Raats Family Wines, Stellenbosch
South Africa revisited part 10

Website: www.raats.co.za 

Bruwer (pronounced 'Bru – ver') Raats (above) started Raats family wines in 2000. He'd studied Viticulture and Enology at Elsenberg, before setting off round the world to get experience. His travels, from 1995–99 took him to Bordeaux, Napa, the Rheingau and Tuscany. Then he came back to South Africa to make wine.

'I realised that what we lacked in South Africa was specialization,' says Bruwer. 'Lots of New World producers are trying to be everything to everyone. Everything is good, but nothing is exceptional. Our industry needs people who can specialize.'

He chose to specialize in Chenin Blanc. 'We have half the world's plantings, and we have old vineyards,' he argued. No new world country has yet championed Chenin. 'We had a unique opportunity to say “this is what Chenin Blanc tastes like”', he explains.

Bruwer fermented Chenin Blanc from different soil types as individual batches, and decided that Chenin excelled on two soil types. The first is sandstone. This yields white fruit, yellow fruit and viscosity, but because of the high potassium content of these soils acidity can be quite low, and alcohol is often higher. The second is decomposed granite, which has high dolomite and quartz content, making it brittle. This yields Chenin with citrus, lime and good acidity.

The combination of these two soil types yields complete examples of Chenin. There is a third soil type that Chenin is widely planted on – shale. This gives more perfumed, floral examples, but Bruwer doesn't use it much.

Bruwer specializes in just one red variety: Cabernet Franc. Why? 'Very simple: Cabernet Franc has spice, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, coriander, red cherry fruit and silky, velvety tannins.'

‘I never want to make blockbuster styles,' he says. 'I want to make wines that reflect the soil types and varieties. Freshness is the key.'

As well as his own wines, Bruwer also makes a wine called Mvemve Raats de Compostella, a collaborative venture with Mzokhona Mvemve that began with the 2004 vintage. Just one wine is made each year: a Bordeaux blend. The composition changes, because they both taste through barrels and only those that score 90 plus when tasted blind make it to the final blend.  


Raats Original Chenin Blanc 2009
This is made from rented vineyards, and has grapes from sandstone and granite soils. Fresh, open nose showing citrus and white peach focus. Very fruity. The palate is bold, rich and rounded with citrus freshness and white peach and pear fruit. An overtly fruity style. 90/100

Raats Family Chenin Blanc 2009
Bruwer says that one block is always the best for this, and it has a rare combination of sandstone underlaid by decomposed dolomite granite 0.9 m down. He also has two more vineyards over 50 years old with this natural combination of sandstone and granite. This wine has a wonderfully complex minerally nose with some spice, fennel and white peach notes. The palate is bold and softly textured with mineral notes under the bright fruit. 20% oak, of which only a small portion is new. Very long with real intensity. 92/100

Raats Cabernet Franc 2008
Nicely taut, dense nose with some savoury, gravelly notes and hints of chalk, toegether with dark cherry and plum fruit. The palate is gravelly and dark with fresh cherry and plum fruit and a bit of tannic bite. Fresh, mineralic and reasonably elegant with real interest. 92/100

Mvemve Raats de Compostella 2007
This is the fourth vintage. Lovely, open sweet gravelly nose with lush, dense blackberry, plum and cherry fruit. The palate is ripe but fresh with well defined dark cherry fruit, nice minerality and a savoury finish. Pure and well defined. 93/100

Part 1, Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards
Part 2, Cape Point Vineyards
Part 3, AA Badenhorst Family Wines
Part 4, Eben Sadie: Sadie Family Wines and Sequillo Cellars
Part 5, Paul Kretzel of Lammershoek
Part 6, Mullineux Family Wines
Part 7, Vondeling
Part 8, Scali
Part 9, Sterhuis
Part 10, Raats
Part 11, Migliarina
Part 12, Charles Back and Fairview
Part 13, Hermit on the Hill
Part 14, Klein Constantia
Part 15, Iona, Elgin
Part 16, Paul Cluver, Elgin
Part 17, Eagles' Nest, Constantia
Part 18, Anthonij Rupert
Part 19, Oak Valley, Elgin
Part 20, Shannon, Elgin

Wines tasted 10/10  
Find these wines with

Back to top