Interview with John Loubser, general manager at the Steenberg Vineyards Winery in Constantia on the Cape peninsula in South Africa.
Steenberg means Stone Mountain. The reason is obvious when you come here: you are surrounded by stones and mountains, granite stone mountain. This soil gives fantastic sauvignon blanc wines with lots of minerality. They also have sandy soil, loam and other terroir, but all originates from the granite. Steenberg is a very old farm that dates back to 1682. It was actually the first winemaking farm in the Constantia Valley
The strength and what makes Steenberg Vineyards Winery famous are the sauvignon blancs. The climate is cool which is ideal for these wines. Steenberg makes four different sauvignon blanc wines: an entry level wine, one called Rattle Snake, a Reserve and then the “normal” sauvignon blanc. The difference is primarily the origin of the grapes, so the selection. But it is also how they vinify it: stainless steel or oak aging, fermentation temperature etc. (Klein Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc, Private Cellar SB, HMS Rattlesnake SB, Steenberg SB, and Steenberg SB Reserve — maybe they have extended their range since)
Sauvignon blanc from Steenberg is different both from “new world” wines from eg. Australia and New Zeeland and from French style sauvignon blanc. Steenberg from South Africa is in between those two styles not as overwhelmingly aromatic as the NZ style and not quite as steely and lean as the wines from France.
Steenberg also makes red wines: they are primarily famous for their merlots. They have a small planting of nebbiolo that gave the first harvest in 1997. Steenberg was the first to ever plant nebbiolo in South Africa. They have a flagship wine, top of the range prestige cuvee called Catharina, after the founder of the Steenberg winery. It is a blend of five varieties: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, shiraz and the nebbiolo — a very unique blend. But they don’t do pinotage at all. Their full range includes seven different red wines.
So is there a specific “house style” for Steenberg? It is a cool area where Steenberg is in Constantia, so all wines are cool climate wines. The white wines are more austere and more structured. The reds are not fat and bold but more structured too. They are elegant wines that generally go very well with food.
Steenberg also does sparkling wine: the Method Cap Classique (what must not be called Champagne style…). Today they make 16 000 bottles, all bottle fermented and riddled by hand. It has lots of purity.
At the Steenberg winery they also have an excellent restaurant called Bistro 1682 where you can enjoy their wines together with food.
– By BKWine
– Interview & production: Per Karlsson, BKWine
– Editing: Louise Duseigneur
– Music: Patrik Lundin
This post is also available in: Swedish