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29 May 2018 | Jessica Martinez

Kanonkop--South Africa's Premier Wine Estate

The unique name of Kanonkop is derived from the work ‘Kopje’(hillock) where a cannon was fired in the 17th century to alert famers in outlying areas that ships sailing from Europe and far east had entered the bay for a stopover in Cape Town.


Kanonkop established in 1973 and is described as being the South African equivalent of premier cru or first growth. The estate is a 4th generation family owned winery on the foothills of the Simonsberg Mountain, outside of Stellenbosch, South Africa. There is an amazing family dynamic across the winery, and each employee holds an important roll in the overall dynamic. There are 54 men and women employed on the estate and they all live there and that sounds like one big family too me.


The Kanonkop estate is made up of 125 hectares, which is equivalent to give or take 308 acres. Half of the vineyard is made up of Pinotage, but they also grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Ruby Cabernet.  Abrie Beeslaar is the winemaker at Kanonkop. Every part of growing, fermenting, bottling, and labeling processes are done on site at Kanonkop. They are also certified sustainable which appears on each labels.


The winery uses the age-old tradition of open take fermentation. After the grapes are harvested they go through de-stemming and are poured into the open vats where maturation begins to take place. These tanks are wide and shallow which lends to maximum skin contact. In the tanks the skins and seeds of the grapes float to the top where it forms what is called the cap. This cap has to be punched down every 2 hours for 2-3 days in order to maximize color, tannin, and flavor in the wine.


I wanted to honorably mention the winery's very rare, and very expensive Black Label Pinotage.   My predecessor Andy Acosta and I were fortunate to sample this fabulous wine.  Coming in at $264, it is not easy to get your hands on.  Even at that price they were very high in demand and sold out quickly, but it would be a shame not to at least mention it.  The amazing quality of this wine could truly change the way you see Pinotage.  This beautiful wine is 100% Pinotage, and hand harvested from 62-year-old bush vines.  There is a perfume of red fruit with a hint of spice that added a wonderful complexity to the wine. Next vintage we'll see if we are more successful in securing a few bottles for the store.


2015 Kanonkop Kadette Cape Blend, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The Kadette blend consists of all the major grapes the Kanonkop estate produces being made up primarily of its main grape being Pinotage. The blend is specifically is 54% Pinotage, 34% cabernet sauvignon, and 12% merlot. The 2015 growing season was had a dry summer with cooler than average growing conditions. Maturation takes place for 12-14 months 2nd and 3rd fill 225 Lit French Nevers barrels. The wine itself is a beautiful deep ruby red color with notes of strawberry, raspberry. The aroma also has a hint of tealeaves, which is followed through on the palate. These wines have amazing aging potential but are also great to drink right now. In South Africa this wine is commonly known as the lucky charm for first dates. It is affordable and amazing quality and known for their amazing wines it is sure to impress your date.

$12.99 per bottle


2015 Kanonkop Pinotage, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa

This one 100% Pintoage wine went through a hot and dry year with short and intense ripening. This wine goes through the same fermentation process in the open vat tanks with three days of skin contact, manually being punched down every 2 hours by hand. It then gets put into 2nd and 3rd fill French Nevers Oak barrels for 14 months. The hot growth season that 2015 saw it has a deep purple color and the nose offers a bouquet of raspberry, strawberry and black plum. The intense fruit on the palate is balanced by the characteristics of sweet spice and vanilla with supple tannins.

$39.99 per bottle

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