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Newton Johnson, the Last Winery Visit
Newton Johnson is situated at the top of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. This translates as ‘heaven on earth’ and indeed it is a beautiful spot. We arrived in the morning for our final vineyard visit in South Africa. This one was exciting because we stock some of their wines.
Newton Johnson, Foodie Heaven
We met Bevan in the stunning tasting room that has pretty well all-round views of the valley and his vineyards. He introduced himself as being the one ‘who eats and drinks for a living’. Well, he does a really good job of the tour and tasting and if you’re ever there book in for lunch too, the food is delicious.
I asked him how they had started in this particular spot. His answer was, quite simply, that his father had ambitions to grow Pinot Noir. Therefore, they moved! This area is unusually close in proximity to the cooling influence of the South Atlantic Ocean and is further south than the traditional South African winelands. This makes Hemel-en-Aarde one of the coolest, most maritime, wine producing areas in the country. I think when you have that much dedication and ambition for the grape that you’ll relocate the whole family, you are going to produce something particularly good.
His brother Gordon is the wine maker and we met him in the winery. The care taken is quite amazing, he will, for example, walk the vineyards and mark each bunch of grapes he wants to be picked for the first Chardonnay. Then, he’ll select the second picking for the next wine.
In the winery, we noticed suspended tanks and have never seen that before. This was in order for everything to be gravity fed rather than pumped through which seems a gentler way of handling the grapes.
Onto the cellar and we could see the names of the two coopers – Hassin and Tremeaux burnt into the front of the French oak barrels. I was highly entertained to hear about the barrel sourcing. He originally contacted one of his current barrel makers to source good French oak casks. The Frenchman came back to him with the answer ‘send me your wine to taste and I’ll tell you if you can buy my barrels’! I see this as another endorsement of the quality of their wines. This relationship is a close and continuous one. Each year they send their wines to the cooper and the barrel is customised to their wine.
Burgundy Style in South Africa
These wines are produced with care and attention to detail, but the growing ethos is to intervene less. The result is really tremendous and if you want Burgundy style, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. I would highly recommend trying these wines. They’re not cheap, but we do have the entry-level ones in the pod at the moment. They won’t be available for long! Alternatively, have a look at them in our online shop.