We attended a tasting of De Krans’s wines a few weeks ago, presented by the legendary Boets Nel, Managing Director and ex-winemaker of De Krans. What a treat! We’ve always been huge fans of De Krans, we always make an effort to stop in Calitzdorp on the way back from our Winelands holidays. The first time we went De Krans was actually in the process of renovating their tasting room and building the Deli/Bistro, so we had our tasting in a small little room, surrounded by the sound of construction workers around us.
That was also the first time we sipped some of their delicious Portuguese varietals and the exact moment Hubby fell in love with the Tritonia blend. But more about that later!
Interesting fact, De Krans used to be called “Die Krans”. When translating from Afrikaans to English it means the “The Cliff”. Boets told us that, when De Krans started exporting wine to the US in the 90’s, the Americans kept calling it Die (as in kill/dead) Krans. The Germans also had some linguistic issue with it, so the decision was made very quickly to change it to “De Krans” in order to avoid a possible international incident! Another interesting fact, it was initially part of the farm “Buffelsvlei” (translating to Buffalo Valley), hence the picture of the buffel/buffalo on the label.
Boets’ father and his brother Danie Nel, started De Krans wines in 1964, having absolutely no knowledge of winemaking. They bought a book by Dr Perold, the father of Pinotage in South Africa, and followed his instructions step-by-step. Of course the wines were pretty terrible to start out with, but they persevered. By the mid-1970’s they officially started bottling and selling their wines, being more confident in their wine-making skills.
The Nels took their inspiration from the Swartland, seeing that the terroir is quite similar to that of Calitzdorp. After buying some Shiraz grapes from the Swartland in 1973, they quickly realised that the grapes they planted were definitely not Shiraz. Doing some more research and testing, it turned out that it was in fact Tinta Barocca. I personally see it as a happy accident, seeing that it marked the start of the port industry in Calitzdorp, and in South Africa for that matter. (If you didn’t know, Boplaas is owned by Boets’ cousin, Carel Nel). The first port was produced by De Krans in 1977.
With regards to the climate, Calitzdorp is quite a dry area. The annual rainfall used to be about 250mm per year, where recently, they barely got 250mm over the past three years combined. Temperature-wise, the area isn’t as hot as most people would think. The past couple of years Calitzdorp’s average temperatures was colder than Paarl, Stellenbosch, Wellington, Swartland and even Franschhoek. As the crow flies, Calitzdorp is only 65km from the ocean.
Okay, with all that interesting backgroud info, let’s get tasting!
We started off with the Premium Muscato Perlé 2017.
Keeping an eye on the global trends, De Krans was the first producer of muscato from muscadel grapes in 2012. Starting with 3000 bottles in 2012, the current vintage is 260 000 bottles. This is a perlé wine, so it has got a little bit of fizz and is also one of De Krans’s best sellers. Ideal for sipping next to the swimming pool in summer. Light in alcohol, with tropical fruit flavours. Don’t expect an overly sweet wine and ‘raisin’ tasting though, these grapes are picked quite early. A well-balanced acidity.
Personal score: 15/20, R65 per bottle. Also look out for the red muscato, introduced in 2017. It is a bit on the dryer side, with about 15% pinotage added, so it is a more ‘structured’ wine. Its popularity is growing by 150% a year, which is quite phenomenal.
2018 Pinotage Rose:
De Krans used to make a pinotage a couple of years ago, but made the decision to stop producing it. They also used to make a rose from Tinta Barocca, but decided to rather try a pinotage rose in 2016, and now they simply can’t keep up with the demand! These grapes come from the Klein-Karoo, from a vineyard at the foot of the Quteniqua mountains. Beautiful salmon colour, with typical hints of candyfloss, red berries and strawberry. Easy sipping, well-balanced, slightly savoury and lovely! Another interesting fact Boets shared is that the pinotage is made from the freerun, so it initially doesn’t have any colour. This ‘white’ pinotage is extremely popular in the German market, so is exported as such. For the local market a bit of additional colour is added by adding wine that was kept on the skins a bit longer. Double-gold in the Rose Rocks competition as accolade.
Personal score: 16/20, R65 per bottle
Twist of Fate 2016: a blend of Tinta Barocca and Tinta Amarella.
Very similar to the story about the shiraz that turned out to be Tinta Barocca, the same happened when the Boets and his brother decided to plant Tinta Roriz in the late 1980s. After a good couple of years a viticulturist friend identified the Tinta Roriz to be Tinta Amarella instead. So with two tintas ending up on De Krans “by accident”, it was a great idea to make this 50/50 blend of both, very aptly named “Twist of Fate”. The aim was also to create an affordable, light red wine, ideal for summer sipping. This wine is cold-fermented, also solely from the freerun. After fermentation, this wine is put in 2/3/4th fill barrels for a year. Best served chilled, and with a beautiful complexity of flavours. Spicy, savoury and fruity. I can just imagine it being served with a springbok carpaccio. With the first vintage in 2015, this wine is also growing massively in popularity. Which is no mean feat, especially because the Portuguese varietals are still a bit ‘new’ to the South African market.
Personal score 17.5/20, R80 per bottle
Okay, we’re not even halfway through the tasting, and I noticed we are already on 1000 words plus! So here comes a cliffhanger, while I still have your attention.
Let’s chat more about De Krans at a later stage. In “Part 2” of this tasting, we tasted the 2016 Touriga Nacional, Tritonia, Cape Tawny and Cape Vintage Reserve. More about that soon!
In the meantime, check out De Krans’s website: http://dekrans.co.za/
PS: How does the scoring work? A total score of 20, consisting of a maximum of 3 for appearance, 7 for nose and 10 for taste.