Aeternitas - pronounced aɪˈter.ni.taːs
The literal translation means “Eternity” in Latin, and although it may be an overkill , we make wines to last a good number of years. The use of the Phoenix symbolises our winemakers transformation and rise from his previous career as teacher to that of winemaker. He had to endure a very long period in which he gained knowledge and experience, but as in life, everything that is worthwhile takes time and sacrifices.
The first Shiraz was pressed in 2005 in a converted double garage in the Strand, South Africa. A few basic changes was made to the garage to convert this to the new cellar for Aeternitas Wines and get our liquor licence. Aeterntias Wines was in business and the first wines were produced and with the help of friends and family over weekends, we were able to sort grapes (by hand). As our volume increased so did friends and families weekends “plans”.
Shiraz (Syrah) is a variety suited to our warm climate and with abundant regions to source the grapes from. South Africa has long been punted by respected international wine writers and judges as a country where world class Shiraz and Shiraz based blends can be made.
As for Chenin Blanc the reasons are many, but what appeals the most to me is its versatility in making such a varied style of wines, its ability to be paired with a broad spectrum of dishes and the wine’s longevity, to be able to age gracefully in the bottle and still retain freshness. For me it is the king of white grapes, and I source the fruit from old bush vines that thankfully still dots the Cape winelands. Fruit from these well aged vineyards deliver concentration, depth, its own perspective and certainly presence.
We try to make the wine so that it tells its own story and although it is fermented and aged in seasoned oak barrels, it must be the fruit that shines through with the oak tannins only adding some complexity. We try to work as naturally as possible, meaning natural fermentation, no enzymes and only a small amount of sulphur just prior to bottling. 2016 is also the year in which we made our first white blend, Chenin Blanc based and will be launched later.
Winemaker : Johan Grimbeek
Johan studied at the University of the Orange Free State and eventually obtained his BA degree with a diploma in education. That was certainly not the highlight of his time spent at varsity, he got to know (drink) real wine as opposed to a student stalwart's Tassies. Some of his mates came from families that still had the benefit of the KWV Quota system, a system inherently flawed, but those flaws were very far from a student’s mind. The wines were the old “dikvoet”, chunky red wines from the late 70’s and early 80’s, wines that aged forever. After numerous tastings of these wines, he said goodbye to Oom Tas and embraced the fruit of the vine.
After a one year stint in the army, he started his teaching career in Durban, but can categorically state that he was not a shining example for the teaching profession. Apart from meeting his wife and having access to some great fishing destinations along the coast, he does not miss Durban at all. They moved down to the Cape and ran a guest house in the Strand for a number of years, but that was just a stepping stone to get into winemaking. His first wine job was at a cellar in Franschoek and the term “cellar rat” was coined to describe his day to day duties. He scrubbed floors, cleaned tanks, basically everything that was beneath a general cellar worker. After that first job, he got to know a French winemaker who organised work for him in the south of France. Johan was based in Provence and where he previously experienced that part of the world through the eyes of Peter Mayle, now he got to do it first-hand. He worked hard, 7 day weeks and lived like a king.
Returning to South Africa Johan got employed by a cellar, first as student winemaker and then through hard work as a fully fledged winemaker. He is still currently the winemaker at this cellar, but enjoys the freedom and expression to make his own range of wines.