The carménère grape is well known in Chile, where for many years it was misidentified as merlot until studies at the end of the last century found that it was indeed carménère, believed to have been extinct after the phylloxera outbreak decimated European grapes in the late 19th century. Today it’s starting to find devotees in South Africa, with the first at Lozärn wines at Doornbosch farm in Bonnievale.
The farm is home to the Smuts family, well known in wine circles through their ancestor Captain James Sedgwick, one of the pioneers of the country’s liquor industry.
Talented winemaker Salóme Buys-Vermeulen fell in love with the grape “right from the first sip”, and was determined to make her own wine – which led to the planting of the carménère vineyard at Doornbosch – and it’s a knockout. Production is small, as befits this maker of hand-crafted wines, and there is now a Carménère Rosé and an excellent Chardonnay to join it.
Lozärn is named for the Swiss city of Lucerne, with which the Smuts family has many connections (and is pronounced Lowzern, in case you were wondering). Salóme sums up her style when she says, “After a full circle of seasons in the vineyard you get to love and bottle your passion and share that vintage with others. It’s forever captured.” There is a poet in most winemakers I know.
She and her husband Sybrand are lucky enough to live on Doornbosch with their two children Amiël (5) and Nina (2). Sybrand is the production manager at Lozärn Wines and Salóme is in the cellars, which works perfectly for them.
About her young family, Salóme says, “We realise that their mental and spiritual health are formed as they grow. I hope to be able to look back in 18 years when they have to stand on their two feet, and say that we were able to give them that platform.” Sensitive and a poet. No wonder the grapes understand her so well.
Deep-red berry flavours and colour, mysterious and beguiling. If Shiraz and Merlot were lovers this would be their love child. Originally from the Médoc, so very European in sensibility. R476
Carménère Rosé 2017
A gorgeous nose, fragrant with summer florals, the tiniest hint of spice, and well-controlled acid. Notes of cherries and strawberries. R117
Deliciously fresh with plenty of crisp citrus notes supported by eight months of oaking, barely apparent, and vanilla and almonds. R128