Malgas Marvel: The Chronicles of Sijnn Wines and Charla Bosman

Malgas Marvel: The Chronicles of Sijnn Wines and Charla Bosman.

Nestled in the scenic yet largely uncharted Malgas region of South Africa, Sijnn Wines stands as a beacon of innovation, vision, and passion. Its legacy, built by David Trafford and star winemaker Charla Bosman (Haasbroek), narrates a story where the magic of the Malgas terroir merges seamlessly with human artistry. 

Recently we met Charla during a tasting of the Sijnn wines in the Netherlands, organized by their Dutch importer Smaragd Wines. We are happy to take you on a journey to Malgas and show the potential of this new South African wine region through Sijnn Wines and the talented Charla Bosman.

Laying the Foundations: Sijnn’s Inception

The inception of Sijnn in 2004 was not just the establishment of a winery; it marked the birth of wine culture in the virgin lands of Malgas. David Trafford, drawing inspiration from his deep-rooted ties to the Stellenbosch wine region, envisioned an estate that would echo the echoes of some of the world’s most cherished wine regions. With 25 hectares of their vineyards, and additional collaborations with regional grape growers, David’s vision was gradually painted into reality.

Malgas: The Untapped Goldmine

Malgas’s location, 15 kilometers from the ocean and guarded by intervening mountains, presents an ideal yet challenging setting for winemaking. The dry and windy climate, combined with the terroir reminiscent of the Douro in Portugal or France’s Châteauneuf du Pape, presented a canvas for David. Upon this canvas, he painted with Mediterranean grape varieties. These robust bush vines, despite their low yields, are a testament to nature’s resilience, yielding grapes that are both flavorful and adaptable to climate adversities.

The Beauty of Malgas and Sijnn’s Vineyards.

Wine Craftsmanship: The Sijnn Ethos

The Sijnn ethos revolves around harmony – between the diverse grape varieties, the unique terroir, and the winemaker’s touch. While their blends, including the noteworthy ‘Malgas Red’ and ‘Malgas White’, harmoniously integrate the attributes of different grape varieties, their ‘varietals’ shine a spotlight on individual grape excellence. The meticulous vinification process, where plots and varietals are treated distinctly, ensures that each wine bottle embodies the heart and soul of Sijnn.

Charla Bosman and Sijnn Wines.

The Founders and the Winemaking Maestro

David Trafford’s journey from architecture to winemaking is a narrative of following one’s heart. Alongside his wife, the artistically inclined Rita, David embarked on a quest to explore the untapped potential of the Malgas terroir. Their combined vision and passion laid the cornerstone for Sijnn, introducing the Malgas appellation to the world. David’s additional contributions at the esteemed De Trafford Winery, and his association with the Cape Winemaker’s Guild, further highlight his dedication to the craft.

Charla Haasbroek, with her rich tapestry of experiences across renowned estates and international vineyards, brought a fresh perspective to Sijnn. Her expertise, combined with her innovative approach, complements the foundational principles set by David. Moreover, her venture, Charla Haasbroek Wines, further cements her reputation in the world of winemaking, offering a parallel narrative of excellence. In 2022 Charla was awarded the title ‘Young Winemaker of the Year’ by prestigious wine journalist, and Master of Wine, Tim Atkin. 

Raising a Glass to Malgas and Charla

In a tasting of no less than 13 wines we got to assess both Sijnn’s ‘varietal’ wines as well as their blends. In some cases, we even enjoyed multiple vintages to compare. We are starting with the white varietal wines.

The White Varietals

  • Varietal Vermentino 2022
  • Composition: Vermentino

Nestled deep within Block 42’s profound pudding stone soils with intriguing pockets of limestone, the Varietal Vermentino 2022 is a revelation. It’s a testament to how a vine, in this case planted merely in 2017, can adapt and flourish in its environment, particularly one that can endure the gusts of wind this region is known for. This young vineyard has showcased its resilience and adaptability, echoing through the wine’s character.

