Nobody was surprised that the newest wines in the Survivor collection, the Pinotage 2017 and Wild Yeast Syrah 2017, walked off with gold at the Mundus Vini in Germany recently. The judging panel consisted of 260 international experts who tasted 7 200 wines from 56 countries over five days. Not an easy task with the competition at hand. These fabulous wines from Ben Snyman and his team were made to be noticed.
Ben is the cellar master at Overhex outside Worcester on the way to Robertson. The other labels in the stable are Balance and Mensa, but at the top of the range are those that bear the name Survivor, named after a legendary Nguni cow that not only escaped from a truck while passing their vineyard, but survived to produce a whole line of splendid offspring. The grapes are brought in from all over the Western Cape, including the Swartland, and this alone is a mammoth task, making sure that they “start with the best to make the best”.
The wines Ben makes are totally delicious, packed with fruit, and well-priced. They are his pride and joy. “My aim is to make New World wines of exceptional quality. Each year we try to make wines that are at least ten times better than those of the previous year, and that’s a serious commitment.”
Charming and affable, Ben was born in the Cape, and grew up in Welgemoed outside Cape Town in an area well known for its wine farms. “I grew up near vineyards and it fascinated me how you can make something so simple appear so complex.” He studied Oenology and Viticulture at Stellenbosch and realised his passion for winemaking one day when he was cooking, which he loves.
“I mixed together the remnants from some bottles in the kitchen – being on a strict student budget,” he smiles, “and was intrigued at what I had made, something I had manipulated into a harmonious whole. I decided then and there to become a winemaker.”
After graduating, he spent a season at Sonoma in California, then worked at Vrede en Lust and Boschendal, before joining Overhex. He and his wife Mia, a medical doctor, live in Worcester close to the mountains and the cellar, with Newton their Hungarian vizsla. Ben enjoys travelling and says, “Every culture has its own food and drink and the only way to experience these is to go there. This is especially true of a country like China, where our market is growing rapidly.“ Although he travels extensively, he loves coming home to his roots.
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Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Partly oak fermented with some citrus notes and plenty of grape flavours, well-controlled acids, full in the mouth, easy to drink a bottle or two. Perfect with sushi and creamy pasta dishes. R120
Chenin Blanc 2018
Full of tropical-fruit flavours with just the right amount of tang supported by careful wood use. A cracker. Heaven with roast chicken. R120.
Wild Yeast Syrah 2017
Made with wild yeast which gives it extra dimension. This superb wine has all the Syrah flavours, deeply delicious, with a touch of spice. A classic. Superb with roast beef and potatoes. R185