From berry to bottle and back to berry
This is a personal story, from our CEO, Allister Kreft, just outlining the biography of a few vintages at Belfield Farm. Farming is a humbling and noble trade, and this is an ode to all the farmers we work with, but in particular to the late Mike Kreft.
It has been a long road of learning and adapting to the deep loss of Mike Kreft at Belfield. One thing that couldn’t and wouldn’t stand still in this process was the moving of the seasons, and the natural rhythms of the vines on the farm. The same vines meticulously planted and matched to our unique soils and microclimate by Dad. As a family, lead with courage and determination by Mel, we have adapted and grown through it all.
We are very grateful to Kevin Watt for stepping in as our vineyard consultant to support Lawrence Lebenya (trained by my Dad since 2001) and his team. I have been extremely challenged but also really stimulated by this whole farming thing. We are conducting extensive work in all of the vineyards to farm more closely with nature, investing back into our soils and implementing a pruning regime that will enhance longevity and quality of our already well established vines. It really is a combination of managing people, processes and projects, and we are relishing the challenges.
Belfield no longer has a wine cellar (it is now an education studio for Under the Influence). Mel was instrumental in securing the sale of the cellar equipment, in order to reinvest in the vineyards and guest cottages on the farm. We have stopped making wine at the farm, and now just produce the Belfield Aristata, under the winemaking guidance and expertise of Joris at Almenkerk Winery. It has always been a favourite of our customers, and we are happy to keep a small production of this special wine, while finding new homes for our other grapes. We feel that this has enabled us to focus on doing what we think we do best. Growing great grapes! We are proud to share some accolades and news from where our carefully cared for grapes end up. Suffice to say, it is going to cost a bit more to enjoy “Belfield wines” now! Here we go:
Our Syrah mainly goes to Lismore, into the highly acclaimed Lismore Syrah which is a blend of Elgin and Greyton fruit. In addition, we are honoured that Sam chose to exclusively use our Syrah for her Cape Winemakers Guild release, the Lismore Sheltering Sky Syrah 2020, which fetched R2000 a bottle at auction and the following accolades:
96 points Greg Sherwood MW
95+ points Robert Parker
94 points Michael Fridjhon
94 points Tim Atkin MW
We are also extremely excited to be growing Syrah for Kosie van der Merwe of Nomad Wines, previously the winemaker at Organic producer Elgin Ridge (now owned by Radford Dale). Kosie and his family made the move to Germany and he is an acclaimed producer in the Mosel valley now, renowned for his organic techniques and special obsession with soil and compost! He has kept his South African roots and has found great success in his Nomad brand in the USA and UK markets.
It is so exciting to taste our grapes in these wines, made by such talented winemakers. Both winemakers use a lot of whole bunch and whole berry fermentation, Sam going as far as using 100% whole bunch! That differs a lot from the de-stemmed and cold maceration techniques we used at Belfield, so it is fascinating to compare and taste both examples using our library stock.
We are slightly bewildered at the fact that we are a primary grower of Merlot for 4G wines, one of the mythical and iconic wine producers in South Africa. Their red blends fetch the highest prices of any South African wines. We literally farm per vine for them, not per ton, and they assist us in the vineyard with a Swiss precision. Whilst we have learnt a lot from their meticulous methods, it is safe to say their rows don’t differ too much from those we grow for ourselves and others. Lawrence makes sure of that! The only major difference is that 4G lets their Merlot hang for longer, while reducing the bunches per vine to 4 only. It is often the last to be harvested at Belfield (including our Cabernet Sauvignon). This is before it goes to their cellar and sorting table, where each grape is individually examined and processed.
Here is a recent article about the most expensive wines in South Africa, featuring some grapes from our Merlot block, in the 4G ultra premium blend.
This was always my Dads favourite block and favourite wine. The Belfield Magnifica. How on earth could we carry on this legacy? Very fortunately in my day job, serendipitously, we conducted a Stellenbosch versus Bordeaux tasting at De Trafford winery for a client and friend. David Trafford joined us and we had a fantastic evening tasting the best of Stellenbosch (including De Trafford) against the best of Bordeaux (including Latour and Lafite). David and I got chatting and at that stage we had no idea what we were going to do at Belfield with winemaking, or anything! The tasting highlighted some of the elegance of Bordeaux reds, and cooler climate reds, and we spoke about the Magnifica having that elegant cooler climate fruit and tannin structure. One thing lead to another and David, the ever curious and adventurous winemaker of Sijnn fame, agreed to add a new wine to the De Trafford label, the De Trafford Belfield Cabernet Sauvignon. The first vintage (2020) has been released and we couldn’t be more excited. You will notice a small detail on his label, if you look carefully you will see the architectural plans of the farm house at Belfield. The small details are also happening in the vineyard. We are busy renewing the Cabernet block, ensuring that the 22 year old vines can live a lot longer, while at the same time taking out and replacing unhealthy vines. It is a labour of love, one vine and one bunch at a time, and we couldn’t be more grateful to work with a winemaker of David’s calibre and quiet commitment to quality.
It is safe to say that this grape has always been our hidden gem on the farm, nestled in the Syrah block, also farmed using the Smart Dyson trellis technique. We almost had a bidding war on the grape from a few winemakers, and eventually landed on a long term relationship with the incredible winemaking and farming team at Radford Dale. Jacques takes the Cabernet Franc from us, as the backbone of their elegant and pure Radford Dale Gravity blend. We are excited to be able to taste the first vintage of this wine later in 2023 when it is released. Radford Dale are now also Elgin neighbours and are already bringing a new energy and creativity in the organic space up here.
Looking at the above grape varietals you might have mistaken our farm for a Simonsberg producer, but no, our Tukulu soils and north facing aspect in Elgin makes for the perfect (warmer) cooler climate site, with well drained gravel soils, over a deep layer of clay. We aren’t immune to the Elgin trend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir though! The open field below my Dad’s fynbos garden has been fallow for over 22 years, and we finally decided to take the plunge and plant it to Chardonnay. The block has been named after Mike Kreft’s first grandchild, Maggie, who has overseen many of the developments on visits with Jenna and Simon.
We know that Elgin Chardonnay is in high demand and we are excited to try our hand at it, and we still need to identify which winemaker will be the caretaker of these grapes. We need to find a great home! Perhaps bubbly, as we can get it off early in the season before the birds descend, or a really special Chardonnay still wine. We will keep you posted!
We are also grateful to work with some creative and delightful garagiste winemakers who take small parcels of our grapes, one of whom does so in a cold truck up to Johannesburg. We have also had a long association with the Wallace family, with Paul Wallace advising Dad on varietals to plant and ongoing viticultural consulting. They also took some of our Merlot for their acclaimed Crackerjack blend.
We are in an exciting and challenging new chapter, and we are very happy to be sharing Belfield wines with you in their new incarnations. We think Dad would be proud and a bit tickled with the winemakers doing great things with his grapes, just as he did with the wines produced in the Belfield cellar. Now we get to focus on the stuff he loved most, the farming, and the sipping of a “Belfield” wine on the stoep or in the bush. We miss you dearly Dad and toast you with a beautiful array of your farming work and love, bottled.