We met up with Roberto Bottega from our wine producer Idiom, to chat to him about the story behind their exquisite range of South African wines.
What is surprising about the start of the Idiom story is that it began as merely a hobby for Alberto Bottega, in his retirement. Gradually the hobby transformed into a business that was exciting and enjoyable and enticed the rest of his family to leave their professions to join the family business and nurture it from strength to strength. As with all families, their close working relationship was with its fair share of active debates but the business decision making only thrived on the passion and ambition behind the business, creating a brand that gave a sense of ownership, pride and personal achievement for the Bottega family.
Their Idiom wines are rich and juicy yet maintain the elegance that comes with high quality. Interestingly, South Africa actually has about 350 years of winemaking experience but it is only with the emergence of New World wine that it has been able to become a real competitor to the likes of France, Italy or Spain. It is this backdrop of knowledge that is expressed through South African wines and creates the elegance alongside the big characters. The Bottega family have incorporated this into their range and Roberto believes that their wines “personify South Africa’s unique positioning in the world of wine, somewhere between the Old and New World, with the elegance of the Old World and the opulence of the New World.”
To further emphasis their quality, they have worked hard on the packaging and the Idiom brand. Their main aim is to communicate the message of luxury and that an Idiom wine would be a great gift to give to anyone. They are currently working on several auxiliary products to help promote this notion, including a new perfume that was recently produced and is only available in Harrods in London.
Like all great wine producers, creating such quality has not been an easy task. The Idiom vineyard is located where two separate wine systems collide, one of which is the forceful South Easterly wind. Though this is actually one of the defining points of the vineyard, if the winds are too fierce the damage to the leaf canopy of the vines can be detrimental to the development of the grapes, as it destroys the protection from the fierce Stellenbosch sun. However, with the right amount of thinning of the foliage, it creates a concentrated small grape producing a low yield of excellent quality grapes.
In addition to this, recent freak acts of nature have also proven troublesome for the Bottega family. Only recently there was a fierce hail storm over the vineyards, causing unpreventable damage to the vines. This was the first storm of this sort that they have experienced here and as such have not had any precautionary system in place to compete. Though the Stellenbosch sun has always been on their side and they have never had the same worries as their European competitors with unfit conditions for grape ripening, it seems that global warming may be starting to make an impact on their viticulture process.
One time of year that always proves to be a success is the celebration of the Harvest Festival that takes part. Last year there were a total of 550 people at a lunch held at their vineyards. Though it demands a lot of time organising and planning, as they cater for the event themselves, it always proves to be an extremely enjoyable celebration. At present the Idiom vineyard is not open the public but a new visitor center is on the horizons to make Idiom a destination vineyard in South Africa.
We asked Roberto if he could summarise his wines and tell us his favourite:
“The range are best enjoyed with food and friends. To chose the best wine completely depends on the occasion, whether it is a gift, and what foods it is to accompany. I think the Cape Blend is the most interesting due to its touch of South Africa’s unique component, Pinotage, that makes it great with a juicy steak.”