Consistent, healthy and recognizable. A straightforward approach that speeks from the region with its warm, dry, but still foggy climate. Evolving by planting in new areas in a ten years perspective. The strength is the spirit and solidarity of the people. If terroir is important, then the age of the land and the way it is formed by the climate also of utmost importance. It is us - and that makes our wines different.
TEXT MICHAEL OLIVIER, FOTO RUSSEL WASSERFALL
Andrea and Chris Mullineux are a young couple making uncompromising wines in the Swartland region. On their own, the couple soon gained international recognition.
Andrea studied at UC Davis in California, where she grew up, while Chris studied at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. They met in Champagne during a wine festival. After a period of both working for the organic winemaker Reyneke in Stellenbosch east of Cape Town, the couple were ready to set up on their own. In the beginning, their wines were made at Reyneke while Andrea and Chris worked on finding suitable premises. In the village of Riebeek they found exactly what they were looking for.
Mullineux Family Wines was established in 2007, and by 2014 the couple had received twelve 5 star ratings from Platter’s South African Wine Guide, as well as being awarded “Red Wine of the Year” in 2013 with their 2010 Syrah, and “Winery of the Year” in 2014.
Mullineux were also awarded “Winery of the Year” in the
same wineguide in 2016 edition. They got five stars and “red wine of the year” with Mullineux Iron Syrah 2013, and 5 stars and “dessert wine of the year” with Mullineux Olerasay Straw wine NV. Totally the where awarded with 25 stars this year.
In 2013 they joined forces with Analjit Singh and his
neighboring Leeu Estates, and the company was renamed
Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. The Afrikaans word leeu
(meaning lion) is the Sanskrit derivation of Singh. Today, their
collaboration with entrepreneur Analjit Singh has made their
winery stronger than ever.
“Winery of the Year.”
Platters wine guide 2016.
Viewpoints from Chris:
“Thank you for life. When I met my wife, we got to see that we worked really well together. We had very similar ideas about winemaking, very similar tastes in wines. We started at point even. There were no grapes to make wine from, so we bought fruit from all over South Africa.
I started doing everything. I was the winemaker, the wineyard manager, the boss doing marketing. It was a bit crazy.
When we started our winery we were making wine opposite the hotel in Riebekkastel. We made wine there for six years, and started in small. Eventually our building was becoming a bit too small for us. So we needed more space, and we actually started renting space in some of the wineries.
But then in 2012 our partner in our business said to us that he wanted to move on and do something else. So he wanted to sell his share in the winery. He said to Andrea: If you guys can find someone to take my place in the business, I am happy to sell to anybody. So we looked around, and spoke to many people, and then we met Sing. He had just bought a property in front of our land and wanted to start making wine there. It just worked out very well.
Singh was happy for entering and we helped him making his wine. Actually he could help us with our project to improve what we’re doing here. So for the last two years we’ve been making all of our new wines in this particular territory. We are now busy with plans to build a winery-concept on this property. But by now we are partly based in Franschhouk.
The Swartland revolution was actually a festival - a two day event - started up in 2010. The purpose was to bring people to the area, to discover the wine and to explore the region. Nobody really knew what was interesting and thought the region already made big volumes of great interest, nationally and internationally. 2015 was actually the last one and “we” feel we have found our place in the wine-industry and that people know about the region. We started a group called Swartland Independent Producers (SIP), and we designed a website to built an identity for the region.
For all of us it was an opportunity as a group of producers to work together along similar lines making wine that could be recognized as part of our region. So we said; let’s think about what works best here. We developed a unique and consistent story: A narrative revealed from Swartland Independent Producers. You should know what you get when you’re buying wines from our region. It’s not about following fashion but establishing identity in our own way, created upon guidelines and types of grapes suitable to this place. There is a list of twentysix guidelines. In fact one of the rules are dealing with the fact that not more than twenty five percent of the grapes should come from abroad the region.
We’re trying to use larger format barrels, sort of five hundred and up to three thousand litres. We’re not going to move away from Oak completely, but we actually want to be more supportive to the wine. We never use a lot of new wood. And that is quite similar in the region.
We use as little sulphur as possible. A wine that is over-wooded or doesn’t show a sense of place, and a wine that has no self or/and is cloudy, is not our aim or goal.
We need to add sulphur especially because eighty percent of our wines are exported. We respect our customers and we want them to have the same products that we believe we bottle. So we need sulphur.
Our region is warm and dry. We have very interesting soils or terroirs, so we have a lot of different choices in winemaking!
