Avondale: A Natural Leader in South Africa’s Paarl Wine Region

Avondale Tasting Room & Winery

Avondale is one of the few South African wineries that uses Biodynamic and organic farming practices.  It is also a pioneer in natural winemaking methods including the use of clay vessels for fermentation. Avondale’s wines are authentic and very good. See our reviews below.

This Paarl wine estate was purchased by John and Ginny Grieve in 1997. They produced their first vintage under the Avondale label in 1999. In 2003 they opened a state of the art gravity flow cellar.  Their son Johnathan Grieve, manager and the estate’s viticulturist, has converted Avondale to certified organic and practicing Biodynamic farming practices and, along with Corné Marais, winemaker since 2008, has been a pioneer in natural winemaking methods. To see a list of our reports and other articles on South African wine, click here.

The Chicken Squad

Avondale has 70 hectares of estate vineyards. Their organic farming practices include the use of chicken and duck squads for insect control. Johnathan says that their farming results in phenolically ripe fruit that’s picked earlier than usual to maintain acidity and freshness.  The vines are of medium age by South African standards, and yields are low.

Avondale’s winemaking is what one would call “natural” with spontaneous fermentation, partial fermentation on the skins for white varieties, and minimal use of sulphur.  They eschew reductive winemaking practices and do long fermentations, mostly in clay and oak vessels. For clay, they first started with amphora, some Italian but mostly made from the soils of the farm, and later, in 2018, introduced 24 qvevri from Georgian qvevri master Nodari Kapanadze, the first to be used in South Africa.  The qvevri  are buried in the ground for temperature control, structural support, and management of air permeability.

Avondale’s Georgian Qvervi in Foreground, Amphora in Background

While Avondale makes two wines soley in qvevri, most of their finished wines are blends of qvevri or amphora and French oak barrels (mostly large format). The wines are consistently fresh, complex, and well-structured with firm tannins.

Our reviews follow.  Prices are given in Rand, which in early 2020 is equal to about US$0.07.  The vintages reviewed here should be available in the US, Canada, and elsewhere in a couple of months. Please contact these importers for suggested retail prices in the US: Metropolis Wine Merchants, Baobab

Harvest Time 2020

The Wines

Johnathan Grieve

Avondale 2012 Armilla Blanc de Blancs Paarl 91 With two years in tank on the lees and another five years on the lees in bottle under crown cap, the 2012 Armilla is complex and nuanced. Toasty lees, citrus, and orchard fruit fragrances show on the nose. The palate is very fresh, bright and mineral like with dense lemony flavors, finishing bright and long with excellent clarity. All organic/biodynamic cultivated Chardonnay from the estate, whole bunch pressed, about 10 percent matured in French oak for about a year. Includes a portion of reserve wine. Dosage of about 4 g/L and post-disgorgement aging of 3-6 months.  Excellent South African bubbly!

Winemaker Corné Marais

Avondale 2016 Anima Chenin Blanc Paarl (R260) 91 The organic Anima Chenin is a very attractive, well balanced wine that lets the fresh, fruity character of the Chenin grape shine through. There’s a melange of tropical and stone fruit aromas that are mirrored on a full bodied, layered, round palate. Very fresh with vibrant acidity, an intense spicy note (from the orange wine component) and a firm backbone (from oak and skin tannins). A blend of 80% whole bunch pressed, fermented with ambient yeasts and aged for 12 months in 500L French oak and 20% in amphora on the skins for 4-5 months then pressed and returned to amphora for another 7 months. One of South Africa’s most original Chenins! 13.5% alc

Avondale 2018 Qvevri Chenin Blanc Paarl (R250) 92 Made from the fruit of organically farmed estate grown vines 10-35 years old fermented in Georgian qvevri. The wine shows a resemblance to “natural” white wines we’ve tasted from Georgia with a somewhat earthy nose of dried herbs and stone fruit. The palate is full and firmly structured, showing yellow peach and chamomile with herbal and saline notes, finishing with rich, lingering extract.  A blend of 40% whole bunch pressed, 30% destemmed and aged on the skins for 3 months, and 30% whole bunch fermented and aged for 4 months, after which it was pressed and sent back to qvevri for a total of 12 months.  Avondale is the first South African winery to utilize qvevri in its winemaking. Corné Marais is the winemaker.

Avondale 2016 Cyclus Paarl (R330) 93 The Cyclus is beautifully balanced, refined Roussanne-led, white blend mostly fermented in 500L oak barrels, then kept on the lees for 12 months with regular battonage. The result is one of South Africa’s best white blends. The nose is floral and perfumed with just a hint of smoke, while the palate is super fresh with a creamy texture, an expansive mid palate, and a firm mineral structure. A blend of 35% Roussanne, 25% Viognier, 20% Chenin Blanc, 10% Semillon and 10% Chardonnay grapes 80% fermented in oak and 20% fermented in qvevri.

Avondale 2018 Camissa Paarl (R210) 88  Showing an appealing onion skin color, this is an original blanc de noir blend of Grenache (55%), Mourvedre (30%), and Muscat de Frontignan (15%), all low yielding, organically farmed 32 year old vines. Light scents of rose petal and lychee give way to a very dry, mineral infused palate with hints of Turkish delight and citrus fruit.  The Muscat is fermented on the skins for 3-4 days in stainless. The Mourvedre and Grenache are whole bunch pressed and fermented in 500L used French oak.

Avondale 2018 Qvevri Red Blend Paarl (R250) 90 The light red, Beaujolais style GSM is our easy drinking favorite in the Avondale portfolio. It offers lively, very fresh red plum and berry notes on the nose. The palate is super bright with a silky texture and gorgeous pure red berry fruit flavors.  A blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre that is 60% whole bunch fermented and given extended maceration before being basket pressed and returned to the qvevri to mature for one year. The other 40% is destalked and also fermented in qvevri.  Serve lightly chilled.

Avondale 2013 La Luna (R440) 91 La Luna is a Bordeaux blend offering black currant and graphite on the nose. Black and red fruit with mineral nuances and fine tannins show on a layered, dense palate. Firm tannins show on the finish. A blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec and 4% Petit Verdot destemmed, crushed, and given a long post fermentation maceration of 25+ days.  Matured in 225L French barriques of varying age for about 16 months.

Avondale 2010 Samsara Syrah Decade Edition (R350) 91 The Decade Edition Syrah was aged 12-18 months in barrel, mostly 600L, prior to bottling and then spent another seven years in cellar before being released. It’s a complex wine with a exotically spiced nose of dark red fruit, underbrush, and fynbos. The palate is opulent and lush and still fresh and bright with firm tannins on the finish.  About 40 percent of the wine was whole bunch fermented with quite a bit of skin contact.

Avondale 2009 Navitas (R1800) 93 Avondale’s flagship, Navitas is a northern Rhone style GSM, about 80 percent whole bunch fermented with malo and aging or 18 months in 600L French oak, mostly new. Offering a dark red mulberry and herbaceous nose, this is an elegant wine, refined and very fresh with dense black cherry complicated by red fruit highlights on the palate. The finish is succulent and intense with fine, firm tannins. A blend of 62% Syrah, 24% Mourvedre, and 14% Grenache.

This entry was posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Countries and Regions, Red Wine, South Africa, Sparkling Wine, Uncategorized, White Wine, Wine Type and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.