Achim von Arnim, Chairman and Founder of Haute Cabrière Estate in Franschhoek, was awarded the Frans Malan Legacy Award at the annual Amorim Cap Classique Challenge held at the glamorous 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa.
The Award was created to honour the icons of the Méthode Cap Classique industry and is named in honour of the late Frans Malan from Simonsig Wine Estate, who crafted the first Champagne-style sparkling wine in South Africa in 1971. Last year the inaugural 2014 Award was bestowed on respected wine judge and writer Allan Mullins.
The recipient is chosen by the members of the Cap Classique Association, in conjunction with sponsors, Amorim SA, and it was a unanimous decision to bestow this year’s Award on Von Arnim.
“Once Achim was proposed, no other discussion was held,” says Emile Joubert, spokesperson for Amorim SA. “Achim is the living father of Méthode Cap Classique in this country.”
Von Arnim created his first Méthode Cap Classique in 1983 under the much-loved Pierre Jourdan label, while cellar master at the iconic Boschendal Estate. Soon afterwards he left Boschendal to focus on producing Champagne-style sparkling wines, and over the past 30 years has been instrumental in the growth of the local Cap Classique industry.
“Achim played a pioneering role in developing Méthode Cap Classique production in the 1980s,” adds Joubert. “In those years most Méthode Cap Classique was made with Chenin Blanc; Achim was one of the first to experiment with the noble Champagne varieties of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.”
Von Arnim was also the first Méthode Cap Classique cellar master in the country to introduce barrel fermentation on Chardonnay; he imported Piece Champenoise barrels to pioneer a Blanc de Blancs Cap Classique, and produced the first Brut Sauvage in South Africa.
“Haute Cabrière has grown into one of South Africa’s leading Méthode Cap Classique producers, and that doesn’t just happen overnight,” says Joubert. “It was built up by Achim through his absolute belief in that magical process of converting still wine into sparkling using a natural process.”
Over more than three decades in the industry Von Arnim has also inspired generations of winemakers to explore the world of Méthode Cap Classique. One of those was Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira, who worked with Von Arnim from 1984 to 1991. Today the cellar master of acclaimed producer Graham Beck Wines, Ferreira is the chairman of the Cap Classique Association and has nothing but praise for his early mentor
“Achim was a maverick in every sense of the word,” says Ferreira, who hails Von Arnim as the first specialist producer of Méthode Cap Classique in South Africa. “I spent an incredible, yet very mad, seven years with him. I am still extremely grateful that he took me under his wing.”
Sharing the magic of Méthode Cap Classique and inspiring both winemakers and wine-lovers has always been part of von Arnim’s charm, with his Saturday morning cellar tours becoming the stuff of legend in the Franschhoek Valley.
“Achim is larger than life,” adds Ferreira. “There has always been a twinkle in his eye and he has always had room for just one more glass of Cap Classique!”
And there will be plenty of time for Von Arnim to enjoy a leisurely glass of bubbles, as son, Takuan von Arnim, has taken the reins as cellar master of Haute Cabrière.
“My father still doesn’t like the idea of the winemaker, believing that great wines are grown rather than made, but this acknowledgement of what he has achieved will mean a lot to him. He’ll definitely seize the chance to have some fun!” says Takuan. “My focus now is to respect what my parents have created, and to work at refining it. My father started off with nothing and had to make do; so from here it’s all about sourcing better machinery, improving the cellar and working with the vineyards to produce exceptional fruit for our Méthode Cap Classique.”
Haute Cabrière’s Tasting Room and Restaurant are both situated on Franschhoek Pass (Lambrecht Street), Franschhoek. Tasting Room hours are: Mon - Fri: 09h00 to 17h00 - Sat: 10h00 to 16h00 - Sun: 11h00 to 16h00. For reservations and enquiries: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021 876 3688.