The Badenhorst Brak-Kuil Barbarossa, is the only one produced by vineyard plantings of verified Barbarossa grapes, South Africa's wine regulatory body, South African Wine Industry Information and Systems (Sawis) confirmed.
The Barbarossa vineyard in St Helena Bay, on the northern tip of Swartland, is owned by farmer Wimpie Bouer. Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards made contact with Bouer after buying grapes from a neighbouring farm.
Having discovered that the grapes were Barbarossa, they then passed them on to Adi Badenhorst to vinify, according to Leeuwenkuil’s head viticulturist, Koos van der Merwe.
“Making wine from small batches of grapes was at that time a logistical nightmare for us. Therefore Pieter [Carstens, chief winemaker] and I decided that we have a friend who knew a bit about winemaking that would love trying something new,” van der Merwe explained.
“This is how the grapes ended up with Adi and he made the wine.”
Van der Merwe said that the farmer who originally owned the Barbarossa vineyard assumed that the grapes were Cinsault. However, analysis of some of the shoots and branches at the Nietvoorbij research station near Stellenbosch revealed that they were Barbarossa.
“He invited me to come and give some advice on his vineyards,” Van der Merwe said.
“At that stage, according to him, he had Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz and Cinsault on the farm. He told me that there was a rumour about this Cinsault, that it might be Barbarossa, but that it was always vinified as Cinsault because no-one at that stage knew about such a varietal.
“Working with Cinsault quite often, we knew that this was definitely not Cinsault,” Van der Merwe added.
“Some bunches and shoots were taken to Nietvoorbij and it was identified as Barbarossa by one of the older researchers. There were actually some plantings in the clonal garden, but the variety was delisted some time in the 1950s.
“Because of the excitement at Nietvoorbij that there was still this natural planting left, the process of getting it back on the list and through the Wine and Spirits Board was much easier than any other new varietal.
“According to them this is the only planting of Barbarossa left in South Africa.”
Van der Merwe added that it was still difficult to say when the Barbarossa vines were planted, but that they estimated it would be “around 50 years” ago.
While it is not yet known how the Barbarossa vines found their way to northern Swartland, Adi Badenhorst suggested they might have originally been planted in Constantia. “Interestingly enough, there was a farm in Constantia called Barbarossa,” he explained.
“Initially the vines came from there [having been] imported into South Africa in the early 1900s and planted in Constantia. There seems to have been a bit of movement of people, between the west coast and Constantia.”
Barbarossa is an Italian grape – or group of grapes, given that DNA profiling of all grapes known as Barbarossa is yet to be completed. It is principally associated with Liguria, Piedmont and, to a lesser extent, Emilia Romagna.
The Badenhorst Brakkuil Barbarossa is described as having “bright and dark fruit all at once, with crunchy, gripping tannins and fantastic, pure juiciness”.