Charles Back was a pioneer in the Swartland when he started Spice Route in 1998 after tasting an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc and immediately buying the land it was grown on. "Without [Charles]…the Swartland would still be regarded as a rural backwater" wrote Tim Atkin, who awarded the winery 'Cru Bourgeois' status in his South Africa Classification in 2019. Today, the region is the source of many of South Africa's outstanding wines, yet Spice Route remains one of the best and most credible producers in the region, due largely to the fact that they own their own vineyards. Spice Route's 100 hectares of vineyards are situated in Malmesbury and Darling. The former, all bush trained on Malmesbury shale and red clay subsoils (the clay allows the vineyards to be dry grown), give the Grenache and Mourvèdre the intensity of fruit that makes this region so exciting.
Winemaker Charl du Plessis has been with Charles since 2002 and knows the region intimately. The winemaking is 'hands-off', as Charles is keen to capture the flavours and structure of the outstanding fruit he has grown. In fact, despite the desert-like conditions of the region, the vines are not even irrigated. The signature wine is the ‘Chakalaka’, a blend of six different grape varieties. The name is derived from a spicy South African relish which is similarly a fusion of different flavours. A blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Petite Sirah and Tannat, it has great intensity, a Rhône-ish depth and supple tannins.
Chakalaka is Spice Route's signature wine. It is a blend of six different grape varieties. The vineyards are planted on Richter 99 rootstock and are mainly bush vines on deep iron-rich clay soils, farmed without irrigation. The varieties Mourvèdre, Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Tannat were selected for their suitability to the Swartland growing conditions.
The grapes were hand harvested, destemmed and lightly crushed and then fermented in open top concrete fermenters (‘kuipe’). Manual punching down took place during fermentation. The wines were then racked off and sent to barrels for malolactic fermentation and further ageing. Each wine component for the blend was matured in seasoned French and American oak for 12 months before blending occurred.
This wine is deep ruby red in colour. On the nose, aromas of clove and subtle white pepper are followed by plum, blackberry and cherry. This wine has a full-bodied and rich palate with well-integrated oak and smooth tannins. The name 'Chakalaka' is derived from a spicy South African relish which is a similar fusion of different flavours.
This wine shines with either sirloin or rib-eye steak.