Bruwer Raats Interview by SkypeSunday, 03 April 2016 00:00
I met Bruwer Raats two years ago at a wine pairing lunch. His commitment to his winemaking was immediately obvious but, as the conversation went on, his commitment to his land, his community and his family were equally obvious. And by the time that last Cabernet Franc blend crossed my palate, you could say with certainty that RAATS Wines and RAATS were class acts.
We talked with Bruwer Raats on travel by SKYPE from Stellenbosch @MetroWines on April 2nd. He, with his son in tow, had pulled over on a tree lined road to take the call and talk with his fans. Now, that's dedication and just down-right nice! Bruwer lead us through a tasting of Chenin Blanc Original, Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Red Jasper, Cabernet Franc and his mega-HIT, Compostella.
Not to be short but nothing more could be said about RAATS Wines than has been said with accolades by respected wine publications worldwide including Wine Spectator, Stephen Tanzer of International Wine Cellar, Riscura Red Hot Wine Awards and Wine Advocate.
In his Cape Fearless article in The Wine Advocate, Neal Martin scored RAATS Wines between 89 and a whopping 95. WOW! And Wine Spectator listed RAATS as one of the Top 100 Wineries in the World. See what I mean? What more could we say.
So RAATS wines are great but what about the winemaker? You probably already know that the original partnership was between Bruwer, his brother Jasper and their father Jasper Senior, and that he trained at esteemed South African estates as well as Cakebread in Napa, California, and that he sources his grapes from very specific soil types from vines 25 years old or older, and that he believes that "The best viticultural soil for Chenin Blanc in all the land is undoubtedly located in and around Stellenbosch," and that all grapes are hand picked and that there is "extraordinary attention to detail" in the making of RAATS Wines. EXHALE.......
But you might not know Bruwer, as a result of and testimonial to his winemaking skills, has been the winemaker for Indaba since 2008. Indaba says "He brings extensive knowledge and personal devotion to Indaba, aiming to create handcrafted wines that are stylistically fresh, juicy and approachable."
That's great too. But what Bruwer wanted us to know about his association with Indaba is that Indaba has taken their "commitment to education in the vineyard" up to the next level with the WELL Project (Winelands Education of Living and Learning) in South Africa. The project will support child development by providing infrastructure, learning materials and teacher training at schools established for wineland worker's children.
And that kind of concern extends to his philosophy of winemaking. Bruwer said he will not, I repeat, will not cut corners. "When you put your name on a bottle, you represent yourself, the generations before you, your family and what you stand for."
As for style, Bruwer summed up what he says separates RAATS from a lot of winemakers: "At RAATS, we do not make monster wines. There are enough monsters in this world!"
And that style all started with Bruwer's passion for Cabernet Franc. When he started working with Cabernet Franc, Bruwer says his father, who eventually came around to see his vision, said "why can't you just be normal and plant shiraz?" While Bruwer will tell you that it is his goal to produce the "pure expression of Cabernet Franc," on some level, his father was right because"everything that can go wrong will go wrong with Cabernet Franc." Bruwer's blockbuster, best selling Cabernet Franc Blend, "Red Jasper," is named for his father.
We asked Bruwer if he hoped his son would be a winemaker. Bruwer said he wanted to avoid imposing what is really "a parent's vision" on his son. "I would tell him what my father told me "to think for himself, to follow his heart."
And all that, commitment, dedication and yes, heart, are in a bottle of RAATS.