Theunis de Jongh is a most unlikely winemaker, having had a very successful international career in the steel business in exotic places like Turkey.
He completed a business degree at Pretoria University and spent many years travelling before returning to South Africa to semi-retire. This energetic 62-year-old obviously can’t sit still and, as well as making great wine, has a smoking room at Kleinhoekkloof where he makes the most delicious charcuterie. Visitors to the farm, which lies at the end of a 6km dirt road, can order a platter of his fabulous meats, some fresh bread and cheeses, in addition to enjoying the wine tasting.
His charming wife Ronel is usually there to assist and you may even meet the assistant winemaker, their daughter Danielle. The family enjoys entertaining at home and loves Portuguese cuisine with nuances of peri peri – a favourite. Their wines are available online; orders of more than six bottles are delivered free of charge in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town. The wines are also available at cellar prices at the Laverne Wine Boutique in Robertson, via their online wine shop, www.lavernewines.co.za
The small town of Ashton in the Western Cape is the centre of a vast fruit-canning business. When in full swing, the smell from processing apricots pervades the air, wafting up into the mountainous area that shields the town. Once you drive away, the terrain becomes a whole lot more appealing, quite magnificent actually.
The farm of Kleinhoekkloof lies in the folds of the lower reaches of the Langeberg, spectacularly situated. It’s no wonder that Theunis de Jongh says disarmingly, “The first time I saw the farm I knew it was something I had always wanted without really knowing, a kind of dream come true.”
Here he makes excellent wine in small batches assisted by his daughter, Danielle. Kleinhoekkloof produces far more grapes than it needs to, and the excess fruit is of such high quality it is eagerly snapped up by some of the famous wine estates in the area.
The first Shiraz Theunis produced here was the champion of the Robertson Young Wine Show, proving to him that he was on the right track. The other wines he and Danielle produce – a Merlot Rosé and a Sauvignon Blanc – are packed with delicious fruit flavours with very well-controlled acids that, as Shirley Valentine said, ‘Won’t strip the palate off you’. One can only hope that the range will continue to grow.
Deliciously fresh, packed with light cherry flavours and plenty of tropical fruit on the nose. Rounded mouth feel, magnificent colour, not too pink for its own good. Best with bacon and eggs (really). And Thai curries.
Delightfully fresh, crystal clear, crisp, clean, summer-fruit flavours on the nose and in the mouth. Very well-controlled acids, a quaffer if ever there was one. Perfect with sushi, roast chicken, fried fish and chips.
Intense, deep, dark-red colour, multilayered red-berry flavours and fragrances. Some white pepper, vanilla custard and almonds from 18 months in French oak barrels. Pair with red-meat casseroles like oxtail or lamb shanks, and
Meet the Winemaker
In 1984 (very young then !) I was invited to La Gavroche Restaurant in London whilst on a business trip. I cannot remember the vintage or the producer but we were served a wine from Chateauneuf du Pape which was something I had never tasted before and it completely changed my expectation of wine.
I suppose the occasion of dining in such a special place contributed to the lasting memory of the wine…. I was also given a signed copy of Albert & Michel Roux’s book New Classic Cuisine which my wife and I use when we have time and feel like cooking something special.
And the worst?
Thankfully really terrible wines are few and far between nowadays. I would describe the worst wine as the one that disappointed when you expected something special.
Is there something that makes South African wines special? Can you describe it?
Big, bold Fruit driven wines and the constant improvement and innovation by the new breed of young winemakers optimising our special terroirs and abundant sunlight.
What do you find attracts you to people—as friends?
Honesty, integrity and unpretentiousness. Perhaps the reason we have so few real friends today ?
What do you like most about yourself?
Loyalty is something dear to me and I get very passionate about things that I enjoy doing. Currently that is directed at the wines and Charcuterie we make at Kleinhoekkloof. Oh yes – I don’t know how to give up!
I can get a little impatient when things move slower than I think it should!
When in your life have you been happiest—till now?
I get immense pleasure from seeing my family and people around me achieving goals they had set and maneuvering themselves so that they have choices. Fortunately, with only a few exceptions, this has been the trend in my life making me a very happy and blessed person.
What can you just not do without in your life?
The sanctity of family is precious and necessary for peace of mind. Other than that and not necessarily in this order …. Bacon, Lurpak butter, Real Mortadella, Mozambique style Peri Peri Chicken and Prawns, Bacon & Eggs with Kleinhoekkloof Merlot Rosè and … did I already mention bacon?
When do you think it is right to tell a teensie weeny lie?
In general no lies, but sometimes when you can save someone embarrassment without doing harm to anyone else it could be justified.
When have you been most bored?
Long haul flights, putting petrol in my car and sitting in meetings where people who like to hear their own voices go on and on…