Adi Badenhorst bottles South Africa’s first Barbarossa

AA Badenhorst Family Wines has bottled the first certified Barbarossa wine in South Africa.

Adi Badenhorst has bottled South Africa’s first Barbarossa wine made from grapes grown in north Swartland (Photo: AA Badenhorst)

The wine, which has been named Badenhorst Brakkuil Barbarossa, is the only one produced by vineyard plantings of verified Barbarossa grapes, the country’s wine regulatory body, South African Wine Industry Information and Systems (Sawis) confirmed.

The Barbarossa vineyard in St Helena Bay, on the northern tip of Swartland, is owned by farmer Wimpie Bouer. Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards made contact with Bouer after buying grapes from a neighbouring farm.

Having discovered that the grapes were Barbarossa, they then passed them on to Adi Badenhorst to vinify, according to Leeuwenkuil’s head viticulturist, Koos van der Merwe.

“Making wine from small batches of grapes was at that time a logistical nightmare for us. Therefore Pieter [Carstens, chief winemaker] and I decided that we have a friend who knew a bit about winemaking that would love trying something new,” van der Merwe explained.

“This is how the grapes ended up with Adi and he made the wine.”

Van der Merwe said that the farmer who originally owned the Barbarossa vineyard assumed that the grapes were Cinsault. However, analysis of some of the shoots and branches at the Nietvoorbij research station near Stellenbosch revealed that they were Barbarossa.

“He invited me to come and give some advice on his vineyards,” Van der Merwe said.

“At that stage, according to him, he had Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz and Cinsault on the farm. He told me that there was a rumour about this Cinsault, that it might be Barbarossa, but that it was always vinified as Cinsault because no-one at that stage knew about such a varietal.

“Working with Cinsault quite often, we knew that this was definitely not Cinsault,” Van der Merwe added.

“Some bunches and shoots were taken to Nietvoorbij and it was identified as Barbarossa by one of the older researchers. There were actually some plantings in the clonal garden, but the variety was delisted some time in the 1950s.

“Because of the excitement at Nietvoorbij that there was still this natural planting left, the process of getting it back on the list and through the Wine and Spirits Board was much easier than any other new varietal.

“According to them this is the only planting of Barbarossa left in South Africa.”

Van der Merwe added that it was still difficult to say when the Barbarossa vines were planted, but that they estimated it would be “around 50 years” ago.

While it is not yet known how the Barbarossa vines found their way to northern Swartland, Adi Badenhorst suggested they might have originally been planted in Constantia. “Interestingly enough, there was a farm in Constantia called Barbarossa,” he explained.

“Initially the vines came from there [having been] imported into South Africa in the early 1900s and planted in Constantia. There seems to have been a bit of movement of people, between the west coast and Constantia.”

Barbarossa is an Italian grape – or group of grapes, given that DNA profiling of all grapes known as Barbarossa is yet to be completed. It is principally associated with Liguria, Piedmont and, to a lesser extent, Emilia Romagna.

The Badenhorst Brakkuil Barbarossa is described as having “bright and dark fruit all at once, with crunchy, gripping tannins and fantastic, pure juiciness”.

It will be available in limited quantities from online wine merchant Swig “within the next couple of months”, Swig said.

One Response to “Adi Badenhorst bottles South Africa’s first Barbarossa”

  1. Hi, my name is Dr Jerry Rodrigues and I would like to offer some comments on the identification of the Barbarossa grapevine.

    I agree with your description of the Brakkuil Barbarossa as “…having bright and dark fruit all at once…”, but unfortunately, the Barbarossa that you are describing is NOT the Northern Italian Barbarossa – which, as the name itself proposes, is a ‘blush red’ grape. The Italian name Barbarossa, as you probably know means ‘red beard’ in the Italian language.
    The Barbarossa grapevine that grew in the Cape area (especially around Constantia), was identified by Prof. Abraham Perold way back in 1927 (in his ‘Treatise on Viticulture’) as being none other that the French cultivar called Danugue (aka Gros Guillaume). In the Cape, Perold preferred to call the cultivar ‘Cape Barbarossa’ rather that just ‘Barbarossa’ as he realized quite early on that this variety had been incorrectly given the latter name.
    In 1994 in Plumstead, a suburb close to the historical Groot Constantia vineyards in the Western Cape, I created a new red grape variety which I’ve called ‘Cabernet labrusco’. This new variety was derived from a crossing between Cabernet sauvignon N. CS5/R46 (Vitis vinifera L.) (seed parent) x Danugue noir (Vitis vinifera L.) (pollen parent). This new ruby-red wine varietal was registered in 2013 with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
    The DNA of my Cabernet labrusco offspring was analysed for Simple Sequence Repeats (SSRs) by a forensic laboratory in Worcester and also by a Viticultural Institute in Turin, Italy. The results of the DNA analysis proved, without a doubt, that one parent of my Cabernet labrusco offspring was Cabernet sauvignon and the other parent was Cape Barbarossa (aka Danugue).
    So, to summarize, I would say that, the Brakkuil Barbarossa is most likely what we now know as Danugue noir and it was defenitley not a Northern Italian cultivar, but was grown in France at the beginning of the 19th century, and may even have been originally imported from Spain.
    If anyone is interested in my Cabernet labrusco story, please search for ‘Cabernet labrusco’ or go to my blogsite:


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