Vondeling Babiana: Celebrating a proud legacy and a rich diversity
Vondeling’s white flagship Babiana isn’t only a celebration of 360 years of winemaking in South Africa (the first wine was made in 1659 at the Cape of Good Hope), but it also celebrates the rich diversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of the world’s greatest centres of terrestrial biodiversity.
This chenin blanc-driven white blend pays homage to a species that is endemic to the Paardeberg Mountain, the home of Vondeling Wines. The wine is named after the Babiana noctiflora, an endangered species which is conserved at Vondeling. This wine producer from Voor-Paardeberg in Paarl continues its commitment to conservation of the Cape’s unique biodiversity under the banner of the WWF – the Wold Wide Fund for Nature – as one of only 38 ‘Conservation Champion’ wine farms.
The Babiana’s delicate, pale creamy-yellow tubular flower with sky-blue stamen, which belongs to the Iris family, releases its scent in the evenings to attract a very rare moth, the Syngrapha Circumflexa, for pollination. The name Babiana is derived from the Dutch word baviaantjie which means little baboon as these primates were frequently seen eating the corms of these plants.
The Cape Floral Kingdom is recognised as one of the most special places for plants in the world in terms of diversity, density and number of endemic species. It is one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hotspots, and while it only covers about 0,5% of the area of Africa, it is home to nearly 20% of the continent’s flora.
Chenin blanc has evolved from a reliable and highly versatile “workhorse” of the wine industry to being a true thoroughbred, capable of producing wines of distinction. Not only was it one of the first wine grape varieties planted in South Africa, but still is the most planted. Vondeling’s Babiana is a blend of chenin blanc and three Rhône varieties: roussanne, grenache blanc and viognier. The first vintage was produced in 2005 with the 2017 being its 13th vintage.
“The Vondeling Babiana is predominantly made from old chenin blanc vines planted in 1986,” explains Julian Johnsen, Managing Director. “Their age and low yield ensure consistent quality and concentration, which is why it forms the backbone of this blend. The fullness of the chenin is tempered by the verve and high aromatics of the grenache blanc, viognier and roussanne.”
Senior Winemaker Matthew Copeland says all grapes are hand-picked at optimum ripeness and refrigerated for 24 hours before being processed.
Says Copeland: “The chenin blanc is whole-bunch pressed and no sulphur is added to promote wild yeast development. The unsettled juice is then quickly transferred to barrels for natural fermentation, which lends structure, complexity and longevity to the wine. The grenache blanc, roussanne and viognier grapes are destemmed and cold-fermented for 8 days on the skins before being basket-pressed directly to barrel to complete the fermentation process. The wine then undergoes full malolactic fermentation and left on the lees for 10 months before being racked, blended and bottled.”
Copeland describes Babiana’s colour as pale-yellow with a bright green hue. “The nose gives great tension and poise, brimming with roasted almonds, sweet cashews, lime zest, apricot and orange marmalade, wild honey and pineapple. It has a fresh, vibrant and textured palate with weighted density and length, layers of rolled oats, white pepper, floral jasmine, mint, ginger and creamy lemon meringue, well supported by subtle and reserved oak.”
He suggests the wine be enjoyed with a rich and aromatic dish of chicken tagine with Turkish apricots and roasted almonds, as well as simple Asian dishes or rich seafood.
Vondeling’s Babiana boasts quite an impressive list of awards and accolades received over the years, including Top 100 SA Wines, Double Gold at the Five Nations Wine Challenge, Gold at the Michelangelo International Wine Awards, Platter 5 stars, 92/100 in Tim Atkins’s SA report, 91/100 in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, 90+ in a Decanter Panel Tasting and a Six Nations Wine Challenge Trophy.
The recommended retail price is R198 per bottle and is available from Wine Concepts, Caroline’s, Norman Goodfellows, Ultra Liquors, selected TOPS at Spar liquor outlets and online or at the Vondeling tasting room.
For more information, contact Vondeling at +27 21 869 8595 or visit www.vondelingwines.co.za