Move over Charlize, here comes Rikus
Rikus Neethling, looking thoroughly chuffed, in his tasting-room-at-home on Croydon Estate near Somerset West.
If a blonde, blue-eyed beauty from Benoni can make it big in Hollywood, then a self-effacing blue-eyed boytjie from Benoni can surely make it in the winelands.
Tucked into a corner close to the N2 motorway to Cape Town, a stone’s throw outside Somerset West (in Eerste River), you’ll find the Croydon Residential Estate. No golf estate this, mind you, rather it is a wine estate where people get to live and if you really want to, even make some wine.
And it is here that you’ll find garagiste winemaker Rikus Neethling, who resides in a stylish home, a short distance from the dinky little Croydon Estate Cellar where he crafts his sublime red wines in tiny quantities.
His tasting room is on the estate – in fact it is in his home, in a cool high-ceilinged room adjacent to his office, lined with wine racks, and with a welcoming dark wood table and chairs. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel immediately at home, as does Rikus – while he presents his wines, and the story behind each.
“For me, each wine is a work in progress,” he says. “I’m constantly striving to make the next wine better than the last.”
Having been a dab hand with the willow at school, Rikus was awarded a cricket bursary at the University of Pretoria, but some fortuitous career advice set him on a path that brought him down to Stellenbosch, where he studied oenology and viticulture instead.
He cut his teeth at the then Mountain Ridge Co-op (now Wines), along with Swartland maverick Eben Sadie. “Eben eventually moved off and ended up doing his own thing, and I thought if he can, so can I,” says Rikus – and so Bizoe (from the French bisou – “little kiss”) Wines was born.
Production volumes are small, but his wines have an uncommonly large footprint, helped no doubt by a crop of gold medals, and 90+ points from Wine Spectator and International Wine Cellar’s Steve Tanzer recently. His flagship Henrietta Semillon-Sauvignon blend and the Estalét Syrah have built a following in the America, Switzerland and the Carribean, and you’ll find them listed in local restaurants. You can’t buy the wines from Rikus directly, but you can get them from some retail outlets.