10 Cape winemakers to watch

 Alexander Milner, Natte Valleij

Alexander Milner“When I graduated from Stellenbosch everyone wanted to make the next rock star wine, those big Shirazes,” recalls Alexander Milner, who has taken on winemaking duties at his family’s farm on the edge of the Simonsberg.

After working a vintage in Provence, however, his ambitions today are a world away from those blockbuster styles. Alongside Natte Valleij’s more traditional Bordeaux-style blend POW, Milner nods to South Africa’s earlier history with “Dry Hanepoot”, a Muscat of Alexandria; but much of his energy is channeled via his love of cycling into hunting down precious parcels of Cinsault.

“I’ve got this obsession with finding the best blocks,” he admits. “I’ll go past a farm worker and ask him who’s growing Cinsault, then I’ll knock on their door. People are usually very open because Cinsault’s a heavy bearer so there are always quite a few tonnes going around.”

The result is a blend that draws on fruit from Darling, Swartland, Wellington and Stellenbosch, which is then matured for two years in used barrels, with the second year seeing the wine racked into larger format 500-litre barrels. The result, believes Milner, is an expression that offers refreshment over power.

“In the early 2000s in South Africa Cinsault was seen as a weed, but it offers so much,” Milner says of the variety that he calls “poor man’s Pinot Noir”. “I would never have thought I’d be making Cinsault but it’s all about the drinkability.”

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