In search of new and interesting places to produce wines in the late 1990s, Spice Route Owner Charles Back stumbled upon a tank of Sauvignon Blanc in a Swartland cooperative. The wine was of such a high quality that he found it difficult to believe that it hailed from the Swartland – a warm area from which one would not generally expect such a fine Sauvignon Blanc.
Driven by both excitement and disbelief, Charles set out to inspect the vineyard responsible for producing the surprising wine. His incredulity was further heightened when he arrived at the home of the vineyard – a derelict old tobacco farm playing host to South Africa’s oldest Sauvignon Blanc block.
Planted in 1965, the persevering old dryland bushvine inspired Charles to explore the unchartered potential of the land, and it was thus that the Spice Route Wine Company was born on the farm (known as Klein Amoskuil) in 1997.
It took Charles and his newly hired winemaker, Eben Sadie, two years to fine tune the cellar and where to plant the various vineyards on the untouched soils of the farm. The choice was simple, build fermentation vessels which best preserved the elegance and freshness of the generous grapes, and train the vineyards to best resist the extreme Swartland climate with its cold winters and hot, dry summers.
Only a quarter of the farm’s land was chosen for vineyard planting keeping in mind the refusal to irrigate and to train the vines as bushvines, without trellising.
Pockets of typical Malmesbury shale and others of deep, decomposed granite and clay soils (ferricrete) were favoured. These deep ferricrete soils give distinct complexity and texture to Spice Route wines, while ensuring good water retention for the vine over the hot summer months.
Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Barbera, Tannat, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Souzão, Tempranillo, Carignan, Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Roussanne were chosen for planting and of course the Cape’s own warm-blooded red variety, Pinotage. Today, the large majority of the vineyards are fifteen years old and more, allowing them to express the full potential of the Swartland.
1997 : The Spice Route Winery settles at Klein Amoskuil farm, with Charles Back and Eben Sadie at the helm.
2002 : Eben leaves, encouraged to make his own wines. Charl du Plessis joins Spice Route as head winemaker, a man of the earth with great understand of dryland farming.