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Boekenhoutskloof foregrounds ‘Old World influence’ over distinctly South African style

Marc Kent, managing partner and technical director at Boekenhoutskloof, says an “Old World angle to winemaking” is to thank for the South African producer’s decades-long success.

Boekenhoutskloof foregrounds 'Old World influence' over distinctly South African style

Kent is celebrating his 25th release with the Franschhoek-based winery this year, with the launch of the 2020 vintage. The Boekenhoutskloof 2020 Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah wines were shown to the UK trade and press at a tasting on Tuesday 31 January at 67 Pall Mall, poured alongside older vintages from 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010.

Speaking of the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Kent said it was hard to distinguish the wine as distinctly South African. “It’s got a nice international Cabernet feel to it,” he said.

“I think South African wine generally gets a bit of a bad reputation,” he commented, saying that “from early on I tried to do things a little bit differently with an Old World angle to the winemaking.”

Boekenhoutskloof foregrounds 'Old World influence' over distinctly South African style

And Kent considers this key to Boekenhoutskloof’s success. He told db: “We’re 25 years in now. This is my 25th release and I think the cross section of wines we showed today across 20-odd vintages show that we’ve got a definite Boekenhoutskloof house style that our customers and fans are enjoying and celebrating. There’s no need to change it.”

Kent graduated from university in 1994, an “exciting time in our young democracy”, he says, when for the first time young winemakers were able to travel freely.

“I spent a lot of time in Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley, stealing with my eyes, trying to learn and tasting widely. I realised that, for me, that was very much the reference and was what I was trying to emulate.”

Boekenhoutskloof foregrounds 'Old World influence' over distinctly South African style

“Old World” winemaking “was very much a reference” for Kent as a young winemaker, who identifies the New World style at the time, particularly with Syrah, to be dominated by “big alcohols, a lot of new oak and lots of American wood”.

“I was doing the opposite,” he says. And despite changes in the decades since he started, Kent has remained staunch in his “Old World” approach.

“If you visit the winery you’ll see that the techniques we employ and our approach is very much focused on preservation of the integrity of fruit rather than other factors.”

The only change? The price of his favourite French wines. “The only difference is that the bottles I enjoyed drinking then I can no longer afford to buy as often as I would like.”

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