South Africa’s small, special secret
by Sasha Saunders
The fanfare around South Africa’s wines is almost always focused on the traditionally famous Cape Winelands. But, a few hundred kilometers away, up the east coast, something special has been bubbling for a while.
In 2006, when the Plettenberg Bay Wine of Origin district wasn’t much more than an idea, Doug and Sue Lund purchased fallow land. As some of the region’s early pioneers, they were taking a risk, but they recognised similarities with New Zealand’s climatic qualities and saw potential. A little over a decade later, their Newstead wines have been described as the best-kept secret inside the South African wine industry’s best-kept secret. Because Newstead has quickly elevated the region’s winemaking credentials.
Their first vintages of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc were released in 2012 to almost immediate acclaim, and both varietals were later awarded at several shows. Pinot Noir came next. But it’s their Cap Classiques that have really made critics sit up and take notice.
In the five years since their first release, the Brut and Rosé bubblies have won six Gran d’Ors (Double Golds) at the Michelangelo Awards, South Africa’s premier wine showcase. The famous Platter’s Wine Guide awarded a rare 5-star rating to the 2015 MCC Brut Chardonnay. In 2020, on its first time entering, Newstead was named the overall winner and top scorer at the famous Amorim Cap Classique Challenge – the only time ever that this accolade has gone to a producer outside the traditional Western Cape Winelands. And in 2021, the 2015 MCC Brut was joint top-scorer in winemag.co.za’s Prescient Cap Classique Report. Predictably, both the Brut and Rosé Cap Classiques regularly sell out fast.
Word has spread accordingly, as have accolades. Newstead has a growing base of fans and aficionados in Europe and the UK, as recognition continues to increase. At the 2019 International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, Newstead was voted among South Africa’s top 3 Cap Classiques, and among the top 500 wines in the world; the gold-medalled Brut Chardonnay scored 95 points. Recently, Tim Aitken scored three Newstead wines above 90 – the Sauvignon Blanc and both of the two bubblies. And in the Gilbert Gaillard International Challenge 2021, the 2015 Blanc de Blanc MCC Brut was one of South Africa’s 5 top wines, scoring an impressive 94 points.
But while these awards may paint a picture of scale and grandeur, they belie the Lunds’ humility and authenticity. In this respect, Newstead is consistently true. If you ever have the good fortune to visit them, you’ll see that as a small, family-owned vineyard, Doug and Sue have resisted the temptation to develop a flashy restaurant experience. Instead, menus change daily, dependent on mood and on what’s in their own vegetable garden. Meals are prepared with love, and informal picnics are every bit as exceptional as leisurely sit-downs. The location is astonishingly beautiful. And you’re quite likely to meet Sue or Doug personally and engage in long conversation. The warm, welcoming, no-airs-or-graces ambiance lingers long after your visit.
The Lunds have also embraced the very real South African need to develop staff and support local communities. A portion of sales goes to a nearby soup kitchen. And they look to upskill and promote: managers started off working in the vineyards.
That care extends to people but starts in the vineyards, where there’s evidence of the meticulous attention to detail. In addition to using organic fertilisers and harvested rainwater, they’ve taken the unusual step of using netting over the vines, which results in unusually good grapes – some of the most unblemished any farmer is ever likely to see.
Running through everything, there’s a great sense of what is true to the Lunds and to Newstead: care, craft, people, quality… generally, the things that make life worthwhile. You’ll find that on their estate, and in every glass of their wine.
If you have questions, queries, comments or just want to drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you. Better yet, visit us in person so we can meet you.
Wednesday to Sunday, 11am – 4pm.
Wine sales Monday and Tuesday by arrangement.
Newstead Wine Estate
Redford Road, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay