Category : Wine List

V for Vagabond, an independently minded wine

What better wine to enjoy on your next Rovos Rail adventure than with an acclaimed Cape dry white which defies perceptions of origin and which is tantalisingly called the Vagabond.

The Vagabond – made by The Fledge & Co. – is like a luxurious train journey; it is not about the destination but the level of satisfaction that you feel when you see the world at a more sedate pace. The wine is similar and takes a good few years to show at its best. Every vintage is like a voyage of discovery and can be compared to a cricket test match where each session should be played carefully and strategically.

The name Vagabond stems from the fact that the winemakers do not own vineyards but travel around diverse wine growing regions from Swartland to Agulhus in search of the best grapes they can find.

Vagabond Rovos Rail

The Fledge & Co. is the remarkable undertaking by husband-and-wife team Leon Coetzee and Margaux Nel who have attracted plenty of attention for their nonconformist approach to winemaking.

Fledge is a passion project that started back in 2007 and is an expression of the couple’s desire to handcraft authentic wines to enjoy with fine food with good company. The wines are unflinching, eclectic and experimental and express their true sense of place (terroir) through a combination of “old school” techniques and innovative methods, while driving an agenda of concern for their soils and the environment with a carbon-neutral or carbon-sensitive footprint.

Margaux Nel has an impressive wine pedigree and is a seventh-generation winemaker from Calitzdorp (South Africa’s Cape port capital) in the Klein Karoo where the Nel family has plied their trade for many years. She is also the winemaker for Boplaas (the family estate) where The Fledge & Co. is also produced.

Margaux is in charge of the cellar while Leon collaborates with the farmers they work with and together they blend The Fledge & Co. wines. Explains Leon: “We are currently working with nearly 50 different vineyards and around 28 different varieties from across the Cape.”

The Vagabond is produced from vines planted from 1971 to as early as 2010; many are old dryland bush vines while others are grown more conventionally but all are produced by farmers who believe in sustainability.

The blend changes with each vintage but varietals generally included are Chardonnay, Steen (Chenin Blanc), Viognier, Verdelho, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne. Sometimes there is even a blast from the past with the inclusion of the rare Hungarian Hárslevelü – fully skin fermented as one would a red.

Says Leon: “Our aim is to showcase the best of the Cape in a glass and produce a wine which works well with food but can also be enjoyed on its own. We want to defy preconceptions which is why the Latin on the front of the bottle says Prudentia Sine Vino (An Independently Minded Wine). It is only in the Cape that one has the freedom to blend such a diverse (some may think mismatched) variety of different grapes together to craft a reflection of the diverse tapestry which makes up this wine.”

Vagabond’s components are vinified separately, either destemmed or whole bunch pressed and barrel fermented in old French oak for nine to 15 months until the final blend is made. It is racked into tank and left for another six to nine months on the lees. It is unfined and unfiltered when bottled and only sold when Margaux and Leon believe it is ready which is usually three years after vintage.

The wine profile is a mélange of orange blossom; ripe cling peach; yellow, orange and green citrus; pineapple; hay; hints of Rooibos and flint while honeyed almond and white spice abound on the bouquet. It is a perfect partner for roast fowl, duck or pork, traditional Cape Malay and mild Cantonese cuisine or enjoyed as an aperitif.

Devotees affectionately call this wine the “Geel Slang”, Afrikaans for the resplendently golden yellow Cape Cobra sometimes found in the vineyards, a beautiful reptile with an impressive strike.

Accolades for The Vagabond include Winemag.co.za Top 10 for 2015, 2017 and 2018; Tim Atkin MW 93pt for every vintage that has been reviewed by him and Platter’s 5 Star for the 2018 vintage.

The Vagabond is a bit like The Travelling Wilburys – a supergroup of changing band members, though always with a consistent sound, says Leon proudly.

Anorak Facts:

W.O. Western Cape (Regions include Elgin, Stellenbosch, Tradouw, Swartland, Klein Karoo, Agulhas)

Vintage 2016 yielding 5940 bottles  Alc. 12.64 %        pH 3.24         TA 5.8 g/ℓ          RS 2.2 g/ℓ

Vintage 2017 yielding 7476 bottles  Alc. 13.16%         pH 3.31         TA 5.7 g/ℓ          RS 2.1 g/ℓ

Vintage 2019 yielding 6300 bottles  Alc. 13.18 %        pH 3.19         TA 6.1 g/ℓ          RS 2.1 g/ℓ

Please note that items on our wine list and bar menus are subject to availability and not always in stock and available on board.

