Swartland is South Africa's wine frontier. Located an hour's drive away from
the the industry's qualitative and established center of Stellenbosch, the
Swartland is rolling hills of wheat and jagged outcrops of old vines, remnants
of a once industrious cooperative-fueled sector of the wine industry that
built itself on volumes rather than quality. Mostly red and white RhÃ´ne
varieties and old-vine Chenin Blanc vines dot the hillsides and an increasing
number of young winemakers have set up shop here, often leasing vineyards and
rescuing vines that were destined to be pulled out.
Swartland is the fourth-largest wine region on the Cape, behind Stellenbosch,
Paarl and Robertson. While just a few co-ops dominated production here prior to
the end of apartheid, it was Charles Back of Fairview who first took a serious
interest in the area in the late 1990s, starting his Spice Route operation with
a young <a href="/webfeature/show/id/New-Wines-New-Faces-Sadie-Family_3613">Eben Sadie</a> as winemaker. The region still has nearly 400 growers, but
the number of wineries has gone from a handful to nearly three dozen. Eighteen of
these wineries have banded together in a group called Swartland Independent,
which requires, among other things, for a cellar and bottling facility to be in
the Swartland (a lot of production is still trucked out to cellars in other
regions) as well as the wines be made with natural yeasts and not acidified.
It's a grower-run group, but quality oriented and it shows the spirit that the
region's winemakers have. This area is, in many ways, the vanguard for South
lectures in school were given by scientists, not people who really made wine,"
said Chris Mullineux who owns <a href="/wine/search?submitted=Y&search_by=exact&text_search_flag=winery&winery=Mullineux"><b>Mullineux</b></a> wines along with his wife, Andrea.
"It's all about new ideas now, like not acidifying. Before, no one questioned
that. Now, there's a group that won't consider it. Things have opened up and
that's why South Africa has come so far in 10 years."</p>
young husband-and-wife team of Chris, 36, and Andrea Mullineux, 33, already has
a fair amount of experienceâ€”they worked at <a href="http://preview.winespectator.com">Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards</a>,
where I first met them during <a href="/blogs/show/id/14764">my visit here in 2007</a>. That operation has since
been sold to Charles Banks, who changed the name to Fable. When the Mullineuxs
were there, they contracted with numerous growers in the Swartland for fruit
and began building relationships that would eventually help launch their own
winery in 2009, located in a former hardware store on the main road through the tiny
town of Riebeek Kasteel.</p>
leases vineyards and purchases fruit, but does not yet own any vines. They work
26 parcels covering 47 acres and are focusing on RhÃ´ne varieties based on three
main soil types: schist and granite similar to what you might see in
CÃ´te-RÃ´tie, along with the iron/clay soil in the area known as <i>koffieklip</i>.