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 specializes in ‘gariste’ style wines.
It is a subversive style of wine making that emerged in the Bordeaux region of France in the 1990’s, and saw winemakers break with tradition to produce less formal wines. In the South African context, ‘gariste’ refers less to the style and more to volume of wine produced. A ‘gariste’ wine is a production run of less than 40 barrels or 12,000 bottles — the amount which can fit into a double garage.
Situated on the historic REEA nursery property in Craighall, the winery is a beautifully minimalist space lit with huge lightbulbs on cord rope. Bottled wines line up neatly on the floor along one wall, while large fermentation tanks line another. There is a big scrubbed pine tasting-table inside for tasting, and a veranda that opens onto a lawn with a large weeping willow, beyond which lies Delta park. Picnics are encouraged. Next door there is an organic vegetable garden, where you can buy fresh produce, and horses trot by from the nearby stable.
Kath Gerakaris, the wine maker, has worked for prestigious Cape wineries including Thelema and Flagstone. To make the Gerakaris wine, “we buy high quality grapes from a farmer in the Swartland area,” she says. 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. 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 practise means that I use ‘wild’ yeast that comes in on the grape skins.”
The limited run consists of 4 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.
All in all, it's a magical space… the only Joburg "gariste" but one wonders — for how long.
The winery is open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 12pm - 5pm, Saturday 10am - 3pm and Sunday 11am - 2pm
Additional images from the Craighall Winery: