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Albariño to become important white variety in the Western Cape

Published:  22 January, 2018

Albariño is poised to become an important white variety in the Western Cape, according to leading viticulturist Dean Leppan

Speaking at a tasting held at Newton Johnson Vineyards, vineyard manager Leppan said that the terroir was “ideal” for the variety, producing balanced, aromatic wines that were “far more interesting to make and drink than Sauvignon Blanc”.

According to Leppan, the estate grafted just under 2 hectares onto existing rootstock in 2012, producing an initial small quantity of the grape, which is associated with Galicia in northwest Spain, in 2013.

“The first commercial release was 2015,” said Leppan. “We had many bureaucratic hurdles to jump over as Newton Johnson was the first winery in South Africa to import and grow the variety.”

However, he added that the winery had no plans currently to expand production due to limited land capacity, although Leppan conceded that the owners may rip out some of the existing Sauvignon vineyards in favour of Albariño in future years.

“Albariño will definitely become more and more popular in South Africa,” said Leppan. “It seems to thrive here, at least in our terroir.”

According to Leppan, Ginny Povall, owner of Botanica Wines in Stellenbosch has also planted some Albariño, in addition to Springfield Estate in Robertson.

In November, English Albariño – made only by Chapel Down in the UK - was given the thumbs up by the Spanish when the Wine and Spirit Trade Association took the English version to Madrid to test Spanish wine experts in a blind tasting.

The wine experts admitted they were impressed with the quality of the English wine calling it ‘full’, ‘rich’ and ‘artisanal’.