Le Bonheur releases its first new wines under Winemaker Lauren Behrens
Stellenbosch wine farm, Le Bonheur, has released its latest wines – the first under winemaker Lauren Behrens, who was appointed in October 2013
Behrens first joined the team as assistant winemaker to Sakkie Kotzé in January 2013 and worked closely with him to get to know the vineyards and wines, before assuming her new role. Now under her watch, the winery has released the Le Bonheur Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014 and Le Bonheur Estate Chardonnay 2014.
Both were made to the exacting standards for which Le Bonheur has become known and are reflections of the estate’s famous terroir.
The Le Bonheur Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014 displays a brilliance in the glass, with an emerald shimmer. Its aroma shows tropical fruit and floral notes with hints of grass, guava, grapefruit and green pepper. On the palate, flavours of tropical fruit are accentuated by a balanced acidity that lends a lively character with some weight and creaminess. The wine is best enjoyed on its own or with seafood, poultry and other white meats or cheese soufflés.
“As with previous vintages of the cultivar, this wine develops over time,” says Behrens. “It has spent a long time on the lees and is certainly able to age well.”
The Le Bonheur Estate Chardonnay 2014 has a green-tinged, golden-yellow appearance. There’s an abundance of lime and citrus on the nose, with a backdrop of dried peaches and vanilla. The wine is rich and creamy on the palate with subtle citrus and dried fruit flavours.
Behrens says the estate’s Chardonnays are generally suited for ageing and this one in particular will develop well over the next three years. “The Chardonnay is 40% barrel fermented, and was left in barrel for three months – just enough to impart a touch of oak.”
Both cultivars do well at the estate and have been acknowledged down the years with major local and international awards. Most recently, the Le Bonheur Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013 won “Silver Outstanding” at IWSC 2014 while the Le Bonheur Estate Chardonnay 2012 collected a Gold award at the Selections Mondiales des Vins in Canada.
The 30-year-old Behrens acknowledges that she has big shoes to fill at Le Bonheur. “My time here so far has been stunning. Of course it has been a challenge, but certainly an adventurous one. I have learnt more about myself and recognise my own evolution. I enjoy the farm and its people; it feels like home and I think when it feels like that, you know you’re in the right place. “Winemaking is supposed to be fun, fulfilling and rewarding; there’s never a dull moment.”
Her career in wine began when she switched her studies from a BSc Chemistry at the University of Stellenbosch to balance laboratory work with her love for the outdoors. She eventually graduated in Viticulture and Oenology (Spec).
In 2005 Behrens went on a nine-month internship at Diemersfontein Estate in Wellington. In 2006 she joined Neethlingshof Estate as assistant winemaker and during the following six and a half years, experienced harvests in France at Chateau Antugnac in 2008; and in California in the US at La Crema Winery in 2010.
The 163-hectare Le Bonheur wine estate on the slopes of Klapmuts Hill in the northern region of Stellenbosch dates back to 1790. Grapes are handpicked, placed in small baskets to prevent bruising and hand sorted to select only the best fruit.
Le Bonheur held huge appeal for Behrens as it carries a long history of making classical, elegant wines. The estate has been completely redeveloped to produce fine quality wines, including perfecting the structure and composition of the soil to best suit the vines.
It also suits her personal style of winemaking, she says. “I want to see the high quality, richness of flavour and aroma, the identity of where the fruit comes from – the true terroir of Le Bonheur and the potential to age gracefully.
“This we achieve as a team, from the vineyard to the cellar.”
She looks forward to the coming months at the estate and especially to new vineyard plantings and building relationships with Le Bonheur wine fans. “I’m sure there are many challenges ahead for me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she declares.
The release of the latest Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay wines is a particular highlight in the spirit of the Le Bonheur name, which means “happiness”.