One of South Africa's most successful red blends
29 April 2013 - by -
Baronne, one of South Africa's most successful red blends and a name
that for many is synonymous with red wine itself, celebrates its ruby
anniversary this year. The ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend
was the brainchild of Nederburg cellar master Günter Brözel, who went on
to earn widespread recognition and the title of International Wine
& Spirit Competition Winemaker of the Year.
Born in 1973, Baronne shares a birthday with a number of enduring favourites. Think of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon; glam rock artist David Bowie's movie of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars; more mainstream movies like The Sting, The Exorcist, Last Tango in Paris (banned in South Africa at the time) and American Graffiti. At the time, people were reading Jaws by Peter Benchley, Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon and Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.
Even Roberta Flack's Killing me Softly with his Song, that you still hear played in malls and family diners after four decades is of the same vintage as the original Baronne.
Back in the day, when Baronne was first made, Vivienne Westwood was making a name for herself in fashion, while all over the world, less daring women were wearing platform shoes, wrap dresses, crop tops and frayed jeans.
It was also in 1973 that the world heard about the famous US cover-up, Watergate, spawning that strange suffix for every scandal from Monicagate to eTollgate. Pablo Picasso died and nuclear magnetic resonance, the technology for the MRI scan, was developed.
Meanwhile, far away at Nederburg in Paarl, Brozel wanted South Africans to have the pleasure of an affordable, elegant, satisfyingly smooth red blend: quite simply an everyday wine that, as he put it, would add nobility to any occasion. “There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about the name but Baronne was settled on for its classical, French association,” he recalls without a moment’s hesitation, even though it was all those years ago. He still regularly enjoys a glass of its friendly, lively fruitiness with his meals.
Forty years on, Baronne has such a following that it is presented in its own right and is no longer a part of Nederburg's Winemaster's Reserve range. It is not uncommon for people to refer to the blend as "my Baronne", "my Baroness" or even "my Baronnista"!
Retailing for around R47, it is available in most bottle stores and supermarkets. It also appears in many restaurant menus from steakhouses to family bistros, in the city, outlying towns and at game lodges. It has become an integral part of the South African landscape and even with the accessibility lent by its styling, pricing and distribution, it still gets the nod from the critics.
Baronne is a former gold medalist at the Michelangelo International Wine Awards and has earned commendations from the Decanter World Wine Awards and the International Wine Challenge.
Among generations of wine lovers, who may be divided by decades, culture, language or experience, it still appeals for its clever combination of succulent red fruit flavours (Cabernet) and slight peppery, smoky characters (Shiraz). It’s a very versatile wine that goes extremely well with burgers, ribs and hearty pastas. But it will never be out of place with Chateaubriand or Sunday roast. It can hold its own at Christmas, on birthdays, at graduations and other rites of passage.
Nederburg’s current cellar master, Razvan Macici says of Baronne: "It was one of the first wines I tasted arriving in South Africa in the 1990s. It has such wonderful, nostalgic associations for me and I have always loved making this blend."
Wilhelm Pienaar, who makes the reds under Razvan's direction, calls it the ultimate get-together wine. “It’s just the wine you want for bonding, whether you are with the family, watching sport with your mates or celebrating an occasion. It’s a fixture in our house and in so many others. I love that you find it in so many parts of the world. When you are far away from home and you encounter a bottle, it’s like bumping into an old friend.”