Near the end of 2014, I was introduced to a wine that completely changed everything I believed and thought I knew about South African wines. Mvemve Raats De Compostella, with a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Merlot, was like Cheval Blanc meets Petrus. It was freshness and power. Purity and balance, with an exotic quality that you just can't put your finger on. It had me at hello. As the Wine Advocate's Neal Martin noted, "To sum up this wine in two words: world class. Ignore at your own risk."
Fast forward to a chilly, rainy April day in Buffalo. Bruwer Raats, the man responsible for this revelation, walked into City Wine Merchant with an energy like this was the first time he's had a chance to show anyone his wines. He is passionate and down to earth. And authentic. He made us feel like we were walking the vineyards with him in Stellenbosch.
He talked about his family and why they are specialists. "I realized that what we lacked in South Africa was specialization. Lots of New World producers are trying to be everything to everyone. Everything is good, but nothing is exceptional. Our industry needs people who can specialize."
And specialize he does. He is a master of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, and the goal is to showcase the true expression of each grape. When we took a sip of Original Chenin Blanc, Bruwer said, “that’s what the grape tastes like. My goal is to make the wine taste just like the grape.”
You can imagine eating the fruit off the vine, and that it would taste just like this: Fresh, clean and juicy. It doesn't get any more real than this. As Martin recently noted, Bruwer Raats "is the most exciting and forward-thinking winemaker" in Stellenbosch. It is clear that he is both the present and the future there.
He left CWM with a hand-crafted walnut corkscrew with an engraved Buffalo in the middle. I'd like to think that, with this in his tasting room, we'll always share in a small part of the magic he is creating back home.
Raats Family Wines Original Chenin Blanc 2013 - Light. Fruity. Citrus. Mineral. A great summer value. Grab a bottle and your picnic blanket.
Raats Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2012 - Medium. Floral. White fruit. Honey. From older vines, with a ton of complexity and elegance. This wine deserves a good dinner.
Raats Family Wines Red Jasper 2012 - Medium. Fruity. Blue fruit. Clove. This wine is a tribute to Bruwer’s family, and their former winemaker who passed away in 2009. 81% Cabernet Franc, so no one can say they aren’t "sticking to their guns," but this is a Bordeaux style, with a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot. The aroma reminds us of a freshly baked blueberry muffin. A little spice and loads of fruit on the palate. Home run.
Raats Family Wines Dolomite Cabernet Franc 2012 - Medium. Spice. Red fruit. Clove. Our tasting note simply says one word: Awesome.
Raats Family Wines Cabernet Franc 2011 - Full. Spice. Black fruit. Cinnamon. Supple. No, huge. Pair with grilled meat.