Boplaas Family Vineyards has received the coveted title of Port Wine of the Year in the latest edition of the Platter’s South African Wine Guide.
The winery was also awarded its 19th five-star rating from the highly regarded publication, printed since 1980.
The latest edition of the guide was unveiled in Cape Town on Friday at a gathering of South Africa’s top wineries. When the colour of the guide was revealed by its publisher as resembling the night sky of the Karoo – the very region that’s home to the small, family-owned enterprise in Calitzdorp – Boplaas’ star no doubt shone a little brighter. But more than this, news of a great achievement awaited.
This 40th anniversary edition of Platter’s features a total of 125 wines and one brandy that received the envied five-star rating. Among them was the Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2017, which also shares the title of Port of the Year with Upland winery in Wellington.
Significantly, this is the 19th five-star rating for Boplaas. The first to achieve this feat for the farm was the port’s 1991 vintage.
As with many of its predecessors, the 2017 vintage is no stranger to the winner’s podium. It received a rating of 95/100 from UK Master of Wine Tim Atkin, a Gold medal at Veritas; Platinum at Michelangelo and, Double Platinum at the NWC/SA Top 100 competition.
The wine was crafted from four old vine Portuguese varieties – Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barocca, Touriga Franca and Souzão. The fruit was hand-harvested at optimal ripeness. Fermentation took place in traditional lagares with intense manual pigeage to extract optimal flavour, colour and tannins. It was then fortified and matured for two years in old, large-format French oak barrels before being bottled, un-fined and unfiltered.
Portuguese grape varieties thrive in the Calitzdorp region because they are hardier and well-adapted to warmer climates. It is anticipated that they’ll play a bigger role as global warming increases. To this end, a potentially landmark vote has seen Touriga Nacional approved for Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superior appellation wines as part of efforts by the industry in France to adjust to climate change.
The suitability of the Calitzdorp region for the Portuguese varieties was realised quite by chance and a fortunate accident or two.
The story began in the 1970s, when Boplaas patriarch Oupa Danie Nel returned from a visit to the Swartland with his Chevy El Camino packed with bottles of Pinotage and Shiraz. His friends and neighbours needed no encouragement to make short work of the Shiraz, so the decision was made that this was a variety to plant.
Vines were sourced and planted. Only later however was it discovered – in part by Carel, Oupa Danie’s son who is now Boplaas owner and cellar master – that something was amiss. Carel was still studying oenology at the University of Stellenbosch when it was revealed that his father’s vines were Tinta Barocca and not the intended Shiraz. A trip to Portugal followed and soon the Nels had befriended many of the Douro’s top port producers. Over decades they were exposed to fine fortified wines, acquiring the art of crafting them too.
The latest vintage 2017 Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port is available from the cellar door at R 290 per bottle.
Carel & Jeanne Nel