A boutique winery in Gauteng? Well, wine not?
Veteran Cape winemaker produces four limited-run varieties in the heart of Johannesburg
While Gauteng will probably never acquire a reputation as a wine-producing area, there is now a local viticulture outpost in Johannesburg, Gerakaris Family Wines. The first of its kind, this boutique winery specialises in “gariste”-style wines. This subversive style of wine-making emerged in Bordeaux region of France in the 1990s as a way for winemakers to break with tradition and produce less formal wines. In the South African context, gariste refers less to the style and more to volume being produced. A gariste wine is a production run of less than 40 barrels or 12,000 bottles, an amount that can fit in a double garage.The winery is nestled on the historic REEA nursery property in Craighall. The doorway to Gerakaris is a whitewashed barn, festooned with a grape vine. The minimalist space is lit with a bunch of oversized lightbulbs on a cord rope. The bottled wines are lined up neatly on the floor along one wall, while large fermentation tanks line another wall. There is a large scrubbed pine table inside for tasting. Outside, a veranda opens onto a lawn with tables. There is a large weeping willow in the garden and, beyond, the Delta park is miscellany of green. Picnics are encouraged. Next door there is an organic vegetable garden, and horses trot by from the nearby stable. It is one of those magical Johannesburg spaces that illustrate the old trope that the city is the “world’s largest man-made forest”.Kath Gerakaris, the winemaker, has worked for prestigious Cape wineries including Thelema and Flagstone. In making Gerakaris wine Kath uses “high-quality grapes from a farmer in the Swartland area”. The grapes and picked and transported via cold storage to the winery on the same day. “I work with the farmer directly and know exactly which blocks our grapes come from,” says Gerakaris.“If you use good-quality grapes I see no need to manipulate the wine they produce. I cannot create better flavour or structure than the grapes themselves. The wine is free from sulphites and additives which, in practice, means I use ‘wild’ yeast that comes in on the grape skins.”The limited run consists of four wines, named after Kath and her husband’s two children. Kath suggests Ellaki, their unwooded fruit-driven chenin blanc as an apéritif. Elli, the oak-aged chenin blanc is a much more substantial wine, great with fish and white meat, spicy dishes and full cheeses. Tom is a soft red wine full of red fruit, an easy drinking accompaniment to a braai. The more structured Thomas syrah works really well with heavier winter dinners, especially tomato-braised red meats.The winery is open on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from noon to 5pm, Saturday 10am to 3pm, and Sunday 11am to 2pm.