Meet the maker: Philipp and Vanessa Axt
Billed as ‘the first growth of the Cape’, the Grand Vin of 4G Wines, which has a current Wine Searcher value of around £500 per bottle, has been described as “the South African Shooting Star” by FINE Wine magazine, while sommelier and wine consultant, Germain Lehodey, appraised it as “like swallowing silk”. Just 4,488 bottles of 2016 G. Le Capitaine were produced, blending micro parcels of Syrah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from eight vineyards across the Western Cape, subsequently matured for 18 months in partially new French barrels drawn from six cooperages. The second wine is 2014 ECHO of G., appraised by Richard Bampfield MW who wrote ‘I cannot recall ever drinking a finer South African red.’ Herewith, the minds behind give an insight into the resolutely exclusive project…
Who is on the 4G team?
Vanessa: My husband, Philipp as the founder and myself are the driving force behind the business. Dr. Valérie Lavigne has followed the late Denis Dubourdieu as our Master Winemaker. Our highly experienced South Africa team consists of Tian Scholtz as our cellar master and Gustav Andrag as our viticulturist. We are very lucky to have an amazing international team working together and everybody wears many hats; that’s the only way a small team like this can work globally.
When did the 4G project begin and what inspired it?
Philipp: The source of inspiration really came from a wine lover’s perspective – knowing and loving the best fine wines in the world. South Africa was the one spot on the map which wasn’t already at capacity with the finest icon wines of the world, and we saw huge potential for the market.
How have you captured the best of South Africa’s terroir?
Vanessa: There is a lot of work which goes into finding the perfect framework for our wines. We carefully select the best plots based on terroir, region, soil analysis and satellite imagery. The terroir differs on every plot, sometimes only slightly, sometimes drastically – all creating a very beautifully complex structure in our wines. Once we have identified a plot together with local and international experts, we choose only the few rows which represent the best of the best in that location.
What else makes these wines so special?
Philipp: As a perfectionist, we do everything without compromise. The attention to detail is sometimes beyond the imaginable and maybe not always business wise! Not only in making wine, but in every detail, like our packing, labels and corks.
How many vintages have you released thus far?
Vanessa: Our first official vintage was 2010. The current releases are the 2016 G., and the 2014 ECHO of G., our second wine. Here we do a late release to show the extraordinary ageing potential of our wines.
How do the wines develop over time in the bottle, and then in the glass?
Philipp: Denis Dubourdieu was known to create wines which are meant for aging. Our G. will surely outlive us. Although our wines are already wonderful to drink on release, they will beautifully age over decades in the bottle. Once the wine is in the glass, its bouquet will unfold and develop an amazing complexity over several hours, if not days.
What does it mean to you that your latest releases represent the last work of the late Denis Dubourdieu u for the 4G project?
Philipp: Denis was such a guiding light for us, that whenever we look at the 2016 vintage, we remember our captain, who was such an inspiration and who will live in our hearts forever. A humble and kind man who never let on how many distinguished awards and recognitions he had earned, but rather always showed his incredible love and dedication to making beautiful wines.
Who has continued winemaking since Monsieur Dubordieu?
Philipp: Since the very first day, Dr. Valérie Lavigne has worked together with Denis Dubourdieu as our master winemaker, and she seamlessly took over from himafter he passed away. Having worked alongside Denis for about 30 years, she continues his legacy both in practice and in science, teaching at the University of Bordeaux and consulting some of the best Châteaux in France and wineries in Europe.
Are you planning to apply the 4G philosophy to other terroirs internationally?
Vanessa: 4G is unique to South Africa and even though we could apply the philosophy elsewhere, our hearts are manifested here in the beautiful country for the long term.
Are the wines available in any notable restaurants?
Vanessa: Our wines are certainly available in some of the best fine dining restaurants in the world. Some of the notable international restaurants include: Adlon in Berlin, Baur au Lac in Zurich, Burj al Arab in Dubai, Saxon in Johannesburg and One & Only in Cape Town.
What wines other than 4G do you have in your home cellar?
Vanessa: Some of our favorites are: Bruno Paillard Champagne (especially the old N.P.U.’s), Tenuta di Trinoro, Doisy Daëne, Pichon Comtesse and our latest discovery from Napa Valley is Harbison Horseshoe.
How much of both 4G and Echo do you produce, and how can collectors acquire it?
Philipp: The G. is always limited to about 5,000 bottles a year, making it one of the rarest icon wines in the world. The Echo of G. is also a very small production, at about 10,000-15,000 bottles. Most of our wines are sold on allocation and the easiest way for inquiries is to contact us directly at: email@example.com