek’, says Kevin. But he’s supportive of those wineries based in the valley who also make wine with out of valley grapes. ‘I think we should still celebrate the fruit of Franschhoek as being quite special. But this doesn’t mean that the guys operating here bringing grapes in aren’t doing great stuff, adding value to the valley.’


Black Elephant have just started making MCC, the Cape sparkling wine. ‘MCC is becoming quite a force in this valley,’ says Kevin. ‘It is a dark horse in this valley that we are not pushing enough.’



Black Elephant MCC NV Franschhoek, South Africa
This is NV, but it's actually all from 2012 and is the debut for this wine. It's Pinot and Chardonnay cofermented. Fresh, fine and bright with subtle toast notes. Nice pear and citrus fruit with some brightness, and a hint of apple. 89/100

Two Dogs, a Peacock and a Horse Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Franschhoek, South Africa
Has 5% barrel-fermented Semillon. Jacques likes his juice to be clear, and this is the only wine that is inoculated. Very attractive, fresh and fruity style with some grapefruit and lemon. Pure, subtle and deliciously focused. 90/100

Timothy White 2014 Franschhoek, South Africa
58% Sauvignon, 33% Semillon, 9% Viognier. Textured and pure with lovely pear and white peach notes. Precise and fruity. Quite stylish. 89/100

Nicholas Red 2013 Franschhoek, South Africa
88% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre. Ripe, sweet and fresh with nice blackberry and black cherry fruit. Silky edge to the fruit with hints of tar and pepper. 88/100

La Petite Vigne Deep Red Rosé 2014 Franschhoek, South Africa
This is from a preliminary harvest of red grapes, which are left on skins overnight and then fermented in old barrels. The idea is to produce a deeper coloured rosé that's another category of wine. Lovely herbal green edge to the sweet blackcurrant fruit. Distinctive wine with sweet berry and cherry fruit framed by greenness. 89/100

Barrel sample of 2015 Semillon from Basil Landau's vineyard planted in 1905: this is the first year that they have made this wine, and it's two 500 litre barrels. Fine and expressive with lovely focused citrus and pith notes. Lovely struck match edge to the rich, textured fruit. A bit lemony with lovely pear and white peach fruit, and a soft texture. 92-94/100

Amistad Syrah 2012 Franschhoek, South Africa
10-15% whole bunch. Fresh and vivid with nice black cherry, plum and spice notes. Lovely liqourice and herb edge to the berry and black fruits, with grippy structure. Stylish. 91/100

Back Roads Pinotage 2012 Wellington, South Africa
The Back Roads label is used for small batch or experimental wines. This shows sweet, aromatic black cherry, plum and spice with a bit of herbiness. The palate is sweet with nice freshness. Berryish and bright with hints of tar, pepper and lavender. 90/100

Back Roads Petite Sirah 2013 Franschhoek, South Africa
Dense, sweet and vivid with good acidity and raspberry and blackberry fruit. Warm herbal notes, too. 90/100

Back Roads Malbec 2012 Franschhoek, South Africa
Exotic, lively, minty eucalypt nose. A bit medicinal. Youthful, vivid, fresh and lively with a minty edge. 87/100

La Petite Vigne Amazing Grace 2012 Franschhoek, South Africa
Fresh, vivid, juicy blackcurrant fruit nose with a slightly tarry blackcurrant bud edge. The palate is fresh with juiciness and nice structure. A fine, expressive, well balanced wine. 93/100

La Petite Vigne Amazing Grace 2013 Franschhoek, South Africa
Sweetly aromatic, rounded and fruity with generous sweet black fruits on the palate. Lighter in style than the 2012 with a hint of pepper. Supple. 90/100

Black Elephant Vintners
Landau du Val
La Bri
La Petite Ferme
Appellation Grand Prestige
Haut Espoir

See also:

The Hemel-en-Arde wine route (series)
Stellenbosch revisited (series)

Wines tasted 04/15  
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