Pouring the wine, a light-yellow hue shimmers in the glass, promising a youthful vibrancy. The nose is instantly enveloped in freshness—a delightful blend that evokes memories of a fuller-bodied Sauvignon blanc intertwined with the delicate notes of a light Chenin blanc. This aromatic orchestra is elevated by invigorating notes of zesty citrus, harmoniously accompanied by whispers of rosemary, fennel, and the gentle warmth of clove.

Taking a sip, the palate is an exploration of vivacity. Zesty and fresh, it presents a playground of flavors—white stone fruit and citrus dancing to the rhythm of the wine’s robust minerality. The acidity is a standout, incredibly lively, making each sip as refreshing as a cool breeze on a warm summer day. Its roots in the cooler dry area of Malgas shine through, with the wine offering a beautiful reflection of its origin.

The production process further accentuates its unique profile. The careful early morning handpicking ensures the grapes’ inherent freshness is preserved, and the use of stems during crushing, followed by fermentation in older oak, imparts a layered complexity. The decision to leave it on lees for six months grants the wine a certain roundness and texture, complementing its refreshing nature.

Note: Vermentino is not yet used in the Malgas Sijnn White, but only as ‘varietal’.

We award this wine with a 90-point DWA score.

  • Varietal Chenin Blanc 2021
  • Composition: Chenin Blanc

From the mineral-rich stony soils of Malgas, cradled by a warm climate and caressed by the ever-present sea breezes, emerges the Varietal Chenin Blanc 2021. With its roots deeply embedded in the quartzitic round stone soils of Blocks 15 & 16, and the younger vines from Blocks 31 to 36, this wine truly captures the essence of its origin.

Upon pouring, the wine greets you with a lustrous shade of gold, reminiscent of a sun-kissed orchard. The nose is a captivating blend of mandarin and minerality, with undertones of refreshing citrus. It’s a scent that invites contemplation, drawing you in for that first anticipated sip.

On the palate, this Chenin Blanc unfolds like a well-told story. It introduces itself with a textured narrative filled with vibrant hints of orange, intertwined with a subtle salinity that feels like the gentle touch of a sea breeze. Fine acidity provides a backbone to this tale, ensuring that the flavors don’t overwhelm but rather dance harmoniously on the tongue. As the wine continues to express itself, one can discern delightful notes of peach pith, sun-ripened apricots, and a delicate nuttiness. This sensory journey concludes with gentle hints of honeysuckle and beeswax, leaving a lasting impression that calls for another sip.

The meticulous care in production, from the handpicking of the grapes in the early morning chill to the fermentation in French oak barrels, is evident in every sip. The decision to ferment 60% whole bunch and 40% gently crushed grapes adds complexity and depth, while the aging on lees for 10 months imparts a silky texture and balance that is truly remarkable.

We award this wine with a 93-point DWA score.

  • Varietal Chenin Blanc 2022
  • Composition: Chenin Blanc

The Varietal Chenin Blanc 2022 is a testament to the artistry that results from harmonious terroir and careful viticulture. The juxtaposition of warm, dry climate tempered by the sea’s gentle breezes sets the stage for a Chenin Blanc that is both distinctive and evocative.

A visual treat, the wine presents itself with a delicate touch of gold in the glass, shimmering like the first rays of dawn. A gentle swirl releases the intricate dance of mandarin, minerality, and citrus notes – a combination that entices and intrigues.

The journey on the palate is textured and layered. Initial flavors of orange and nuanced salinity emerge, setting a tantalizing stage for the subsequent players. What follows is a symphony of fine acidity, harmoniously balanced, guiding the way to the deeper tones of peach pith, ripe apricots, and a subtle nuttiness. Each sip culminates in a soft crescendo of honeysuckle and beeswax, lingering and inviting reflection.

The winemaking process for this Chenin Blanc is steeped in tradition and precision. The grapes, handpicked in the serene coolness of dawn, are processed with a mix of whole bunch pressing and gentle crushing. The decision to allow spontaneous fermentation and the use of larger barrels, like the 1000L Foudre and 700L, results in a wine that balances robustness with finesse. The absence of new oak, coupled with ten months of aging on lees, further augments the wine’s texture and balance.

