The individual character of wine farms fascinates me. If Excelsior Wine Estate was for the enthusiast and aficionado, then Bon Courage Estate – only a few kilometres away – was ready to party. Preparations for a large number of Wacky Wine Weekend guests were well made. Extended parking was laid out on both sides of the road, large marquees stood outside and in front of the glorious white-painted 1818 Cape Dutch farmhouse. All to accommodate the MCC, Sparkling Blush and fresh oysters on sale from Friday.
This was the reason I visited on Thursday, to avoid the expected crowds, and to focus on the wines. Bon Courage was well set up in the Tasting Room. More than 20 wines were on offer to taste from ‘stations’ set up by wine style: MCC, white, red and dessert/fortified. Most wines were from the mid-level Estate Range (R50-80). Wines from the entry Father and Son Range (R42) and premium Inkará Limited Release Range (R165) were also available for tasting.
The broad range of wines reflects the diverse terroir of the Bon Courage Estate. The 150 hectares grows more white than red cultivars. The vines grow beside the Breede River on flat, rich alluvial soils. Quality is controlled by keeping yields low though careful canopy management and by limiting water supply. Long summers, cooling South-Easterly breezes and low rainfall during the growing period make for ideal growing conditions.
Later, as I left Bon Courage, I saw many of the grape varieties growing in exemplar rows beside the road. Though post-harvest and in their autumn colours, it was good to see as a student and wine enthusiast. I must pass by again during the late-Spring and early-Summer.
The estate has been in the hands of the Bruwer family for 3 generations, since 1927. It was not though until 1983 that the farm was given the Bon Courage name when André Bruwer registered the property as a wine estate. It is very much a family affair today, reflected in the classy ‘Like Father Like Son’ bottle label. André is the viticulturalist and aided by older son, Jacques, with winemaking and younger son, Pieter, with business accounting.
I chose to taste a variety of the Bon Courage wines. The Brut MCC made a refreshing start. Fruity in style with apple and stone fruit aromas, the fine bubbles gave an elegant, tingly mouthfeel. I selected 3 white wines from the Estate Range: the multi-award winning Unwooded Chardonnay, Colombard and Dry Gewürztraminer. The Chardonnay was fruity, apply and with pleasant crispness. The Colombard, a new cultivar to me and first tasted at Rooiberg, was dry to off-dry and full of tropical fruit salad flavours – guava, papaya, light mango – and pleasant drinking.
My favourite wine of the tasting was the Dry Gewürztraminer. Pale straw in colour and with classic floral honeysuckle, rose and sweet violet notes, the palate was not overpowering and offered a fruity finish. I bought 2 bottles to go with the Colombard.
I selected a Merlot from the Inkará and the Estate Range next. They were similar medium-ruby in colour and dry on the palate. I preferred the cheaper Mulberry Bush wine from the Estate Range, which just goes to prove the benefit of tasting in the wine cellar. The nose was complex with aromas of red plum, cherry and cedar, with delicate violet, floral notes. I bought a bottle. Mulberry Bush was an apt name for a Merlot and so too was The Pepper Tree for the Shiraz, also from the Estate Range. The wine had an interesting and restrained nose. I detected earthy, wet leather, blueberry, red cherry, cinnamon and liquorice aromas that were an unusual combination. The earthiness lasted through to the palate to balance the fruit and spiciness.
I sampled the dessert Gewürztraminer to finish. It was very different to the Dry one but equally enjoyable. The slightly syrupy sweet mouthfeel matched the soft apricot, white peach, grapey raising flavours and aromas.
Bon Courage was great to visit and to do so before the hordes arrived for their sparkling wines and oysters. I could have stayed far longer to taste but I wanted to visit Springfield Estate before the end of the day. I much enjoyed the wines that I tasted and, as ever, there were some real value for money gems on offer. For now though, it was Bon Courage and Bon Voyage!
Wines tasted (* bought):
2010 Jacques Bruére Brut Reserve – R170
2016 Estate Unwooded Chardonnay – R48
2017 Estate André’s Fame Colombard – R48*
2016 Estate Dry Gewürztraminer – R48* FAVOURITE WINE
2015 Inkará Merlot – R165*
2016 Estate Mulberry Bush Merlot – R56*
2014 Estate Pepper Tree Shiraz – R85
2016 Special Late Harvest Gewürztraminer – R56