(Swartland, South Africa)
Babylon’s Peak is the name given to a tall granite outcrop on the Paardeberg, between Paarl and Malmesbury. Far from being a disharmonious ‘tower of Babel’, the wines are really good, and a credit to winemaker Stephan Basson, the fourth generation of winemakers in the family. The cellar had last been used in 1948, but Stephan re-commissioned the farm’s cellar in 2003.
The Swartland region mostly comprises a succession of undulating hills that don’t achieve any great altitude. However, the Bassons’ Nooitgedacht farm has vineyards that extend 700m up the Paardeberg, which results in more moderate temperatures during the ripening period. Days are hot, but night time temperatures can drop to between 8 and 15°C.
One of the key features of Swartland viticulture is that the vineyards are mostly dryland bush vines, which results in small berries with thicker skins. Wines made from this fruit (especially the reds) are intensely concentrated.