The Wood Diaries at Nederburg

Nederburg view

Nederburg is one of South Africa’s most well-known names in wine, with a rich winemaking history dating back to 1791. They have a remarkable track record of awards, uniquely innovative wines, and a reputation for excellent reds.

I was invited to Nederburg in Paarl for The Wood Diaries event to learn about the intricacies and skill associated with ageing wine in oak barrels. We were given the chance to explore the impact wood has on wine. I was fascinated by how the different types of wood and where they were sourced from had such a unique influence on the flavour!

When we arrived, we were greeted with a lovely winter warmer Watermark cocktail made up of 5 parts oaked Cabernet Sauvignon, 1 part Bourbon Whiskey, and 1 part Honey Syrup. This warming combination went down well with the canapés of shredded smoked duck with mango and brie cheese with green fig preserve.

Nederburg cocktail

Wooded Wine Blending Experience

We then had the opportunity to learn more about ageing techniques from the knowledgeable Nederburg winemaking team. This included Samuel Viljoen and Heinrich Kulsen. Essentially, any wine that spends time in a barrel will take on the characteristics of the oak. The newer the barrel, the more flavour it imparts, and, the smaller the barrel, the more oak influence it has.

We discovered that different sourced wood affects the flavours. For example, French wood tends to give a dark chocolate and peppery character. American oak has a sweet vanilla aroma. Eastern European wood offers a cinnamon sweet spice taste. We then blended a few wines that had been matured with different types of oak to create our own beautifully balanced blend.

We all received different coloured ribbons on arrival. These were used to divide us into teams for the wine blending contest. I was paired with Lindy Hibbard of Smile FM, Ilse van den Berg of and Bradley Rossiter of World Wine Wanderings. We had 4 different reds to experiment with – a medium toast French Classic with notes of aniseed and dark berry, a smoky chocolate Intense French, a very sweet American, and a sweet spiced Eastern European aged red.

Nederburg Wooded Wine Experts

For our wooded Cab Sav blend, we tested four different combinations before finally agreeing on 55% Eastern European, 5% American, 25% French Classic and 15% French Intense.  Our team name ‘4 Chickies and a Díky’ was chosen because our blend was predominantly aged in Eastern European oak. Díky means Cheers in Czech.

It was a difficult decision for the judges. They had to consider the flavour, intensity, aroma and aftertaste of the different blends put forward by the teams. So I couldn’t believe it when my team won the title of Nederburg Wooded Wine Experts with our delicious blend! Winning a selection of six of Nederburg’s awarded wines in a stunning wooden box was the perfect souvenir of a fantastic experience.

Nederburg our wine

Nederburg winning team

Food and Wine Pairs

The blending experienced was followed by a food and wine pairing. This showcased eight oaked red and white wines, each served with a tapas dish.

The Mushroom Arancini balls with Pulled Chicken paired with Nederburg Two Centuries Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 was my favourite dish as they complemented each other beautifully. I also really enjoyed the Curry-Crumbed Salmon with Pickled Beetroot, Mushroom and Sage Gnocchi and The 5 Spiced Short Rib with Fresh Thyme. They all tasted phenomenal and perfectly paired with Nederburg’s wonderful wines.

All the red wines were divine, particularly the 2013 Ingenuity Italian Blend. I was not expecting to enjoy the wooded whites as much as I did, especially the Young Airhawk 2013 Chenin Blanc. We finished off the afternoon with Affogato for dessert under a gorgeous winter’s sky.

Nederburg snacks

Nederburg snacks

A Smoky Winter Experience

Overall it was very interesting to learn about how the wood’s origin affected the red wine flavour. I had so much fun experimenting with my team and, ultimately, winning the honour of Nederburg Wooded Wine Experts. I’m enjoying drinking my lovely prizes and would love to return to Nederburg again soon.

For more information on Nederburg, see below.

Nederburg Wines

Address: Sonstraal Road, Daljosafat, Paarl



Call: +27 (0)81 848 4295

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Written by Claire Horn

Article Date: August 2018


All information correct at time of publication. We do not accept any liability caused by errors, including, but not limited to, changes in price, menu, opening times, address, or other contact details.