We award this wine with a 92-point DWA score.

  • Varietal Viognier 2021
  • Composition: Viognier

From the heart of Malgas, the Varietal Viognier 2021 stands as a poignant testament to the potential of the region. Housed within blocks 17, 28, and 29, these 17-year-old vines, facing the tasting room, encapsulate a rich history and bear the fruits of dedicated craftsmanship.

Visually, the wine is resplendent in its lush golden hue, reminiscent of the sun-kissed orchards of summer. As it breathes, a bouquet of rich apricot and nutty aromas emerge, exuding a vibrant freshness that beckons one closer. A deeper exploration reveals the scents of burnt orange and a hint of minerals, painting an intricate olfactory landscape.

A sip transports the senses into a tapestry of flavors. At the forefront, beautiful burnt orange notes intermingle with minerals, presenting a unique dance of earthy and citrus tones. This mélange is complemented by a well-defined and balanced acidity that seamlessly integrates with the subtle notes from the 3rd fill French Oak. The journey is further enriched by the flavors of peach pith, apricots, and an underlying nuttiness – quintessential markers of a true Viognier.

The meticulous winemaking process shines through in each sip. From the handpicking of grapes in the cool mornings to the whole bunch pressing, every step speaks of precision. The decision to ferment in a 400L barrel and age on lees for 10 months adds layers of texture and balance, creating a wine that is both robust and harmonious.

We award this wine with a 92-point DWA score.

The White Blend, Sijnn White

  • Sijnn White 2021
  • Blend Composition: Chenin Blanc 81% | Verdelho 8% | Viognier 7% | Roussanne 4%

From the exquisite terrain of Malgas Vineyards comes the Sijnn White 2021 – a wine that epitomizes the unique terroir of the region. The vines thrive in the complex stony soils and benefit from the marriage of a warm, dry climate with continual sea breezes. This unique geography, combined with the choice of growing all vines as bush vines, ensures a wine with exceptional character.

The 2021 vintage experienced a cooler and wetter climate compared to the preceding years. With a warmer winter and a splash of November rain, the vines experienced vigorous growth. Despite facing a mid-harvest heatwave, the white varieties remained unaffected, resulting in wines boasting excellent acidities – a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the Malgas vines.

The wine’s production speaks of meticulous care and precision. Grapes handpicked during the cool morning hours undergo a combination of whole bunch pressing and gentle crushing. Fermented in French oak barrels, the juice basks for ten months, absorbing the subtle influences of the wood and benefiting from the complexities introduced by the lees. This wine is a handcrafted gem, with a limited production that only adds to its allure.

In the glass, it gleams with a resplendent gold. The nose is greeted by an exotic blend of peach, apricot, and yellow apple. As you taste, the palate unravels intricate notes of mandarin, orange saline threads, and a subtle wood undertone. While the wine elegantly balances fruitiness and minerality, it leans more towards the expressive minerality. Hints of honeysuckle and beeswax grace the finish, leaving a lasting impression.

In essence, the Sijnn White 2021 captivates with its depth, complexity, and unmistakable character. Also referred to as ‘Malgas’s take on Eben Sadie’s Palladius’. And we get why.

We award this wine with a 93-point DWA score.

The Red Varietals

  • Varietal Grenache Noir 2021
  • Composition: Grenache Noir

From the uniquely stony soils of Malgas, reminiscent of the famed terroirs of Chateau Neuf du Pape, emerges the Grenache 2021. The region’s stony terrain, tempered by the gentle embrace of the sea breezes and its notably arid climate, finds its soulmate in the Grenache variety.

The wine seduces at first glance with its luminous ruby-red hue. The nose is captivated by a delightful melange of mixed berries, intertwined with evocative notes of lavender, herbs, and a tantalizing hint of liquorice. Each sip is a journey: the palate is treated to a parade of succulent berry and cherry flavors that dance spiritedly, revealing layers with each moment. The tannins, while unmistakably potent, are beautifully integrated, lending structure without overpowering the wine’s intrinsic vibrancy.

