Tobias – a Bryan MacRobert creation
06 January 2016
You can also listen to these podcasts directly from the Old Mutual App, which is available here.
Brad Brown: Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, it’s great to have you with us and we’ve got a returning guest today and we head back to Spain to talk about a South African brand of wines. A great pleasure to welcome Bryan MacRobert back on. Bryan, welcome, nice to touch base again.
Bryan MacRobert: Thanks Brad for having me again, nice to be back.
BB: Bryan, the last time we spoke we spoke a little bit about your journey and how you got into wine and what you’re hoping to achieve. We touched briefly on the wines you’re producing in the Western Cape and you mentioned the Tobias brand. I wanted to delve a little bit deeper into that because it’s a brand that’s doing phenomenally well. It’s a small production run, it’s not huge numbers, but people are absolutely loving it, aren’t they?
The wines are coming along nicely
BMR: Ja, it’s coming on. It’s been a couple of years now in motion, I think I started with one barrel back in 2007 and every year growing by one barrel. It was growing steadily and it was a small production with a lot of care and attention. Basically it was my first wine that I produced, like I said in the previous show, you really try and every winemaker wants to make his own wine.
This is my opportunity to make my own wine and project what I had, the primary material I had and what I could do with what I had. That’s how I started with Tobias. I started with a small production, focused more on quality. Selecting the grapes, selecting the vineyards, doing a blend between different soils.
On the red, kind of what I think worked for me is my experience working and living in the Swartland and that’s how the Tobias brand started. We produced the red and the white. The white was a Steen, a Chenin Blanc. The red is a blend between Sierra, Mourvedre and Cinsault, which is a bit more of an unconventional blend. But it’s getting a bit more well-known now in the southern, well it’s a southern style of blend. I think in SA now it’s becoming more and more popular in the Swartland region, the varieties we have there.
Small, quality production is the key
BB: There’s a huge demand for it, to the point that it’s sold before it’s made practically. Does that make you think, hmmm, maybe we should produce some more?
BMR: No, not really. I produce what I can with the resources I have, so you never want to overextend yourself when you produce the wine. If you produce one bad year, it kind of damages your reputation, damages your wine and so you want to keep the quality always up there.
I don’t want to jeopardise volume for quality, not for the Tobias brand. It is a small amount of production, you’re limited by, when you’re starting out you’re limited by the amount of barrels you can buy. You are limited by the amount of bottles you can buy, you’re limited by how long you can carry the cash flow problems until you get paid.
Then also you’re limited by the vineyards, how many grapes you have and how big the vineyard is. There are many limitations and with those limitations, I don’t want to grow too big or too fast. So it’s never been my, my objective is to make the best wine possible, that I can, with the resources I have for Tobias.
BB: It sounds like it’s an amazing wine, you’ve spoken about the red and the white, there’s also a field blend in Abbotsdale as well, tell us a little bit about those two.
The Abbotsdale story
BMR: The Abbotsdale I started in 2013 when I raised the company, took on a partner, a very good friend of mine. We studied together and we started with the Abbotsdale brand and that’s basically from vineyards because my father’s farm, my neighbours farm is very close to the town of Abbotsdale. We’re basically south of Malmesbury, 8km south of Malmesbury.
The vineyards all overlook the town of Abbotsdale, so basically looking at creating a village wine from the town of Abbotsdale. Because the vineyards all look right over Abbotsdale. So we registered the Abbotsdale brand and the Abbotsdale brand is basically all the vineyards from around the town of Abbotsdale.
You can really get a taste of what the grapes, what the wine is like from that small region of Abbotsdale because every vineyard, every place has its own unique flavour and unique, as the French call, ‘terroir’. Your place, the person, everyone influences the wine, but what’s very nice about the Abbotsdale range is you can taste the wines from Abbotsdale, from that region. So that’s the Abbotsdale brand.
How the field blend works
Then the field blend, what I started with the field blend is doing basically a much more, it’s a more elite wine. Where I’m busy reconverting a vineyard into a blend of vines in that vineyard. So basically creating a vineyard with all the vineyards growing in harmony in that vineyard.
Basically the whole concept, all the old vineyards originally were grafted from cuttings and then planted over, cuttings of small little vines from the neighbours lots, from wherever they could find, they were planted. They didn’t go to the nursery, buy one clone and then put that clone in the vineyard, buy 6000 vines and then they’re all the same monotony, same root stock, same clone.
Over the years they would graft in, so all your old vineyards that were over 80 years old or over 100 years old or 60 years old are combination of different clones, different varieties, different mixes of everything. The field blend, I’m now trying to go back to create my own blend of vineyard with my experience, of what I think works. Blend percentages, variety type in that blend, in that field, in that parcel.
It becomes one single vineyard that gets harvested and fermented together and that’s the field blend. So that’s the field blend, it’s a vineyard wine. The Steen is from a single vineyard which is from my neighbours plot. Which is the best of that vineyard and basically the best barrels, barrel ferment and the best I can find for the Chenin Blanc. That’s the two wines and Tobias has been Tobias.
BB: If you want to find out more about them, www.bryanmacrobertwines.com, that’s where you can find out more. There’s fact sheets on that website as well and definitely worth getting your hands on as well. Bryan, thanks so much for your time once again today, much appreciated, we look forward to touching base again soon. Have yourself a superb festive season and I hope 2016 is your best yet.
BMR: Thank you, all the best to you guys too, we’ll be in touch.