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Rovos Rail and Mr Bubbles

South African sparkling wine and the name Pieter Ferreira, aka Mr Bubbles, are as synonymous as fish and chips, James Bond and a shaken martini and Rovos Rail and a world-class travel experience.

One of South Africa’s fastest growing wine categories, Cap Classique is the South African version of champagne with the wine made by the same “traditional method” used by the French whereby the second fermentation occurs in the bottle.

Pieter – who proudly carries the moniker “Bubbles” and who is chairman of the Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA) – is considered by many to be the godfather and the guru of the local industry which he has helped elevate on an international stage.

He has been instrumental in cementing Graham Beck as one of the world’s leading producers of premium Cap Classique and has been with the estate since its maiden vintage in 1991. He recently became Graham Beck’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) after 32 years in charge of the cellar.

However, a life in wine wasn’t always on the cards for the ebullient Ferreira. The Durban born, self-confessed “surfer dude” loved science and also considered becoming a dentist.

However, rugby Springbok and South African wine pioneer Jan Boland Coetzee arranged for a young Pieter to work as an apprentice to Achim von Arnim at Clos Cabriere in Franschhoek. The rest, as they say, is history and Ferreira helped Von Arnim launch his Pierre Jourdan bubbly with Ferreira also working in Champagne: at Mumm in 1987 and at Moët & Chandon two years later.

Pieter and his wife Ann Ferreira started their boutique Cap Classique Pieter Ferreira label in 2012 with the first vintage released in 2019.

This new venture comes from their dogged pursuit of the perfect bubbly, striving to produce sparkling wine which showcases the very best expression of South African Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with their Blanc de Blancs, a 100% Pinot Noir Rosé and a blended Brut Vintage.

This 100% Chardonnay Cap Classique (Blanc de Blancs) 2015, currently being served by Rovos Rail, is sourced from carefully selected sites from the Robertson region, renowned for its rich limestone and weathered shale soils. The limestone content allows for an ideal platform for growing grapes with the acidic backbone and chemical composition required for the making of a perfect Cap Classique base wine.

A small portion of the base juice undergoes fermentation in French barrels. Once in bottle, it spent a minimum of 72 months on the lees.

Sip on a glass or two of the 2015 Pieter Ferreira Blanc de Blancs and you should pick up balanced flavours of citrus fruit and lime zest that are layered between notes of brioche and pastry combined with a vibrant mouth-feel with flavours of citrus, tropical fruits, honey and toast. It has a fine mousse and elegantly dry lingering finish.

Says Pieter, who happily admits that bubbles have consumed his life: “The beauty of Cap Classique is that it is uniquely South African. It will forever remain the better alternative for those who don’t want to do Champagne. There is a great amount of respect for Champagne but with our great weather and sunshine we will also always provide great value. I still believe it is the most ‘underrated’ wine category in the wine world.

“We’ve developed a uniquely New World style while remaining true to the essence, technique and tradition of champagne itself. Bubbly or Cap Classique has become a lifestyle drink and is not only there for celebrations anymore. A great glass of bubbly sets the tone for ‘what-ever-happens-next’! It is a great palate cleanser and makes for the best aperitif,” he explains.

Pieter says that bubbles are the most versatile wine for food pairing: “There is no right or wrong anymore. Bubbles have the ability to play the ‘enhancer’. My favourite pairings are Brut Blend – oysters on the rocks (anytime); Blanc de Blancs – fresh pan-seared fish with a beurre blanc sauce; Rosé – breast of duck (still moist and pink inside) with roasted vegetables and a matured Cap Classique– cheese board (mainly hard cheeses).”

We are so thrilled to welcome the Ferreira family to ours and look forward to serving this delicious bubbly on board our journeys.

2015 BLANC DE BLANCS ANAYLSIS

Alcohol: 12.59%vol; RS: 3.12g/l – Extra Brut; TA: 7.14g/l; pH: 3.17

ACCOLADES

2020 Platter’s South African Wine Guide Newcomer Winery of the Year

Platter’s 5-star for the current 2015 vintage

CE’s rating: 95/100

Without doubt, it’s the best Cap Classique I’ve tasted to date” – wine writerAngela Lloyd, January 2021

Both the Ferreira’s are at the top of the sparkling pyramid” – Madeleine Stenwreth MW, January 2021

“This is categorically the best bottle-fermented sparkling wine I’ve ever drunk from South Africa” – Christian Eedes in Wine Magazine, April 2019

Please note that items on our wine list and bar menus are subject to availability and might not always be available on board.