This Grenache is undeniably youthful and exudes an invigorating freshness. While it is an absolute pleasure to drink now, its composition still suggests room for development.

We award this wine with a 92-point DWA score.

  • Varietal Grenache Noir 2022
  • Composition: Grenache Noir

With its characteristic warm and arid climate so eloquently tempered by persistent sea breezes, the terroir of Malgas remains ever a beacon for producing distinguished wines. The 2022 edition of this Grenache Noir continues to champion this tradition.

At first sight, the wine is visually arresting with its radiant red hue. The nose is instantly captivated, offering an intoxicating blend of mixed berries, lavender, and herbs, with the intriguing addition of liquorice and the unmistakable stony essence synonymous with Malgas. The palate is treated to a symphony of flavors; succulent berries and cherries dominate but there’s a textured undercurrent, a sort of “dustiness,” that lingers long after the initial sip, evoking the very soils from which the wine originates.

The tannins, though formidable, integrate seamlessly into the wine’s profile, providing structure without overshadowing its vibrant fruit character. There’s an undeniable youth to this Grenache, with each sip bursting forth in a jubilant dance of freshness. While it certainly possesses the charisma to be enjoyed in its youthful exuberance now, the inherent structure and depth suggest a wine with promising aging potential. Compared to its 2021 brother this wine is still a little retained and stays in the back, a trade that will undoubtfully prove its value in the years that will come.

We award this wine with a 93-point DWA score.

  • Varietal Syrah 2021
  • Composition: Syrah

From the diverse soils of pudding stone and shale-rich terrains emerges the Varietal Syrah 2021. This wine beautifully captures the essence of its origins, gracefully balancing the aromatic elegance of pudding stone soils with the robust structure imparted by shale-rich grounds.

In your glass, you’ll be greeted by a rich red hue that’s immediately inviting. The nose is a captivating bouquet of dark red fruits, but there’s more to unravel. The surprising hints of liquorice, ethereal lilies, savory charcuterie, and a unique chalky nuance weave a complex aromatic tapestry that speaks volumes of the Syrah’s multifaceted character.

As you take your first sip, you will be met with an elegant and restrained palate. What stands out is the silky texture of this Syrah – like satin caressing the palate. This silkiness, combined with the wine’s inherent freshness and pronounced acidity, creates an experience of refined balance. The subtle and supple tannins further contribute to this ‘silky’ sensation, ensuring each sip is smooth and harmonious.

The thoughtful incorporation of a small percentage of whole clusters during fermentation adds another layer of depth and character to this Syrah. The decision to age the wine in older French oak barrels is evident in its restrained oak character, allowing the grape’s intrinsic flavors to shine while imparting just a hint of seasoned wood.

We award this wine with a 92-point DWA score.

  • Varietal Touriga Nacional 2019
  • Composition: Touriga Nacional

From the diverse terrains of loamy round pudding stone and fine schist soil, the Variety Touriga Nacional 2019 paints a vivid portrait of its origins. This wine harmoniously marries the exuberant profile from the former soil type with the refined elegance of the latter, culminating in a symphony of flavors and aromas.

Upon pouring, you’re greeted by a captivating visual experience—rich, dark red and purple shades beautifully melding together, hinting at the depths and complexity within. The nose does not disappoint, opening with the inviting aromas of dark berries, reminiscent of the darkest of cherries and ripe blackberries. Lavender and blueberry notes provide a fragrant overlay, enhancing the wine’s aromatic allure. Give it a gentle swirl, and you unlock deeper notes. The distinct aromas of slate and liquorice emerge, followed by tantalizing hints of olive tapenade. And, for those with a discerning nose, charcuterie and savory notes add an unexpected twist, adding layers of intrigue.

