Harvested from vines planted in 1962, a young female South African winemaker has just taken the top spot at the 2022 London Wine competition.
Western Cape, South Africa (07 June 2022) – Over the past two years, Piekenierskloof Wines has racked up more than 70 accolades behind its award-winning wines, but of the more recent acknowledgements, the one that stands out is the highly coveted 2022 London Wine Competition prize for their Bergendal Chenin Blanc 2020, ranked Gold in ‘The Best Wines by Country Award’.
Harvested from vines planted in 1962, this stellar vintage was crafted by a passionate young winemaker, Hendrien Vercueil.
When Hendrien was born, the vines were already 30 years old. Still, it took her creativity, qualification and commitment to a rich family heritage deeply rooted in Citrasdal in the Western Cape to deliver a wine worthy of the praise it now enjoys some 30 years later. For context, 1300 wines were submitted in this year’s competition from more than 36 countries, so to rise victorious was no mean feat. Weighted and rated on quality, value, and packaging, this was where Piekenierskloof’s Bergendal Chenin Blanc 2020 ruled supreme in its class.
Harvesting for tomorrow
Invested in the long game, today Piekenierskloof Wines rests on a wine legacy that goes back to 1959. The first vines were planted three short years later, and a new family chapter began.
Passed down from father to sons over the decades, today Piekenierskloof Wines has a winemaker who, over the past two years, has been instrumental in taking its ever-growing range of wines to even greater heights than the pioneering Van Zyl family could ever have imagined.
In 2022, the winemaking falls to Hendrien, and with that, the opportunity to work hard and reward the investment made in her ability.
“Our cellar master, Jaco van Niekerk, believed and trusted me enough to throw me in the deep end,” Hendrien recalls. “It’s intimidating, as a young female winemaker, to stake my claim and install myself in a fast-evolving industry. Jaco offered me that freedom, and I would like to think his belief in my ability is paying dividends.”
Piekenierskloof Wines is no small operation, so attention to detail, working within a well-oiled machine and being given enough room to inject personality and curiosity to deliver extraordinary wines is rare.
“I work with what Mother Nature gifts us, and thankfully the terroir is amazing, and the old vines, especially, continue to deliver spectacular vintages,” Hendrien shares.
As to why Piekenierskloof Wines is finally enjoying its day in the sun, the reasons are multiform. An actively supportive and invested family, coupled with the freedom for a young creative to marry art and nature to deliver award-winning wines, is part of it.
“I am a perfectionist in everything I do,” Hendrien insists. “You must be precise, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be playful,” she says with a confident wink. “With every varietal and every vintage, I let my imagination run. I am one part of a bigger chain of thousands who toil the soil to realise a palatable and precious product.”
Trial, experimentation and zero tolerance for failure is the space where Hendrien expresses herself and turns raw to magic, and it’s working. With the Rhône tradition her guide, everything else is on the table to test and try.
“We are gifted with giving grapes, which allows us to push and improve on what came before it,” Hendrien shares.
Edited to perfection, Piekenierskloof Wines took a single vintage and varietal to the 2022 London Wine Competition and won. One can only wonder what would have transpired if they’d delivered all their growing raft of carefully crafted wines celebrating “magic in a bottle”, as Hendrien put it.
Mere days after winning in the UK, WINEMAG’s Prescient Chenin Blanc Report 2022 delivered a confirmatory endorsement that Piekenierskloof’s Bergendal Chenin Blanc 2021 was Top 10 worthy, with an impressive score of 93. Upon reflection, what’s remarkable is the number of times Piekenierskloof Wines has been decorated at the Novare SA Terrior wine awards, Michelangelo, Merrit Awards and Decanter World Wine Awards. Further to that Tim Atkin, Platter’s, the Prescient Chenin Blanc Report, Gilbert & Gaillard, Veritas and the International Wine and Spirits Competition have prolifically endorsed Hendrien’s investment in delivering only the very best.
Consistency is king
In this journey here, credibility is tantamount to success.
“What Piekenierskloof Wines does well is happily stand up and be counted as one of the best in the world, and that’s now acknowledged, on a global scale,” Hendrien points out. “We’ve been able to stand our ground against estates and brands, many of which have an even longer history than we do, and yet we thrive!”
The bottom line is, people buy what they know, especially if they can’t taste the fruits of your labour before purchase.
“We want people to taste, let it swirl, and then decide if it’s for them,” Hendrien says. “The moment a wine is consumed, and it elicits a positive reaction, that’s the richest reward for me.”
Singularly focused on the wine in the bottle, free of gimmickry, Piekenierskloof Wines has nowhere to hide, rated only on its merits. Few farms can claim that level of authenticity from brand to bottle.
As volumes increase, a shared passion both winemaker and cellar master enjoy, the sky’s the limit, primarily because neither rest on their laurels.
So, whether it’s Grenache, Chardonnay, or Tempranillo, it’s anyone’s guess which varietal Hendrien will reign supreme in next. What’s guaranteed, however, is the fact that Hendrien Vercueil is hell-bent on skirting outside of her lane to find the next best thing. And, based on her short but impressive run at Piekenierskloof Wines, what’s further assured is, nothing is off the table.