When you walk out into our wineyards, you will see that the soil is very different to the one of Adi Badenhorst. Types of soil that lay ground for very different styles of wine. There are a variety of soils, but the climate in this coastal region is a dry warm climate. And they make very different styles whereever you are in Swartland.
We don’t only work with grapes from here. Mullineux buy goods from all over the region. We can then blend grapes from other places which have a lot of different texture. And then we blend them together to make really interesting wines. Some years we need grapes from the forest sites. It is never only one vignette, it’s a blend of many vineyards. The season is long and slow and the grapes have a long time to ripen.
The region has become famous and well known. A lot of people are moving in buying property. And in this region there are a lot of people who have come in from from the outside. If you look at all the producers, I think maybe four or five of them are actually from this area.
We’ve needed this wineyard as a stable base for us. And that’s where Singh, we call him Bass, has been able to help us.
Bass is also a synonym for hospitality. We like working with him as he understands that we are experts. And he doesn’t get involved in everything, but he is really involved. He likes to see what is on the agenda to understand, because it’s interesting for him.
We are reflecting and looking into the venues for possibilities and how we’re planting, and we are very special. So the way we’re planting is unique, but it’s also very expensive to plant and farm. But what we’re trying to do than is focusing to make sure that we have the absolute best grapes. The philosophy of the winemaking is to improve the wineyard. And that is all needed to be done.
The strengths we have are actually people of Great Spirit. And a lot of genuine friendship. We visit each other very often, we play sports together and we have a local cricket team. It’s just genuine. We like each other and we enjoy spending time with each other. It’s not just about wine. I think that is very important here, because you don’t get that all over the world.
Another important thing we have is lots of old grapes, but the old ones don’t always make good wine. That serves as a base to evolve more prosperous wines. So we do have that advantage.
For young people starting up wineries, there are a lot of grapes for sale. So, to start up a business is possible without a lot of money - to get going. A lot of guys are doing really well and we are communicating on various matters related to winemaking. This trend is starting to happen in other areas where people realize; you are my neighbor not my competitor. We need to work together to raise the profile of the whole country. But not every region needs not to be the same. We must celebrate diversity.
And we need both icon wines, but also quality wines at all price points. We need quality diversity.
We basically make three ranges of wines, from about one hundred rand to two hundred and fifty and then we have our single terroir ones which are approximately six to seven hundred rands.
We have three different labels, wines for different occasions.
We try to make all the wines to be as elegant as possible. There are variations in style, meaning we can charge different prices. Traditionally the prices here have been very low for the full line range. It’s important that the wines are priced so that more money goes back to the farm and next, more money goes back to the workers. If the wine is getting a cheap price, the only people making money is the wine shops. Actually the shops still help to build the reputation of a winery. Yet they still reinforces brands.
I think it’s really important how the workers are being treated. But sustainable development must also reflect how we are treating our environment, and how we treat the animals that live on our property.
It is a lot of paperwork following winemaking. And it is for sure a lot more administration, but that’s part of the cost. Paperwork is unfortunately a part of life, but it guarantees, in some way, what you’re doing is documented properly.
This Syrah has been aged for 11 months in French oak barrels, of which 15% are new barrels. The nose consists of blackberries, cool fruits, liquorice, violas and some spice. It is meaty in the mouth with a great tannin structure and acids.
This blend of Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Grenache is aged separately for 11 months in oak barrels before being transferred to tanks where the different varieties are blended. The aroma contains cool fruits, spice and elegance. The mouthfeel is freshly acidic with ripe tannins and a great, juicy finish.
This wine is a blend of 80% Chenin Blanc, 10% Claret Blanc and 10% Viognier harvested from old rootstocks, then aged in old oak barrels that do not lend too much character to the wine. It has a fruit-based nose packed with tropical fruits such as melon and peach, along with some minerals. The well balanced mouthfeel is acidic with a dry finish.
This Chenin Blanc has been aged for 11 months in old oak barrels. It has a tropical and mineral nose that is fresh and pleasant. The mouthfeel is dry and freshly acidic with a mineral finish.
Where to find us
Our cellar and Tasting Room are situated in the charming village of Riebeek Kasteel. Riebeek is roughly 1 hour from Stellenbosch or Cape Town, and has many fantastic and authentic restaurants, so it’s a great place to make a day trip to. It is best to contact us in advance at to make an appointment, as we frequently need to pop out to the vineyards.
Opening hours: By appointement. Closed on Sundays.
Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines
Roundstone Farm, Riebeeksrivier Road, Riebeek Kasteel
Leeu Estates, Dassenberg Road, Franschhoek
+27 (0) 21 492 2455 / +27 (0)76 974 6679
GPS: S33°2318.0’’ E 18°54’14.0’’