Robert and Anette Rosenbach achieved so much in their first decade: Taking over a rundown farm four kilometres outside McGregor, they developed it into a stunning venue for eco-minded travellers, an inviting destination for hikers and twitchers, a renowned source of grappa and eau de vie and a range of wines that pleases both connoisseur palates and everybody’s purse.
An admirable achievement indeed. But there is more to discover here, where vines and orchards cluster around a gigantic and beautiful wild fig tree at the centre.
First up is the official news that Tanagra is now registered as a wine and brandy estate, the first in the McGregor valley, and first to invest in production of a Cape brandy – from grapes grown on the estate.
The compact distillery with its German still has been working hard since its journey to South Africa and installation by Robert. Now another spirit has been added to its menu of marc or grappa and eau de vie, with 170 litres (from 1500 litres of Colombard distilling wine ) maturing in one 100 litre, one 50litre and one 20litre barrel in the maturation cellar near the farmstead.
When asked when we are likely to be able to sample this potstill addition Robert replies “Perhaps the first release will be in three years if it is ready – but maybe not…” Produced from a base wine of such fine quality, this is sure to be an event to anticipate with relish.
The new winery, sited right outside the 23- year-old Colombard single vineyard, is a twin of the adjoining distillery, becoming an unobtrusive part of the vinous architecture . It is furnished with seven white 1 500 litre tanks and the cooling container stands behind it. The Rosenbachs decided to produce their own wine last year, and the 2021 vintage is the first range for which they are entirely responsible, backed by initial advice from consulting winemaker John Loubser.
Let’s start with their only white wine, the delicious Colombard. The Single Vineyard limited edition 2019 offers impressive evidence of the capabilities of this humble grape when given five-star treatment. Usually an easy-drinking off-dry wine, this is both elegant, dry and presents far more complexity than is usual. The stone fruit flavours – apricot in particular – have developed in bottle fairly recently, contrasting with the 2020 vintage which already offers upfront fruit, while the backbone is developing slowly, promising complexity on the palate. Low alcohol levels add to the Colombard’s appeal.
Tanagra’s flagship Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc, produced from a high-altitude site, is a perennial best-seller with good reason. The 2017 vintage is currently selling, smooth as silk with its customary berry flavours and gentle tannins. After three further vintages, the first estate vintage will be launched.
Fans of the Heavenly Chaos should not delay ordering their case of the 2018 all-Merlot star, a slight change from the usual Merlot-led blend. Export orders usually mean that locals lose out. The same goes for those who relish the Tanagra Blanc de Noir, with the new vintage made from their fine Pinotage grapes. With only 11,5% alcohol levels, this inviting trendy salmon-hued aperitif, offering a harmonious balance of fruit and friskiness, makes it the perfect lunchtime tipple.
Newcomers to McGregor who unearth the fine quality of Tanagra’s wine, spirits and hospitality are amazed at the reasonable wine prices which are simply R100 or R140 depending on the label.
We finish this vinous update with news of Tanagra’s latest conservation achievement. As many winelovers know, in 2004 the WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) launched the BWI (Biodiversity and Wine Initiative), whose members all set aside portions of their wine farms for conservation. Tanagra was among them. A recent decision has seen the maximum number of Champion members set at 50, with a total of 44 registered to date. Tanagra has been selected as one of these, another feather in the cap of the Rosenbachs, who started from scratch just 12 years ago and now see their boutique farm listed with large renowned producers, some of whose heritage stretches back 330 years and more.
Lucky travellers who book well in advance can stay over in one of the simple and simply luxurious off-the grid cottages: these are surrounded by untamed veld which presents a mix of Robertson Karoo with patches of fynbos, as the vegetation of McGregor straddles more than one Cape biome. When not savouring the peace that envelops the farm, these visitors can explore further along beautiful walking trails and bird hides.
Last word on wine and spirits from the industrious owners:“We aim to make wine that first and foremost is good, that reflects the unique terroir of this farm and some that is different from the mainstream cultivars. Likewise Tanagra grappa and eau de vie are top quality niche products aimed at both the discerning connoisseur and the curious novice.”
Robert adds a pithy conclusion: “Tanagra has to be discovered. “