Made in the Rupert & Rothschild cellars by R&R winemaker Schalk-Willem Joubert, and distributed
by Meridian Wine Merchants, all the luxury boxes have been ticked. Grapes were sourced from
the Stellenbosch Annandale property of Hempies du Toit with additional Merlot sourced from Durbanville and Cabernet from Darling, with 2003 the kind of maiden vintage dreamed of in wine marketing PR heaven.
Only eight barrels were made in the elegantly classic style preferred by the four partners.
Natural fermentation of the grapes in stainless steel vats was followed by 25 days lees contact and
then twenty months maturation in 225 litre French oak barrels (70% new, the remainder second fill)
with frequent rackings.
No fancy imported bottles with designer-designer labels. A natural cork closed ('screw caps are not for us' insists Shilowa), bog-standard bottle with a simple matt white label and no indication of the terroir of the partners. In place of self promotion, the back label consists of a comment from Epicurus: "we should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf."
While the volumes produced will make no dent in the red wine lake, this new brand is an important milestone for South African wine.
For starters, at least some of the 2700 bottles will be drunk by wine neophytes, sophisticated
consumers who might otherwise have ordered a Jack Daniel's or Southern Comfort. Second, it emphatically confirms that enjoyment of fine wine is no exclusive preserve of any particular demographic group in South Africa; that making an SA wine is an aspirational trophy for local political and business elites and finally, after two millennia of 'progress', the ideas of Epicurus still find resonance in the New South Africa.