Alheit: “We practice simple and careful winemaking: no yeasts, no enzymes, no acidification, no sulphur before ferment, no blocking malo, no new barrels, no fining etc. No manipulation.”

I have come to love the idea that pure, fine wine can be harvested in the most inhospitable conditions. Indeed if we imagine the beginnings of wine in the Middle East, alas now barren of grapes, it is a far cry from the cultivation, classification and contemporary classicism of Europe. And yet wine is interwoven with our understanding and enjoyment of European identity and culture and not that of the Middle East, currently in the grip of repressive and intolerant religious regimes. I hope to one day be freely discussing and drinking the wine from the vineyards of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, untainted by the waft of religion.

Explorers and first settlers had no choice but to bring the vine with them and like thousands of generations before them, cultivate the grape and drink their produce. Experience and pragmatism guides those most on the periphery, and as such South Africa has developed it’s own unique classicism from the varietals and blends that work best. No country in the new world has recognised the importance of blends as much as South Africa and the emblematic wines of the country’s best producers are invariably historic blends not found anywhere else in the world.

Alheit’s vineyards are dotted around the cape, unique from one another, yet almost all contributing to Cartology, Alheit’s ultimate South African expression. Old vineyards, dry grown and mostly bushvines, the style is always the same; deep, pure, fine boned, tender, mineral and transparent. It seems almost inconceivable that wines of such astonishing, supple vividness are grown in such wild ruggedness. Most of the vineyards are represented as single vineyard wines, without any winemaking artifice or manipulation. South Africa is experiencing a vinous Diamond age, against all the odds.


Alheit Fire by Night Chenin Blanc 2021

A single vineyard wine from grapes planted in 1978, in the Helderberg overlooking False Bay. Bright and fragrant aromas of lemongrass, candlewax, green melon, subtle passionfruit tingle and nectarine. Deep and concentrated with Alheit’s signature purity, even-flow and salty minerality. Very complex, every sip revealing something new. Oyster shell, blood plum, sunflowers, curry leaf, grapefruit and apricot. The silken texture evolves into a texture of the finest fur, with a marked squeeze of salty minerality. An absolutely breathtaking wine to be consumed with pure and unadulterated foods. Sydney Rock Oysters, perhaps.


Alheit Cartology Chenin Blanc/Semillon 2021 (available in mixed pack)

Cartology is Alheit’s emblematic wine, 90% Chenin Blanc with 10% Semillon. Sourced from most of Alheit’s vineyards and therefore a classic Cape expression. Sleeker and more linear in profile to the single vineyard wines, the small dash of Semillon streamlining the shape. Lemon and limes, including zest, salty, peppery and herbal, with hints of stone fruits and darker citrus. Intense, indeed the most upfront of the chenins, with a more pronounced structure too. Mouthwatering, bracing and full of vigour, the best Cartology we have tasted.


Alheit Hereafter Here Chenin Blanc 2021

An incredible wine, considering that it’s sourced from young vines, less than 20 years old. For me, the bargain of the range. Where chenin meets riesling with aromas of lemon zest, Victoria plum, passionfruit butter, honeysuckle and apricot. Despite the beautiful wafts greeting my nose, I was totally taken aback by the depth, richness and complexity of the palate. Pure, spicy, salty and deep. Absolutely nothing like it. Classical, yet in a class of its own, with a superfine texture, becoming more pronounced towards the finish. Pawpaw, rock melon, curry leaf, mustard seed, honeydew and minerals. Very savoury and elemental, this isn’t all about the fruit. A liberal dash of pepper to close, I found this to be the maritime of all the wines, although notes of the sea are evident in all. Goes on for minutes.


Alheit Vineyards Hemelrand Vine Garden 2021

The 2021 Hemelrand Vine Garden is one of Chris Alheit’s biggest successes and encapsulates everything great about his wine. Initially quite neutral, it reveals wondrous sea spray, honeysuckle, Provençal herbs and hints of powdered chalk on the nose. The palate has exquisite balance, very cohesive and intense, yet the acidity keeps this so fresh with hints of yellow plum, frangipane and quince towards the extended finish. You just want to go back for another sip (and I bet you will). 96 points – Neal Martin, Vinous


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