Ashbourne 2005 is only the third release of a now 14 year quest to produce a distinctly South African, classically styled, site expressive and soil driven red wine (the maiden 2001 vintage was released in October 2002). The aim is for Ashbourne to belong firmly in the company of the world’s great benchmark red wines, without in any way replicating them or seeking to taste and smell like them.
When Anthony Hamilton Russell (owner of Hamilton Russell Vineyards and founder of Southern Right) returned to South Africa in 1991 he was enthused with the idea of creating something particularly classic and individual from South Africa’s red grape variety Pinotage. At that time – and even to this day – Pinotage was not widely respected within the industry, despite some really exciting wines being made from the variety.
The absence of French, Californian or Australian benchmarks to work towards, seemed to scare off many of the top winemakers and producers, who preferred to work with varieties or blends that somebody else had established a market for internationally and where the efforts of others had showcased the quality potential of the varieties or blends. The many ordinary wines made from Pinotage were blamed on the intrinsic character of the grape and not on the inappropriate choice of site or the viticulture or winemaking.
It was Anthony’s conviction that with the correct choice of site and soil and with the right viticulture and winemaking, great wine could be made from Pinotage. Furthermore, a wine could be made which was not defined by comparison to some other international region’s benchmark.