The real magic unfolds on the palate. A delightful savory explosion greets the taste buds, offering a myriad of textures and flavors. The wine showcases a beautiful balance, with its well-integrated tannins playing off against its inherent fresh acidity. These tannins, though assertive, suggest they would mellow out and integrate further with a bit more time, making it even more of a pleasure to sip in the months or even years to come.

The judicious use of 50% new oak during its fermentation and maturation in barrels, followed by its transfer to older 700L barrels, has bestowed the wine with a layered oak character. This oak influence is subtle enough to not overpower the intrinsic character of the Touriga Nacional but prominent enough to lend a touch of sophistication and complexity.

We award this wine with a 92-point DWA score.

The red blends, Sijnn Low Profile and Sijnn Red

  • Sijnn Low Profile 2020
  • Blend Composition: Syrah 35%, Touriga Nacional 22%, Grenache 17%, Mourvèdre 9%, Tempranillo 9%, Cabernet Sauvignon 4%, Tinta Amarella 4%

The name “Low Profile” signifies the meticulous effort and humble approach that goes into crafting this wine, mirroring the 200+ profile holes dug to select the optimal vine planting sites. This blend, combining the essence of almost all red varieties planted, is intended to be approachable and effortlessly enjoyable.

Emerging from the distinct terroir of the Malgas region, with its stony soils, warm climate, and tempering sea breezes, this wine stands as a testament to the unique character of the land. The 2020 vintage, born from an unusually dry and windy season, began its journey earlier than its predecessors, but retained its remarkable quality.

In appearance, the wine presents a captivating medium to deep ruby red hue. The aroma invites with a symphony of blue, red, and wild berries. Delicate whispers of sour cherry emerge, woven seamlessly with the richer notes of liquorice and chocolate. As the wine breathes, aromatic undertones of crushed herbs, rosemary, and lavender unfold, promising a sensory experience that intrigues.

On tasting, the wine reveals itself as juicy and vivacious, yet perfectly balanced. Every flavor hinted at in the aroma is delivered on the palate, culminating in a refreshing taste that lingers long past the initial sip. Soft tannins grace the finish, ensuring a dry, smooth endnote. The wine’s structure suggests that it will age gracefully, for some years to come.

We award this wine with a 92-point DWA score.

  • Sijnn Low Profile 2021
  • Blend Composition: Syrah 56%, Touriga Nacional 21%, Tempranillo 8%, Tinta Amarella 7%, Mourvèdre 4%, and Malbec 4%

Set against a backdrop of intricate stony soils and tempered by continuous sea breezes, the 2021 vintage grew in a slightly wetter and cooler environment, yielding a distinct character. The meticulous vineyard practice of growing bush vines, combined with the additional varieties introduced to this blend, led to a wine of remarkable uniqueness.

Visually, the wine shines with a medium to deep ruby red allure. One’s olfactory senses are immediately drawn to the harmonious bouquet of blue, red, and wild berries, further enhanced by entrancing lavender and blueberry whispers. Delving deeper, the scent profile is layered with traces of liquorice, chocolate, and a distinct charcuterie flair, capped off with undertones of crushed herbs and rosemary.

Upon tasting, the wine promises a vivid journey. It is both juicy and energetic, mirroring the nose’s bouquet perfectly. Every sip delivers an invigorating refreshment, persisting well beyond the initial taste. The wine concludes with a beautifully dry and gentle tannic finish, harmoniously accompanied by a lively, well-integrated acidity.

In essence, the Low Profile 2021 is a masterclass in balanced blending, delivering a wine that is both profound in its complexities yet effortlessly drinkable. Its dynamic nature makes it perfect for any occasion or pairing, standing as a testament to the dedication and craft of its makers.

Note: the 2021 Low Profile is het first vintage to use Malbec in the blend.

We award this wine with a 92-point DWA score.

  • Sijnn Red 2017
  • Blend Composition: Syrah 67%, Mourvèdre 14%, Touriga Nacional 11%, Trincadeira 8%

The Malgas Sijnn Red 2017 is a vivid testament to the union of impeccable terroir and meticulous vinification. Embraced by the warmth of the dry climate and tempered with persistent sea breezes, the vines from which this wine springs found their footing in uniquely complex stony soils.

