When Gerard de Villiers began plans to set up his own winery at his farm near Stellenbosch, what stood out to him were the traits his local climate shared with the celebrated Northern Rhône region of France. With comparable sunshine hours and a Mediterranean climate, he became convinced of his site’s ability to produce top-notch Syrah.

Prior to moving to the Kleinood estate, Gerard had a thriving consulting business, designing world-class wineries both at home in South Africa, and abroad. Beyond the structural and civil planning components he dedicated to his projects, he specialized in process design, excelling in the optimization of winery layouts to drive efficiencies for wine production. Well before the present focus on sustainability, he was also incorporating elements of renewable energy, water reuse/treatment, and other sustainability measures that garnered him accolades in his field. Making the decision to relocate to the Stellenbosch area near Somerset West, the de Villiers christened their farm ‘Kleinood,’ a name meaning something small and precious in their native Afrikaans. They began producing a number of products from the property, including olive oil, honey, and perfumes, in addition to the wines, which they called Tamboerskloof, after the Cape Town suburb where they had previously lived.

In 2001, when he planted his vineyard, South Africa had only just begun to benefit from the ability to obtain plant material from abroad. Taking advantage of the new opportunity to specially select international clones, he planted a variety of Syrah clones, including 174, 300, 470, and 747, which offered the chance to test the limits of a variety that was just gaining momentum with growers in the region. Between 1992 and 2009, plantings of Syrah/Shiraz in South Africa increased more than ten-fold, from 900 hectares to around 10,000. With a strong belief that wine is made in the vineyard, Gerhard laid out the vines in half-hectare blocks, enabling each parcel to be managed independently according to their individual needs.

Fast forward two decades and Kleinood is producing some of the most exciting wines I have had the pleasure of trying in recent times. With an unyielding sense of place and personality, the portfolio of wines produced at Kleinood are all show-stoppers in their own right. What is of particular note is the ability of the reds to show the rare combination of power and restraint, avoiding the flash and bravado that often comes with wines of similar weight and ripeness. These are wines that you should make the effort to seek out as poster children for the new South Africa.

Tasting Notes

2021 Tamboerskloof Viognier (13% Alcohol)

89% Viognier fermented in stainless steel and held in neutral 3000L barrels with 11% Roussanne fermented in concrete eggs and aged on the lees for four months. In order to maintain acidity in the whites, grapes are picked in batches at varying degrees of ripeness resulting in the perfect mix of fruit maturity with acidity.

Vibrant, ripe tree fruit on the nose with yellow plum, white flowers, neroli, almond and hints of cedar. The picture of elegance and restraint, this is a beautifully crafted wine that shows how careful vineyard management and an experienced hand in the winery can pay off in spades. Dry, full bodied and creamy-textured (thanks to 4 months lees contact), the tangy acidity gives way to pleasant bitter-almond notes on the finish. Drinking well now but will continue to evolve in bottle over the next 2-5 years.

2021 Tamboerskloof Katharien Rosé (12% Alcohol)

90% stainless steel fermentation with 10% of fermented in older 500L barrels. Aged on the lees for four months.

A graceful 100% Syrah rose produced by seven hours of skin contact. A combination of free run and press juice was used in order to impart body and structure, with an indigenous yeast ferment imparting layered complexity. Medium salmon colour with a well-defined bright red fruit nose of strawberry, cherry with notes of white pepper and lilies. Medium bodied with a supple texture and juicy acidity. Ends with a crisp, clean finish.

4 apples out of 5

2020 ‘De Herder’ Red Blend (13.5% Alcohol)

70% Syrah, 20% Cinsault, 10% Mourvedre

This Côtes du Rhône-style blend is something to write home about. Vivacious, fresh and accessible with a nose of red berries, warm strawberries, black cherry, earthiness, black pepper and spice. Dry and medium bodied with brisk acidity supported by medium sandy tannins. Juicy and rounded, it’s a super example of a leaner, bistro-style red that makes friends with everybody. Enjoy slightly cool with almost anything; would be sensational with mezze and Middle Eastern fare.

4.5 apples out of 5

2017 Tamboerskloof Syrah (14.5% Alcohol)

95% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre, 1% Viognier. Aged 18 months in 500L and 300L French oak barrels (15% first fill and the remaining neutral)

Kirsch and candied black fruit bouquet with stewed strawberry, plum, spice, violet, tar and steak seasoning. Full bodied and firm with fine grained tannins and bright acidity. Stately and well-balanced with notable depth of flavour and lingering spice finish. Maturing nicely and developing sultry savoury character that will continue to evolve over the next 5 years.

2015 Tamboerskloof Syrah (in Magnum, 14.5% Alcohol)

94% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, 1% Viognier. Aged 19 months in 500L and 300L French oak barrels (15% first fill and the remaining neutral)

Meaty, mature nose with tons of savoury notes, roasted nuts, baked berries and cedar. Full bodied with solid, unresolved tannins giving way to long finish. Super expressive and robust with the structure to continue getting better in bottle. A teaser for how these wines can evolve given the cellar time.

2016 Tamboerskloof John Spicer Syrah (15% Alcohol)

100% Syrah aged 18 months in 300L French barriques (15% first fill, 35% second fill and 50% third fill)

Decadent, dense and heady, this is a titan of a wine. Multi-dimensional and dynamic with notes of black fruit preserves, plum, tar, dried wild flowers, peppercorn and exotic spices. Richly textured with muscular tannins and a long, cocoa-dusted finish. A wine to dedicate some time to, both in respect to maturation and enjoyment in the glass.

4.5 apples out of 5

For more info on availability of wines, please reach out to Cru Wine Merchants [email protected]

(All wines are rated out of a possible five apples)