Epicurean Wine, a true South African wine success story is celebrating a 20-year winemaking milestone. In contrast to their boutique, small production nature, the team behind the brand have produced thousands of bottles of wine each year and have firmly cemented their late-release vintages in the heart of discerning wine drinkers across the world.
Founded by four prominent South African businessmen Mutle Mogase, Moss Ngoasheng, Ron Gault (who has since taken a step back following his move to the US) and politician, Mbhazima Shilowa – the idea was ignited by the four taking a trip to France in 2000. Beginning in Champagne, they worked their way down through Burgundy, along to Bordeaux and finished off the trip in Cognac.
Two years after their visit to France, during a wine tasting club hosted by Michael Fridjhon, South Africa’s foremost wine authority, a conversation between Shilowa, Mogase and Chairman of Richemont, Johann Rupert led to the start of the Epicurean brand. Rupert offered up the facilities of his then relatively new winery, Rupert & Rothschild, to the group to start producing their own wine.
In 2003, the creation of the first Epicurean wine began when the founders sat down for a tasting, each bringing their favourite bottle from their personal cellars. Using the best grapes and based on four pillars – aromatic harmony, elegance, complexity and longevity – the first vintage was a predominantly Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon Bordeaux blend. In 2004, the blend went to the inverse with Cabernet Sauvignon supported Merlot.
Future vintages have seen additions of Cabernet Franc and other Bordeaux varieties, in the same Epicurean style. The latest release, the 2015 is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
In 2018, with their red firmly planted on the map, Epicurean ventured into white wines, with the vinification of their inaugural vintage of Chardonnay. Sourced from Elgin vineyards, the wine embodies the same Epicurean standards of harmony, elegance, complexity and longevity. Again, the wine was only released two years later – in 2020.
The release of vintages after an extended time is intentional, explains Mogase, “It’s testament to our determination to only release wines once they are ready to be drunk and enjoyed – though they still have years of cellaring potential ahead of them.”
Today, Epicurean Wines can be found in some of the country’s top restaurants – from Marble in Johannesburg to Bertus Basson’s stable and Delaire Graff. Each appreciates the craftmanship and late-release vintages.
“It’s always nice to have an older vintage on the list and Epicurean’s current release is always an older vintage,” says head sommelier for the Marble Group Wikus Human. “The fact that they hold wine back as a farm makes them unique.”
With 20 years under their belt since the founding of Epicurean Wines, the founders are now looking to take their wines to the world. With a Belgian importer now being brought on board, the Epicurean will likely be available in Europe in the next few months, and in the US later this year. Most exciting is the opportunity to expand distribution into other parts of Africa.
“Our journey as founders has always been based on a shared passion for fine wine and perhaps more so for sharing this passion – and these wines – with those who appreciate it too,” adds Mogase. “For us, it’s about expanding our circle of like-minded epicureans.”
Epicurean Wines is still made at the Rupert & Rothschild property, and each year the founders celebrate another year with a group tasting of their favourite wines from their cellars.