Chris & Suzaan Alheit are a husband and wife team. They have traveled and worked harvest together in California’s Napa Valley, Western Australia, Saint-Émilion, Clare Valley & the Mosel Valley. Their love for adventure overseas has led them to New Zealand, Languedoc, Rousillon, Provence, the Northern & Southern Rhone & the Cyclades in Greece. They have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the great wines of Europe—a place they consider to be the heartland of truly fine wine. In their winemaking, they strive to apply lessons learned in Europe to what they do in the Cape. Their aim is to make wines that have a fine form and are not bulky. The result is finely crafted wines that have ample power, but no excess weight—something akin to a gymnast, rather than a sumo wrestler.
Alheit is based on Hemelrand, a beautiful mountain farm situated high on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge in Walker Bay. This rugged piece of fynbos covered land belongs to Hans & Mary Anne Evenhuis. Complete with stone buildings, Hemelrand is planted to an olive grove, lavender fields and a very exciting young vineyard. The Alheit’s are absolute minimalists in their winemaking approach. Grapes are whole bunch pressed. No enzymes, sulphur or yeast are used. The grapes undergo natural fermentation in old barrels with absolutely no new oak used. The first sulphur is applied in winter. The wines are not racked and they stay on the lees for ten months. They do not fine and filtration is used only if absolutely needed. Wines are held for seven months prior to release.
Region: Western Cape, South Africa
Year Founded: 2011
Proprietors: Chris & Suzaan Alheit
Winemaker: Chris & Suzaan Alheit
Size of property: 21 ha/ acres, All plots are dry land bush vines.
Amount of Property Planted: Skurfberg (5.5 ha/ acres), Perdeberg (3.5 ha/), Bottelary hills (4ha/), False Bay (1 ha/), Botrivier (1ha/ ), Franchhoek (2ha/ ), Hemelrand Farm (4ha/
Terroir: It has been said that great wine is 80% in the vineyards, 20% in the cellar. For Alheit, the ratio is awfully close to 99% vineyard, 1% cellar. They farm as close to nature as possible encouraging naturally healthy soil. A philosophy they believe is paramount in making fine wine. Dead soil gives dead wine. The Alheit's have access to some of the most extraordinary old dry farmed bushvine vineyards in the Cape. Most of their plots are between 30 & 40 years old, some far older. At this age, the vines are truly mature and express their origin with effortlessly. They love these old blocks not only because of their quality, but also because they represent the heritage of the cape. Rosa Kruger has been a great help. She spent several years unearthing and polishing the hidden treasures of the Cape winelands. The bottling called “Cartology” is a tribute to her work. The vilification of Single Vineyard wines is their most important focus. The Alheit's long term plan is to build up a portfolio of single vineyard Cape Heritage wines (mostly Chenin & Semillon) to show how these grapes and old vineyards are a vehicle for expressing the land. Skurfberg - A mountainous place on the West Coast close to Clanwilliam (officially called Citrusdal Mountain). Two of the five plots are ungrafted vines. The soils are sandstone derived and very rich in Iron. Red sand over red gravel and clay. The altitude of these plots range between 450 and 540m above sea-level. They are planted between 1974 and 1983. It is a dry area, and consequently yields are low at between 2 and 4 tons/Ha. One of the ungrafted plots goes into Magnetic North Mountain Makstok. The wines from the Skurfberg plots is very pure and fine, with a distinctive mineral profile. Perdeberg - A granitic mountain in the Swartland, the soil on Perdeberg is a very poor granitic sand with a clay subsoil. This soil is outstanding for dryland Chenin, yielding very bright wines with remarkable concentration. Yield are low, between 3 and 4 tons/Ha. The two bushvine plots on Perdeberg are both at 330m above sea-level, totaling 3.5 Ha. They were planted in 1980 and 1981. The bunches and berries from these plots are extremely small. Bottelary Hills, Stellenbosch - There are two Chenin plots here on the crest of their respective hills. Radio Lazarus vineyard is at 400m above sea level on mostly shale soils with some granite intrusions. It is the second highest vineyard in the Bottelary Hills. It was planted in 1978, but was farmed for bulk for many years. The Alheit's began resuscitating this dryland bushvine plot in 2010. Yield are extremely low at around 1.4 ton/Ha. The resulting wine has a distinctive dusty, earthy nature. It is concentrated and brooding, taking longer that most of the other plots to come out of it's shell. Radio Lazarus is registered as a single vineyard. The second Bottelary plot is the highest vineyard in the Hills at 460m & will be released in the future as a single vineyard wine. It was planted in 1970. False Bay - This vineyard is Bushvine Chenin planted in 1978 on decomposted granite directly overlooking False bay. You can see the waves breaking from this vineyard. Botrivier -Pplanted in 1982 on Bokkeveld Skali (heavy sedimentary soil). The wine has a noticeable dark, almost meaty character. Franchhoek - The La Colline vineyard (Alheit's only Semillon Vineyard) was planted in the 1936 by the grandfather of the current owner. It is planted at 320 meters above sea level on a gentle southern slope. Soils are decomposed granite, sandstone and quartz. Around 10% of these old bushvines are the local mutation knows as Semillon Gris. Hemelrand Farm - This is where Alheit is based. The farm is very cool and windy. Drawing inspiration from the great white wines of Languedoc and Rousillon the vineyard is planted to 40% Chardonnay, 30% Rousanne, 13% Verdelho, 12% Chenin blanc, 3% Viognier, 2% Muscat. Soils are very light, sandstone and gravel over clay.
Annual Production: 1000 cases 12/750ml bottles
Varieties Cultivated: Chardonnay, Rousanne, Verdelho, Chenin blanc, Viognier, and Muscat
Cellar Door: None