Visually, the wine captivates with a vibrant, deep red hue. The nose is immediately met with an intricate tapestry of wild, savory aromas – red berries dance alongside whispers of lavender, thyme, and rosemary. The scent profile extends further, teasing with the distinct notes of inky depths, alluring freshness, and dark spices, all culminating with subtle undertones of chocolate.

Upon tasting, the wine’s narrative unfolds. There is a beautiful freshness that uplifts the palate, even as the wine’s concentrated mid-palate grounds it with intensity. One cannot ignore its meaty persona, but it’s intricately interlaced with rich dark spices and chocolate nuances. This is a wine of contrasts – elegant yet powerful, youthful in its zest but with a depth suggesting longevity. Its tannins, firm and structured, ensure that this wine is poised for many more years of graceful aging.

To drink the 2017 Sijnn Red is to embark on a journey. The initial sip promises a rich tapestry of flavors, and it delivers right through to the finish. It leaves an indelible mark on the palate – a lingering taste that beckons for another glass. A wine not merely for enjoyment, but for deep appreciation, the 2017 Sijnn Red stands as a testament to the potential of its terroir, the dedication of its makers, and the sheer artistry of winemaking.

We award this wine with a 95-point DWA score.

  • Sijnn Red 2019
  • Blend Composition: Syrah 31%, Touriga Nacional 24%, Tinta Amarella 21%, Cabernet Sauvignon 17%, Mourvèdre 7%

Nestled in the embrace of Malgas’s distinct terroir, with its complex stony soils and moderated warmth from constant sea breezes, the 2019 Sijnn Red is a harmonious symphony of choice varietals. This intricate blend, which takes root in drought-resistant stocks and receives sustainable care without pesticides, truly shines as a product of the remarkable site from which it originates.

Visually, the wine enchants with a luminous, deep red vibrancy. The aroma paints a landscape of its own— the Tinta Amarella’s expressive red fruit finds perfect companionship in the Syrah and Touriga Nacional’s hallmark savory and wild profiles. As you dive deeper into its olfactory notes, herbal inflections of sage, lavender, thyme, and rosemary emerge, painting a Provencal garden in your mind.

On the palate, the Sijnn Red is nothing short of a revelation. An initial inky wildness unfolds into an astonishing freshness, escorted by a concentrated burst of cassis and blueberry. As these fruity notes waltz gracefully across the taste buds, a mineral stony character asserts its presence, ensuring that its memory lingers well beyond the first sip.

Its body is a masterclass in balancing contrasts. While exuding a youthful zing, there’s also a profound concentration, anchored firmly by a structured tannin profile, promising many years of graceful ageing. Among its final flourishes is a delectable hint of blueberry cheesecake, which imparts a delightfully creamy texture to the experience.

In essence, the 2019 Sijnn Red stands as a testament to the resilience of the vineyard amidst challenging weather conditions, and the artistry of its makers. It is a wine that not only captures the essence of its terroir but also tells a story of dedication, craftsmanship, and passion. A bottle to cherish, celebrate, and of course, enjoy.

We award this wine with a 96-point DWA score.

Tasting Sijnn’s Wines with Charla Bosman.

Sijnn Wines: A Legacy in the Making

Beyond the wines, the true essence of Sijnn lies in its narrative – a tale where nature’s raw beauty converges with human passion and artistry. As wine enthusiasts delve deeper into the offerings of the South African wine panorama, Sijnn stands as a chapter that promises intrigue, excellence, and a lingering aftertaste of unparalleled quality. Charla herself as a future ahead that is equally bright as her winery and its region of origin.

Charla Bosman (Sijnn Wines) and Martijn Verkerk (Smaragd Wines).

We would like to thank Sijnn wines (in particular Charla) for their time and great wines. Sijnn wines are imported in the Netherlands through Smaragd Wines and available through direct sales or selected retail and hospitality partners. Picture credits: Charla Bosman, Sijnn Wines and Smaragd Wines.