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Words: Richard Holmes| Images: Supplied

Winemakers have long given credit to indigenous fynbos for the role it has to play in crafting great wine, whether it’s pungent buchu-imbuing vineyards with wild and herbaceous notes, or fynbos corridors providing safe harbour for the natural predators that keep vineyards free of disease. Across the Winelands, it’s a key element of the Cape’s unique terroir.

Happily a handful of winemakers are giving fynbos its due, naming their wines in honour of the unsung bossies that play their own small part in crafting the Cape’s fine wine.

If a celebration’s in order, then it should begin with the Strandveld Vineyards Skaamgesiggie Pinot Noir Brut Rosé. This delicious Méthode Cap Classique is named after the rare Protea pudens, endemic to the hills of the Overberg. Flowering in the winter, it’s also known as the bashful sugarbush, due to the fact its flowers face the ground, not the sun… all to make life easier for the mice that pollinate the flowers. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this bubbly boasts a fine mousse and wonderful palate of strawberries, cherry and toasty brioche.

Over on the borders of the Swartland, the Paardeberg is home to the rare and endemic Babiana Noctiflora, its delicate yellow flowers releasing a heady scent at night to attract moths. It was the perfect inspiration for the Vondeling Babiana, a delicious Rhône-style white blend with a pale-straw colour to match its namesake. Winemaker Matthew Copeland builds the Babiana on a foundation of Chenin Blanc, sourced from low-yielding, 30-year-old vineyards, with the inclusion of Viognier, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc for aromatics, body and freshness. No surprise that the 2016 vintage bagged a five-star rating in the Platter’s Guide this year.

In the Breede River valley the organic winery of Waverley Hills is keenly aware of the importance of fynbos, and nearly 20% of the estate is set aside for conservation. A labelling revamp put fynbos front and centre, along with the Cape sugarbird (Promerops cafer) that is essential for pollinating many species of protea. If you’re new to their range, start with the delicious Waverley Hills Grenache. Single-varietal Grenache is growing in popularity, and the herbaceous fynbos notes here are neatly balanced by the addition of small portions of Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Viognier for spice and aromatics.

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