I could rave about Berene Sauls’ story forever. So let’s jump straight into this wine and save the fangirling until the end.
Pale gold. Medium+ intensity nose that leads with bright lemongrass, sweet nectarines, orange blossoms, subdued toast, nutmeg and nuttiness that almost makes you doubt yourself because it’s so well integrated, and the distinctive wet slate salinity that I’ve come to expect from Hemel-en-Aarde wines.
Strange thing…a part of me wondered if the seal was beeswax. I could smell honey before even opening the bottle…maybe it was the colour that gave it away. [After posting this, Berene confirmed that the seal is beeswax! What a fantastic added dimension to the experience.]
Off dry (except it’s not…that’s the glycerol deceiving me), light bodied, medium+ acidity, and a medium+ finish that adds a mild trace of bitter grapefruit peel to the burst of clean, vivid green apples, citrus, stonefruit, tart not-quite-ripe mangoes, and oyster shell minerality.
Think ripe Chablis. Sniffing the empty glass helps confirm the oak and creamy malolactic.
Viti & Vini:
The Chardonnay grapes were source from unirrigated vines grown in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. 24% of the wine was aged in amphorae for 6 months, 18% in stainless steel, and 58% barrel aged in 228 litre old French oak for 6 months. Half the wine went through malolactic conversion in 5th fill oak.
Balance (1) + Length (1) + Intensity (1) + Complexity (1) = A very good wine.
Drink now, but potential for a little further ageing.
Not only is Berene Sauls the kind of person who treats you like a dear friend the very first time you meet her, but her story is especially moving. The wines are named after Tesselaarsdal, the village located 24km from Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, where Berene was raised. In 1810 Johannes Tesselaar bequeathed his farm to freed Khoi slaves, from whom Berene is a direct descendent.
Starting as an au pair for the Hamilton Russell family at the age of 19, she very quickly progressed to learning everything she could about the wine business – from driving forklifts to picking grapes, managing sales and running her own export logistics department. Which all culminated in her launching Tesselaarsdal in 2015 and, very excitingly, purchasing a plot of land in her hometown that will be planted with Pinot and Chard.
It’s Heritage Day on Friday and I’ve been thinking about what heritage means to me and my wine journey. I still feel quite lost, but I believe that people like Berene Sauls are helping to redefine and build a more inclusive heritage for South Africa.