When Stellenview Premium Wines founder, winemaker and entrepreneur Reino Kruger established the brand in 2009 (primarily for export to the Far East), it made perfect sense to pay homage to his family with one of the ranges, namely Kruger Family Reserve. The Kruger family heritage dates back to the early 1700s with the arrival of the first settlers in South Africa.
The wines in the range, which comprises cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, are complex and elegant. The cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and chardonnay represent the best fruit meticulously vinified and aged in oak barrels with very little intervention, while the sauvignon blanc is unwooded with extended lees contact.
We met up with Reino to hear more about their award-winning wines.
Tell us about your rich history and heritage
‘Kruger’ was a German occupational name for a seller or maker of mugs, jugs and pitchers, and is derived from the Old German ‘Kruog’. It was also a name for ‘the publican or keeper of an inn’. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the name of the individual. The name has many variants, including Kroger, Kroge, Krogh, Krygier and Krugel.
Our grandfather, Andries Daniel Kruger, farmed close to the small town of Heilbron in the Free State, mainly with cattle, maize, sorghum and small-scale dairy.
How did you get started in the wine business?
I’m a first-generation winemaker growing up in Somerset West in the Cape Winelands. I wanted to study medicine, but after completing my BSc in biochemistry, genetics and physiology at Stellenbosch University I was introduced to winemaking by my father. It was a natural progression, as I enjoyed biochemistry and chemistry – which form a large part of winemaking.
My first vintage was as an intern at Bonnievale Cellar under Gerrit Van Zyl mentorship, and once my studies were completed I joined Gerrit at Daschbosch Winery in Rawsonville.
It’s here where we spent countless mornings in the vineyards assessing grapes, choosing pockets of grapes to make better wines. In a very short time, we could see the difference. During my three years with Daschbosch, in the lower season I worked overseas on farms from California to the south of France. Here, a memorable experience was to meet Mr Tony Laithwaite, an incredible visionary who started producing wines in France in the 1970s and took them to the UK to sell directly to consumers from his mother’s garage. Today, Direct Wines is still one of the largest independent retailers in the UK.
Starting my own company was a big learning curve. I’m involved in every aspect from grape selection to winemaking, bottling, loading of containers, cashflow projections and overseas visits to make connections.
I also formed a partnership with Bernard Fontannaz, the owner of Le Grand Domaine and Origin Wine. This brought both logistics and economy of scale to the business. We are fortunate that the growth in our export market has been consistent over last years, even during the last 24 months. With less travel, our focus shifted to the local market, and it is starting to bear fruit.
How do you know when you have a particularly good vintage?
I believe every vintage is a good vintage. Regular assessment in vineyards, correct canopy management, harvesting at the right time and attention to detail in the winemaking process – all are great building blocks for blending the perfect wine.
What do you believe is the key or secret to the success of your award-winning wines?
It’s always a team effort. With red wines, the process before bottling takes about 26–36 months and every step of the process must be done 100% to ensure quality is maintained. We never settle for anything less than perfect until the final blend. In the past we have spent up to 30 days blending until the correct blend is chosen.
What are your favourite varietals to work with and why?
A combination of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Each varietal is unique in the sense of terroir, winemaking and ageing. Cabernet sauvignon is more suitable for new wood ageing, shiraz ideal for second- and third-fill barrels. Sauvignon blanc needs early-morning picking, cooler fermentation, the correct yeast and ageing on fine lees after fermentation. Chardonnay gets picked riper and needs more oxidative, warmer barrel fermentation, battonage − the French term for stirring wine lees − and ageing in new barrels for approximately nine months. It all starts by assessing vineyards, grapes and weather – doing everything at the optimal time.
What is your favourite wine or vintage that you have made?
It must be the Kruger Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 and Kruger Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2020 − the cabernet sauvignon for its consistency with previous vintages, while the sauvignon blanc is a massive improvement from the last two seasons when we had an extreme drought in the Cape Winelands.
What is one of the most rewarding things about winemaking?
It must be when visiting overseas clients and finding your wine in a high-end liquor store or on the menu of a well-established restaurant. Knowing where the idea started and seeing it five years down the line.
What can consumers look forward to in the next year?
Opening our wine bar in Church Street, Stellenbosch, and at a later stage, a restaurant on Le Grand Domaine.
- Made from 100% shiraz grapes, the Kruger Family Reserve Shiraz 2017 is part of an award-winning lineage. In 2020 the 2016 vintage scored an impressive 94 points at the Decanter World Wine Awards and was previously nominated under the Top 12 Best Shiraz in the 2019 Shiraz Challenge.
- Kruger Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 scored 90 points at the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards and was awarded Gold at the 2020 Michelangelo Awards. In 2019 the same vintage was awarded Best Overall Cabernet Sauvignon and Best Overall Red Wine at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Awards.
- The Kruger Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2020 is best described as being having a light green tinge. What comes to mind is ‘summer in a glass’. The sauvignon blanc has aromas of ginger and pineapple intermingled with fynbos flavours.