The Bosman Family have a history of choosing a different path, of challenging themselves to find a solution in the unexpected, and 8th generation Petrus Bosman is no exception.
His dream was always to re-open the farm cellar that his grandfather had closed in the ‘60s to focus on the vine cutting nursery. But by the turn of the century, Petrus realised he had to go about things differently. “Wellington is hot, we should be working with it, not against it,” he says emphatically. “Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different outcome is madness. We will never have terroir like in France, so we are never going to make wines that can compete with them.”
Always one to look for a solution, rather than worry about the problem, Petrus went in search of grape varietals that could withstand hot, dry conditions elsewhere in the world and still produce quality wine. He went to Sicily, the small island off the south of Italy, because the climate was so similar to that of Wellington. There he found Nero d’Avola, a robust red grape that thrives in weathered granite soil and can withstand heat and drought. With the Bosman family’s involvement in vine propagation, he was able to start the process of producing cuttings. This took several years, and initially he just grafted Nero cuttings onto a single row of an existing Cabernet vineyard, followed by a hectare planted in 2011.
Enter winemaker Corlea Fourie. Together she and Petrus reopened the Bosman cellar in 2007 and started producing a growing range of impressive wines. In 2013 they harvested just 54kg of grapes and fermented them in a cooler box. “We had no recipe or tradition to follow, as of course Nero d’Avola had never been made on African soil,” explains Corlea, “so we pressed the grapes into a demi-john and then bottled it into 375ml bottles so that we could taste it regularly.”
Corlea continues: “Even on the hottest day, these grapes are happy. The leaves are always green and luscious, the grapes themselves arrive in the cellar crunchy and fresh – no ‘oumens gesiggies’ here! And the acid is naturally high with a commendable pH.”
“The crux of our philosophy is to neither adulterate nor manipulate, but rather to let the grapes express themselves,” she says. “So we used no new oak and showcased the fruit instead.
A great deal of time, effort and resources have gone into producing a Nero d’Avola that would reflect its Sicilian heritage but would also express its unique Wellington terroir. Each year, a ‘stagire’ has arrived from Sicily to help with the harvest. These glorified cellar hands have always paid particular attention to the Nero, giving their input and imparting their philosophies, encouraging the wine to speak for itself in a language we can understand.
Great care has been taken to package the Bosman Nero d’Avola 2016 to reflect its provenance. The origin of this cultivar is the weathered soils at the base of the Mount Etna Volcano, hence the matte black label. Red and gold are the traditional colours of Sicily, while the V-shaped insignia on the neck not only harks back to the triangular shape of the island and its crest, but also to the chevron on the historic Bosman family crest. This is truly a robust cultivar with an honourable heritage yet it points the way to new and innovative ways of making wine on the southern tip of Africa, breaking down the barriers of tradition and setting a new standard.
The resultant wine is elegant and medium-bodied with fresh berry flavours and a hint of pepper. The Bosman Nero d’Avola is unique. It cannot be compared directly with anything else: it represents innovation and modernity, yet of course it is a red wine in all of the traditional, historic sense. It is a wine to be savoured, a wine to challenge the status quo, yet a companiable wine that will both impress and inspire.