A Story About a South African Wine – Haute Cabrière’s Iconic Blend Celebrates 20 Years
Text written by Christiana von Arnim
South Africa, Franschhoek; THE year 1994 saw South Africans emerge into freedom; a year for celebrating pioneers who had defied convention. It was then, 20 years ago, that Haute Cabrière’s cellar master Achim von Arnim became an accidental pioneer. Here in the vineyards of Franschhoek, he became the first to discover the blend of Chardonnay Pinot Noir, giving rise to the authentic South African icon wine. At its genesis, the Haute Cabrière Chardonnay Pinot Noir – a scintillating marriage of white and red varietals – represented true pioneering work by Von Arnim. The Burgundian varietals were barely on the fringes of South African wine. Now, two decades later, the esteemed white blend remains on top wine lists and continues to win hearts, thanks to a sustained and lifelong commitment by the Von Arnim family.
As in the past, the wine today bears on its label the name of its creator. This mantle now assumed by Achim von Arnim’s eldest son, Takuan, sees the wine’s singular heritage and philosophies borne into the future.
The wine’s success came about mostly by surprise and co-incidence, says Achim von Arnim. “We approached the bank to buy a small farm in Franschhoek and set out to produce an equivalent to Champagne from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.” From its humble beginnings, demand for the Pierre Jourdan MCC range grew steadily, but suddenly hit a snag. “The 1994 crop was very small, which means the grapes ripen very early and rapidly,” recalls Von Arnim. “The base wine was 12% alcohol, making it unsuitable for the MCC – but we had to market our crop in order to bring in the money to re-pay our loan.” Unsure, but determined to make the best of the situation, Von Arnim went ahead and bottled this portion of wine as a still blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% white Pinot Noir – which turned out to be glorious, and has forever remained an honored flag bearer of the South African wine industry. Combined in perfect proportions, the Chardonnay contributes elegance while the Pinot Noir brings intensity and richness.
At the time, Cape restaurateur Yvonne Romano of the Mediterranean Kitchen had put a challenge to wine producers: she sought a white wine to match her Bouillabaisse. “We took the challenge and, with a few friends, we enjoyed a magnificent lunch at the Mediterranean Kitchen,” recalls Von Arnim. “Our new blend was so beautiful and we were suddenly convinced that this wine held a lot of promise for the future.”
Significantly during that same year, the Von Arnim’s acquired their second property on the Franschhoek mountain pass, overlooking the valley. Here, to this day, Haute Cabrière – the home of Pierre Jourdan – grows its distinctive portfolio of wines on a simple philosophy: the balanced contributions of Sun, Soil, Vine and Man.
It is these four words that adorn a sundial erected at the entrance to Haute Cabrière’s exquisite subterranean restaurant and maturation cellar. They serve as a constant reminder: “We are still a family business and it has not been easy, but the only thing that saves us is personal commitment,” says Von Arnim. “Everything, including our wine, is about balance and respect.”
A perfect accompaniment to seafood and salad dishes, the Haute Cabrière Chardonnay Pinot Noir sells for around R85 a bottle and is available at all reputable wine stores, restaurants and from the estate.
Find out much more about this wine and the restaurant run by following this link: Cabriere