Hartenberg shirazes/syrahs rake in international accolades
Hartenberg Family Vineyards, South Africa’s pioneers of regenerative viticulture, has once again wowed judges and delivered on the international Shiraz/Syrah stage with both The Stork Shiraz 2019 and Gravel Hill Syrah 2019.
Not only did The Stork Shiraz 2019 win a gold medal at the 17th edition of Syrah du Monde, but it was also named among the top 10 wines overall. The competition took place in the French village of Ampuis from 11 – 12 May 2023 and saw a panel of international experts evaluating 241 Syrah/Shiraz wines from 20 countries. A total of 34 gold and 46 silver medals were awarded. These accolades come in the wake of The Stork Shiraz 2019’s 2023 Platter 5-star rating. In the meantime, it was announced on Wednesday, 7 June that the Gravel Hill Syrah 2019 raked in a sought-after gold medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) 2023. A total of 18,250 wines from 57 countries were evaluated at this year’s DWWA, the most to date. Among these, 705 received gold medals, of which only 30 were awarded to South African wines.
Grit and grace vs swagger and charm
Although, for all intents and purposes, The Stork and Gravel Hill share a cultivar, they are markedly different wines. This feat is made even more impressive by the fact that they are grown less than a kilometre apart on the very same estate. The secret to each of these wines’ distinct character can, of course, be traced back to the unique soil profiles of the respective blocks they hail from. Planted in a 40 cm thick covering of concentrated iron-laterite stone known as “koffie-klip” with a fine layer of clay stretching a few metres underneath, the Gravel Hill block produces very few, small bunches of pea-sized berries that are immensely concentrated. The resultant wine is distinctly old-world in style and tells a story of grit and grace. With flavours of smoke, cassis, dark berries and forest floor, Gravel Hill Syrah exudes sophistication and elegance. It is because of these more savoury characteristics that the wine is known as a Syrah.
The Stork Shiraz, on the other hand, is grown in deep, clay-rich terra rossa soil and enjoys a longer ripening period than Gravel Hill. Historically, it is, in fact, harvested an entire month later than the Gravel Hill Syrah. This slower, longer ripening period allows for an immense build-up of flavour. The resultant wine is “packed with both swagger and charm” according to the 2023 Platter’s SA Wine Guide, rich and intense with aromas and flavours of cherries, violets and black pepper.
Despite their differences in character and flavour, both wines have fascinating stories to tell. The Stork Shiraz honours the late Ken Mackenzie – pilot, businessman, farmer and Hartenberg benefactor – who served as a Spitfire pilot during the Second World War and gained the nickname ‘Stork’ due to his tall frame and long thin legs. For its first 10 vintages, Gravel Hill was sold exclusively as a Cape Winemakers Guild Auction wine. However, in 2005 the wine returned to the Estate ‘fold’ as Hartenberg’s flagship wine. Due to its slow development, this Syrah is only released five years from vintage and drinks well up to 20 years from vintage.
Consistency is key
Although we certainly do believe that the secret to our exceptional wines is locked into our pesticide-free, living soil, having a long-standing and consistent winemaking team certainly also plays a role in their excellence. Cellarmaster Carl Schultz has just completed his 30th vintage at Hartenberg. He has also been a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild since 1997 and is widely revered here at home and abroad.