Betz Family Winery Announces New Venture in South Africa
September 06, 2016
Betz Family Winery is pleased to announce a new partnership with the introduction of an additional wine in its portfolio: Quinta Essentia. Quinta Essentia is a Chenin Blanc made from old bush vines in Stellenbosch, the South African wine region that has a centuries-long history that has emerged as one of the pre-eminent sources of finely crafted Chenin Blanc alongside France’s Loire Valley.
The wine is the product of an international collaboration between the Betz Family team and two prominent players in South Africa’s recent rise to vinous stardom, Carl van de Merwe, one of the country’s most acclaimed winemakers, and Wendy Appelbaum, a business leader, philanthropist and owner of DeMorgenzon Winery in Stellenbosch.
The Griessels, van de Merwe and Appelbaum share a deep passion for South African Chenin Blanc, long-cherished and a variety that has recently become a global rising star. “Chenin Blanc is quintessentially South African: distinctive, aromatic, intense on the palate and with an acid backbone that leaves you wanting more,” says Steve Griessel. “When grown with low yields on appropriate soils it is notably age-worthy, developing depth and complexity for many years. It has proven itself to be one of the world’s great white wine varieties.”
Carl van de Merwe expanded on the collaboration: “We set out to rediscover and resurrect compelling, low-yielding, bush vine Chenin Blanc vineyards in Stellenbosch and craft wines that express this unique terroir.”
Bob Betz who first went to South Africa with the Griessels in 2013 says “Quinta Essentia emphatically confirms why Chenin Blanc is one of the world’s great white grape varieties. This is not the over-cropped, insipid quaffer that Chenin has most often become in the US; this is old vine Chenin Blanc, conscientiously grown in a unique site, crafted by a skilled artisan, and it delivers something else entirely. Crystalline aromatic notes of melon, spiced peaches and quince play on a layer of fresh pear, while the palate is slightly tropical, with ginger and ripe apple. I find the tension-filled palate irresistible, with enough weight to balance, but with ample acidity for serious meal time challenges, as well as cellaring.”
The Griessels were attracted to both the wines van de Merwe was crafting in Stellenbosch, as well as his winemaking philosophy. Initial discussions among the partners quickly led to agreement on the shared endeavor: “Our common obsession for South African Chenin Blanc was evident from the moment we met and agreeing to embark on this journey was a no-brainer,” says Appelbaum.
They began searching for old-vine blocks throughout Stellenbosch in 2014 and selected four vineyards which they believed would make the most compelling wines. The first vintage is 2015, with just over 600 cases produced. The 2015 Quinta Essentia Chenin Blanc is raised in 100% French Oak, 25% of which is new. The grapes were pressed whole-cluster with natural fermentation in the barrel lasting between four and twelve weeks. Very little malolactic fermentation occurred, as it was naturally inhibited by the high acidity of the wine. Quinta Essentia was blended after detailed, barrel-by-barrel assessment, with only the top barrels making the final blend.
Quinta Essentia, or “Fifth Element” in Latin, is the ethereal and inexplicable essence, after earth, fire, water and air. The search for vineyards with the potential to make world-class wine is just as elusive. It is about the possibility and the journey, not the destination.
Bridgit Griessel who designed the website says, “Our goal is to give our members a visual impression of the sheer beauty of the Cape Winelands and the nature of the four vineyards and we’re excited about how the website came together. It was such fun taking these photos with that in mind.”
The 2015 Quinta Essentia Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch is now available for sale in the USA at www.quintaessentiawinery.com and will be offered to Betz Family members first. Betz Family private mailing list members will be able to meet Carl van der Merwe and taste and pick up the Quinta Essentia Chenin Blanc during the Betz Family release weekend from 9-11th September.