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Rovos Rail welcomes The Green Man

With South African tourism opening up and slowly making its way back to a new normality, Rovos Rail is once again at the forefront of everyone’s bucket list of travel adventure and experiences.

The private railway company has recently updated its wine and bar list to focus on some of the country’s premier local wines and producers which it believes rival some of the best in the world. Peruse the exciting offerings and you would be hard-pressed to argue this.

Who wouldn’t want to work their way through some wines featured on the carefully curated list while taking a scenic trip to Cape Town or raising a toast with a glass of bubbles, in their luxury suite, while travelling to the magnificent Victoria Falls? These are memorable experiences that will last a lifetime.

Each week we will take you on a journey through some of these acclaimed boutique producers whose wines you will discover on your next Rovos Rail tour. And don’t forget Rovos Rail packages, rates and prices are fully inclusive of all meals and beverages on board, with suggested food and wine pairing recommendations given on all menus.

It was American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald who said, “Too much of anything is bad but too much champagne is just right.” So what better way to begin than with one of South Africa’s finest bubblies, Silverthorn’s Chardonnay Cap Classique, The Green Man. Just the act of popping open the bottle feels festive!

Silverthorn is an exclusive boutique winery situated in the Robertson Valley where John and Karen Loubser pour their heart and soul into producing some of the country’s finest sparkling wines. Silverthorn is now among only a handful of South African producers who have devoted their expertise to solely producing this sophisticated style of wine.

The wines are made according to the traditional method (Méthode Champenoise) of making champagne by creating a second fermentation in the bottle. The term Cap Classique has been used in South Africa since 1992. EU law and the laws of most countries reserve the term “champagne” exclusively for wines that come from the Champagne region located about 160 kilometres east of Paris in France.

Before starting out his own label, John was the winemaker at Graham Beck where he discovered his passion for Cap Classique whilst working under the mentorship of acclaimed winemaker Pieter “Bubbles” Ferreira.

The multiple award-winning Green Man (the first vintage in 2004 was released in 2006) was born out of the Loubser family’s love of nature and the environment surrounding them.

Explains John: “Half human, half nature, the Green Man is an ancient mythical figure representing the spirit of the forest, the continuous regeneration of life and the interdependence of all things. He has appeared throughout the ages from as far afield as ancient Babylon and India to abbeys and cathedrals all over Europe. In his modern guise, The Green Man has appeared under a new name – ecology. It is this spirit, as well as the delicate green hue of this wine, that inspired me to break with traditional name ‘Blanc de Blancs’ and personify the wine with the name The Green Man.”

The farm has also honoured its very own “Green Man”, longest-serving employee Willem Willemse, who oversees the Silverthorn vineyards. John and Karen commissioned Academy Award winning filmmaker Craig Foster, of My Octopus Teacher fame, who took images of Willem and superimposed them with pictures he had taken of nature. This series of mythical and dramatic artwork can now be viewed at Silverthorn.

Willem Willemse by Craig Foster

Continues Karen: “People from throughout the world seem to be taken with the Green Man; from our German agent sending us the most extraordinary Green Man sculpture for our Tasting Room opening to a customer from the UK bringing us the most gorgeous little ceramic Green Man when she visited.”

The Green Man is 100 percent chardonnay which spends a minimum of 24 months on the lees. Limestone soils in the Robertson region give it an intense purity. On the nose you will find fresh aromas of green apple and mineral undertones with my favourite aged bubbly smell of all, baked brioche. This elegant bubbly has a delightful creamy texture with a fine mousse and a long finish. It is well suited as an aperitif on a warm summer’s day or paired with an array of seafood; think freshly shucked oysters, salmon tartar or scallops lightly marinated in a zesty citrus dressing.

2019 THE GREEN MAN ANALYSIS

Alc – 11.64%; RS – 7.0g/l; pH – 3.2; TA – 6.2g/l

Please note that items on our wine list and bar menus are subject to availability and not always in stock and available on board.

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