The why, the what and the how of...
Rall Wines was established in 2008 and is owned and run by young, independent winemaker Donovan Rall who has quickly made a significant impact on the South African wine industry. In 2019, UK Master of Wine, Tim Atkin appropriately commented that it’s hard to imagine what life was like before the likes of Donovan who, together with a few others, “have helped to transform the industry”.
After graduating from Stellenbosch University in 2005, Donavan spent the next two years gaining experience and getting stuck into harvests around the world. On his return to South Africa in 2007, his next stint was a season in the Swartland, assisting none other than Eben Sadie. It was here where he got the inspiration from the Mediterranean varietals to make wines under his own label.
Donovan started out by focussing on just two wines – a white and a red. With fruit sourced from various vineyard sites, these remain the Rall Wines flagships. The winemaking philosophy is kept simple and production remains small. Complimenting the Red and White now are a Cinsault, Cinsault Blanc and Grenache Blanc. Now into the third and second vintage respectively, Donovan has added two single site wines, a Syrah and Chenin Blanc, named after his first child, his daughter Ava.
The White is widely regarded as one of the finest blends coming out of the Cape. It is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Verdelho and Viognier from the Swartland and Stellenbosch. Donovan’s Red is always matured for an extra year in bottle compared to the other wines and this rustic, dense wine requires some cellaring for it to be fully appreciated. It is a Syrah-dominated blend with some Carignan, Cinsault and Grenache.
Barely 700 bottles of Cinsault Blanc are produced each vintage from a small Wellington vineyard. Donovan gains more insight into this vineyard with each vintage and this rarity is a must-try if you can find some. The Grenache Blanc is perhaps the most accessible of Donovan’s wines. This is a fresh and bright example of this grape, balanced by good weight and texture. With fruit from Swartland and Darling, the Cinsault impresses with its purity and structure. It is arguably one of the best straight Cinsault wines in the country.
The Ava Chenin Blanc is all about schist which translates into a vibrant, racy style of Chenin of real class. The Ava Syrah, now into its third vintage and made in tiny volumes like the Chenin, too comes from just 2.4 hectares of schist soil. The aromas on this Syrah are exquisite and there is plenty of concentration on the palate, balanced beautifully by grippy tannin and a mix of black fruit and white pepper.
In a short space of time Donovan Rall has established himself as one of the very best winemakers in South Africa.