Bernhard Bredell Q&A
Ahead of the New Wave South Africa Tasting 2019, we caught up with our producers about their background and take on the South African wine industry. See what they had to say...
Bernhard Bredell Q&A
Owner & Winemaker
Scions of Sinai
On getting into wine…
I am a young winemaker, viticulturist, husband and father of one (healthy little boy). I was born and raised in the Helderberg region of Stellenbosch and live here today as well. Here I am happy in the outdoors, with camping, snorkelling/spearfishing and I love spending time with my family and two dogs. I am grateful to have been part of seven generations of vignerons in my family and was raised in the vineyards and winery environment on our old Bredell wine farms in the Lower Helderberg.
I studied Oenology & Viticulture with Soil Science as an alternative focus at Stellenbosch University. During 2012 our family farm and heritage was sold. I went off to be a winemaker and viticulturist for another dynamic wine producer in Stellenbosch for a few years and travelled abroad to make wine in two of my favourite regions of France (the Northern Rhône and Beaujolais), as well as doing two vintages in Northern Spain. On the side I also travelled California's wine regions in the US.
Through my travels, I found myself gaining so much more perspective on what I thought I knew and grew up with in wine. I have always appreciated and loved wine/viticulture since an early age, but through this I found myself unlocking a deeper connection with it, once I looked at the same things from a completely viewpoint. Hence, I returned to my homeground here in the Lower Helderberg today and started producing my own wines under Scions of Sinai (paying tribute to my heritage and the few old bushvines tht have been leftover in this region).
On the winery and types of wines you are making…
I only started off in mid-2016 with 2017 being our maiden vintage so I’m still a new/freshly released producer from the Cape. I produce five different wines/variety expressions. All of them being personal expressions in wine which I love drinking regularly myself.
I make my wines by narrowing my focus to only two regions (95% from Lower Helderberg - the unfashionable side of Stellenbosch - and 5% from Klein Karoo). My first focus in winemaking is to build a deep connection with my single vineyards and sites, understanding why they produce the grapes that they do. The second, is creating my personal preference in taste: salinity, acidity and the now subjective, concept of minerality (through the soil types, variety and vine combos that are capable of such in my climate).
I mostly farm older (over 35-year-old dry-farmed bushvines) of Cinsault, Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Pinotage and Grenache Blanc on decomposed granite, well-drained sandy textured soils with high silica fractions and also close proximity to the South Atlantic (except GB). The finished wines are ones that express their unique vines and soil type with a pure and refined elegance without having to intervene in the cellar too much (I dislike adding or taking anything away from the grapes / must / wine as it contradicts the very essence of authenticity my vines hold). These are wines that reflect what the vines are and the qualities the grapes inherently get from a specific vintage, with clear reason to respect the vitality/sustainability of the vines that they are harvested from.
I am not certified organic, but I practice a mindful approach with organic methods at heart in the vineyards that I source from. My winery is a small 160-year-old cellar building (just 100 square metres), one of the few built here by my Bredell ancestors long ago - this one was the primary one they used until around 1900 and was never used since... until now. I’ve renewed its purpose (also located in the Lower Hedlerberg, close to my vineyards).
On changes and how South African winemaking is progressing…
There has been an increase in dynamic attitudes. We are seeing more independent producers and a utilisation of under-the-radar cultivars, regions that are not traditionally popular, and older vineyards (not just for sake of their age, but ones established on good soils and sites fit for their perseverance and more complex root systems). There is a move back to re-focusing on how winemaking and viticulture used to be before the mid 1990s - I guess continuing where they left off before the Cape got distracted by "fashionable" wine styles and market appeal. There is less interest in trophies and wine contests, and a huge camaraderie between winemakers with a much-welcomed appreciation for each other’s individualism / subjectivity. We strive together for more depth, not just heritage but working towards building a legacy (more "family wines"). I think integrity has been rising as well and, I would hope, it will grow even more amongst producers and farmers.
On new opportunities…
The biggest opportunity for me is just having the chance to work with and invest back into the viticulture, with a personal approach, of a few amazingly unique old bushvine vineyards here in a region I care for very much. The opportunity to travel and taste unique wines from abroad more freely than previous generations perhaps could. The opportunity to a personal or site-specific expression under independent production and we have the opportunity to share our work with greater transparency.
On speaking to the trade about South Africa…
I guess from what I've seen in a short while in the market is that the Wine Buyers in the UK and somms are extremely welcoming of our wines and they appreciate our individualism, being open to try new perspectives and seeing our potential..... keep at it, and thanks!
On what you’re looking forward to by having your wines in the U.K…
I guess just being able to showcase and inspire a few wine enthusiasts with wines and vineyards from the Lower Helderberg, and having the opportunity to explain and taste the differences that this region has to offer in comparison to the other wines made in South Africa, and why.
My 5 wines from the 2018 vintage (current releases) will be there. Nomadis (Cinsaut), Señor Tallos (Skin Macerated Grenache blanc/Chenin) and the three single site and vineyard expressions from dryfarmed bushvines: Graniesteen (Chenin Blanc), Féniks (Pinotage), Swanesang (Syrah).
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