A new South African wine project has set its sights on becoming the country’s “Grange” or “first growth”.
With its first vintage appearing in 2009, 4G is a collaboration between renowned winemakers Denis Dubourdieu and Giorgio Dalla Cia.
CEO Philipp Axt, recalling the genesis of the project, said: “Four years ago there was a discussion which asked, ‘why is there no leading wine from South Africa that you can find in the very top world restaurants? Why is there no Grange?’”
“It is a country that clearly has the potential so if there’s a gap, let’s fill it.”
With a winery in Stellenbosch, the winemaking team selects what it considers to be the best sites across the Western Cape (from around 15 different sites) even down to specific rows of vines.
Some of the sites are owned by well-known (but anonymous) growers, others not so.
The grower is paid the price he would get for a usual harvest, even if the 4G team cuts yields down to just 1.2kg per vine rather than five or six, and then they tend each plot throughout the year as well.
Axt explained that the philosophy was, “quality without compromise. It means enormous work and costs but it puts us up there with the best.
“Only perfectly mature grapes are allowed in the cellar.”
The blend is dominated by Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon (making up around 80% of the blend with one grape or another dominating depending on the quality of the vintage), with the remainder being rounded out by Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
The wine is aged in new French oak for 18 months.The aim is to make a wine which is the, “best of both worlds”.
Richard Grosche in Meiningers, said it, “oscillates somewhere between a Saint Emilion in a warm vintage and California.”
Quantities are tiny, with the first commercial vintage, 2010, having 3,410 bottles and 2011 a mere 1,943.
There is also a second wine, The Echo of G, which has a larger production run of around 10,000 bottles and is based on a similar blend to the first wine.
Continuing the theme of “quality without compromise”, the corks are the very best that money can buy at Amorim, ones only used currently by Yquem and Ausone.
Priced at around £250 a bottle and £100 for Echo, Axt said it would be very easy to sell all of the bottles in China but he was keener to sell to collectors and have the wine served in restaurants in leading fine wine markets such as the UK, US, Hong Kong and Japan.
To this end the winery employs the efforts of Frank Kämmer MS and his extensive contacts in the world of fine dining.
4G is, unashamedly, seeking to be an icon wine not a terroir driven effort.
“It’s not a terroir wine,” said Kämmer. “We don’t want to be put in the South African bracket because it’s something unique.”
Allocations for the UK and other markets in Europe are just 300 bottles apiece, while Axt said he was waiting to sign off on a deal which would see 20% – 25% of the production go to the US.