Etching my story into the Nederburg Wood Diaries


A few weeks ago I was part of a small group that experienced an intimate late afternoon event at Nederburg in Paarl to learning about the intricacies and skill associated with not only the ageing of wine in oak, but also the blending of a number of wines matured using different types of oak and ageing techniques, into one beautifully balanced blend.


This experience was very memorable and made me really respect the art and skill that goes into perfecting a blend.

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of my favourite varietals and this was also the wine we were working woth. I must say the winemaking team really gave us a sense  of what it’s like to be a winemaker. I learned so much from the team, like the impact of different types of wood used, time spent in barrel as well as frequency of barrel fill. The blending of various Cabernet Sauvignon wine components to make up a final ensemble seemed to really drive the point home that winemaking is not for the faint-hearted!” says Patrick Kutumane, Nederburg’s SA brand activation manager.


“Any wine that spends time in a barrel will take on the characteristics of the oak. The newer the barrel, the more flavour it imparts. The smaller the barrel the more oak influence it has. In this image we unpacked the characteristics of the different oak has on the wine”


The tasting and blending experience was hosted by Nederburg’s red-wine maker, Samuel Viljoen.  Intimately involved in the making of Nederburg’s lauded red wines since 2007, he was joined by assistant red-wine maker, Heinrich Kulsen; white wine-maker, Elmarie Viljoen and recently appointed assistant white-wine maker, Jamie Fredericks.


My team and I ( Lindokuhle Mokwena of Cape Town Twins; Rebecca Mlonbo, a guest of; Sibusiso Mokwena of Cape Town Twins; Leanne Beattie of; ) battled it out for the title of “Nederburg Wooded Wine Experts” and came up with some well-thought-through, layered and tasty Cabernet Sauvignon blends and a killer name for our wine ‘Black Ribbon”

Viljoen says that the diversity and dexterity of blends made up by the four teams, each comprising a maximum of five individuals, was most interesting. “One team chose wine matured in American oak as dominant component for its sweet vanilla character, another group the moderately toasted French oak for its complex mocha and caramel flavours, while the other two teams selected the intensely toasted French oak for its spicy, smoky notes; and Eastern European wood for its sweet and spicy cinnamon taste.


“This resulted in an interesting task when it came to judging the participants’ final blends. My fellow winemakers and I considered a range of aspects, from flavour intensity, aroma and aftertaste to structure and colour.  We were actually pleasantly surprised by the talent expressed through the blends, but our ultimate winner was a team that made use of Cabernet Sauvignon aged in Eastern European oak, as their main ingredient,” he explains.


The blending experienced was followed by an informal presentation of eight oaked red and white wines, each tastefully matched with a delight of tapas, a flavourful fire- and smoke-filled feast lit up by a breath taking Cape winter sky.



Nederburg again features in the esteemed ‘World’s Most Admired Wine Brands’ top 50 list by Drinks International, a UK-based publication, for a third consecutive year in 2018. And in 41st position, Nederburg is the highest placed of the three South African wineries featured on this year’s list.


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