Koen Roose is known as the eccentric Belgian who makes wine in Elgin.
He’s named three of his wines for notable South African women, including the warrior Queen Manthatisi of the BaThlokwa, who ruled from 1813 to 1824. In her heyday, it is estimated she ruled over 40,000 people and succeeded in keeping her people together when many others failed amid frequent raids by Nguni groups and became one of the best-known, most feared, female military and political leaders in the early 19th Century. Queen Manthatisi, the wine, is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and Koen says she takes all his money, in reference to the French oak barrels he uses for the Chardonnay component of the wine.
His other two lady wines are Chenin Blanc, practically from the same vineyard, though from very specific aspects of it, and named for two women who played prominent roles during the Anglo-Boer War. Sarah Raal and Johanna Brandt. Johanna is the subject of our investigation today, and Koen says, like the woman he named her for, of fleshier, Victorian stock (though I challenge you to find a woman in this day and age who’d be happy with that description). In wine, however, fleshier Victorian stock does make for attractive juice. Johanna, the woman, was a nurse, and known for organising women to spy on British officers, the information serving the Boers well in their guerilla warfare tactics. So perhaps not the most attractive wine for a British audience, though given the write-up, you might be persuaded to reconsider. Set on a patch of shale soils, its rich complexity makes for mouth-watering minerality and flavours of pear and oatmeal – and given Greg’s rating, perhaps something you really ought to try. Scroll down for his musings and best make haste – while Johanna might not have been popular with the British in her heyday, she certainly seems to be making inroads as a fleshy, Victorian Chenin from Elgin.
95 Points – Greg Sherwood MW
“The ever-eccentric Belgian mastermind Koen Roose has long been regarded as a maverick winemaker as well as an inspired genius and this expressively rich, dense Chenin Blanc is another beautiful canvas for his incredible vinous art! Made from grapes sourced from a vineyard grown on Shale soils, it was matured for 11 months in old oak barrels and boasts exotic aromatics of yellow orchard fruits, honeysuckle, peaches and wet wool. This is not a Chenin Blanc for the fainthearted, bursting boldly forth with deliciously complex notes of caramelized peaches, guava roll, quince, pear puree and sweet, salty caramelized oak spice nuances. There are intricate textured layers of leesy biscuit, lemon pith, fleshy yellow fruits, and honied white peach that roll across a very relaxed, sumptuously concentrated palate with an underlying nervy acidity wrapping the whole expression into a very serious composition. A wine that offers up its heart and soul from the moment you pull the cork. Drink this beauty on release and over the next 5 to 8+ years.” – Greg Sherwood MW.