This small SA winery is reviving the 'lost child' of Bordeaux

Lozärn is giving wine lovers a chance to taste Carménère, a once-popular cultivar of Bordeaux that nearly died off in the 1800s

30 March 2019 - 00:00 By Richard Holmes
Lozärn is one of the largest producers of Carménère in the country.
Lozärn is one of the largest producers of Carménère in the country.
Image: Supplied

“This area is very flat. If you have a hill it’s a privilege,” says Salóme Buys-Vermeulen of Bonnievale in the Western Cape.

Winemaker at Lozärn, Salóme was formerly the vineyard manager at Ormonde estate near Darling, and worked harvests from New Zealand to Arendsig before settling down in the vines overlooking the Breede River.

The Lozärn wines – three reds, a white and a rosé – come from a handful of properties in the Robertson wine valley, with most of the fruit harvested from 18ha of vineyard on Doornbosch farm near Bonnievale.

The maiden vintages of the Lozärn range were released at the end of 2017, with a firm focus on Bordeaux cultivars.

“The wines of Bordeaux definitely do better here, because Bonnievale is a little bit cooler than Robertson,” says Salóme, who offers both a sauvignon blanc and full-bodied red-blend in the Lozärn range. A blush rosé is also a fine addition to any summer cellar.

But alongside these is a wine hailing from Bordeaux that perhaps few wine lovers have had the chance to taste.

“Carménère is the lost child of Bordeaux,” says Salóme. “It was once one of the main cultivars of Bordeaux, but in the 1800s it died off completely. It was always used as a blending component and, a bit like pinot noir, it’s a finicky cultivar to work with.”

While the phylloxera epidemic killed off Bordeaux’s plantings of Carménère, the vines had already escaped to Chile, where it grew to become one of the country’s most important wine grapes. Today, Chile is home to the world’s largest plantings, although until 1994 winemakers there believed it to be merlot.

Today Lozärn – with 1,9ha of vine planted – is one of the largest producers of Carménère in the country.

“While the grapes look very much like merlot, and the wine is fruit-driven like merlot, it also has a bit of spice like shiraz,” adds Salóme, who says that mastering this wandering child is an ongoing process.

“We’re learning more about this cultivar all the time.”

This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guide. Visit