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 Mourvedre 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.
Planted in 2006, these un-irrigated bush vines from Amoskuil farm have started to show promising results, with the potential to produce complex wines. Even the antelope that roam wild on the farm have a particular preference for this vineyard, often nibbling on the low-hanging bush vine fruit.
The hand-picked grapes were fermented in open concrete fermenters with manual punching down of the skins, before they were gently pressed and transferred to old French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation. The wine then spent a further 12 months maturing in barrel prior to bottling.
This Grenache has a vibrant ruby colour. On the nose, it has aromas of red berry fruit and subtle pepper notes along with cardamom and spice. This elegantly built wine benefits from a lightness which does not hinder its complexity. Fine tannins and good acidity will help this wine evolve well over the next few years in bottle. As a single varietal, the Grenache is juicy and savoury with lovely tannins.