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Lozärn wines, the pioneers of South African Carménère

Photo by Tim Lester | Phumula Productions

As far as I'm aware, there are currently only two bottling producers of Carménère in South Africa. Lozärn wines are the pioneers of this varietal and were the first to sow, grow and produce this exotic yet difficult grape. I must applaud the Smuts family who are nurturing this cultivar far from its adopted home (Chile) and doing a spectacular job at it too.

So what lead them to go completely outside the typical South African workhorse grape varieties, to bank on an unknown and work with this rather difficult to grow rebel grape, Carménère?!

Well, this is the event that unfolded In 2012 that lead them on their Carménère journey; Winemaker Salóme Buys-Vermeulen was enjoying a fine Chilean Carménère with husband, Sybrand and a close friend. It was love at first sip for Salóme, which led to the planting of a Carménère vineyard two years later on Doornbosch. It seems the heart wants what the heart wants, obstacles and all and in Salóme's case, her hearts desires for Carménère prevailed.

Photo by Jared in Cape Town & SA

So on a gorgeous sunny winters day in July, the time had come for me to have my very first sip of Carménère because of Salóme's love at first sip experience in 2012. It's always exciting trying something new for the first time but nothing prepared me for that first smell and sip of their Lozärn Carménère 2017.

Sniff sniff, swirl swirl, sniff sniff, sip and swallow, I put the glass back down and started trying very hard to fight back a wave of tears, what had just happened!? This Lozärn Carménère 2017 had just drop kicked me so hard emotionally that I was about to start crying in front of a table of media friends and why...It was love at first sip for this Fox, and in my Carménère happy haze, I understood how Salóme must have felt in 2012 and why I was now sitting down having this incredible unforgettable sensory moment at Lozärn.

Photo by Jared in Cape Town & SA

History of Lozärn

Time to unearth a little family history which forms a parallel tale in the Lozärn story. In 1898 a daughter was born to Robert Müller and Amy Sedgwick in Fish Hoek and was named Kathleen May.

Her maternal grandfather was Captain James Sedgwick, founder of the famous Sedgwick’s Old Brown sherry enterprise. Kathleen’s childhood was shared between Europe and South Africa, followed by studies at a horticultural college in Warwickshire. The advent of World War I saw her father serve in the German army, which led to Kathleen, known as Kay, joining her mother and sister in escaping on a troop train to Switzerland where they settled in Lucerne. This picturesque city soon found a special place in Kay’s heart.

At the age of 21, Kathleen May married Sebastian Smuts in Harare, Zimbabwe. They ended up relocating to Somerset West. Here Sebastian Smuts managed the vast Vergelegen estate. Kay’s urge to farm herself saw them buying land in the Robertson valley in 1923, naming it Lucerne after her fond memories; she farmed mainly with ducks and chickens.

Their only son Ivan Sedgwick Smuts took over the farm eventually, planting vineyards and orchards. He and his wife Dianne Beard had three sons, one of whom, Grant Smuts now runs Lucerne along with his sons Juan-Ivan and Sean-Grant, the fourth generation.

Lozärn, the Swiss- German pronunciation of Lucerne, was chosen as the wine brand, and labels are adorned with a skeletal image of a duck. Granny Kay is also honoured with a fine Bordeaux-style red blend named Kay’s Legacy.

If you're Carménère virgin, then I urge you to make a trip up to the Doornbosch farm in Robertson and go experience it for yourself. Currently Lozärn are able to host private and small groups for wine tasting in their cellar, provided you book beforehand.

Lunch and picnic baskets will be available for summer 2020 1st Dec- 31st Jan. Email for quote, as prices haven't been released yet.

I was incredibly lucky to experience their exclusive lunch offering on the day I spent with them outside on the lawn.

beautiful country spread

Photo by Jared in Cape Town & SA #winesquad

Lozärn Carménère 2017 Notes of cherries & mocha. A wine for celebrating the week’s end; to pair with a lamb shank, slow roasted with root vegetables, finished with a crème fraîche reduction.

Lozärn Carménère ROSÉ 2017 Notes of cherries & strawberries. A wine for the setting of a summer sun; to be enjoyed with prosciutto, brie, tapas, and good company.

Their wine portfolio currently also includes a Chardonnay 2018, Kay's Legacy 2016 and Shiraz 2016.

Photo by Jared in Cape Town & SA

Photo by Jared in Cape Town & SA

About Carménère

Carménère was thought to have originated from Bordeaux and has gone through great trials and tribulations and today is widely celebrated and loved around the world.

In 1867 Phylloxera plague destroyed almost all the vineyards of Europe, and it was thought that one of the oldest noble grape varieties of Europe, Carménère was lost forever. 25 years ago it was in fact rediscovered that nearly 50% of all the Merlot that was planted in Chile was in fact Carménère, so the rebirth of the previously extinct Bordeaux variety was reborn and it became Chile’s signature grape.

Carménère gets its name from its gorgeous colour and translates to crimson and is known for producing wines with red fruit flavours, along with unmistakable pepper notes.

Photo by Jared in Cape Town & SA

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