What Your Nose Knows About Wine and Fynbos

How do you go about describing wine after a fanciful swirl?

Some love to wax lyrical, others have their go-to notes, and some simply cannot be bothered. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, have you ever considered looking for fynbos when you swirl your vino?

When thinking of the Cape, few things are more iconic than its winelands and fynbos. This unique and diverse vegetation is renowned for its remarkable biodiversity. Fynbos is part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest yet richest plant kingdom globally, boasting over 9,000 plant species, 70% of which are endemic. Characterised by the calming scents of dried herbs, wild rosemary, and dried wildflowers, fynbos has a remarkably recognisable aroma with a strong sense of place. Consider the scent of petrichor, the smell of rain on dry earth, which demands attention and provides a sense of relief. Among the broad range of fynbos aromas, Buchu stands out as the most iconic – green, minty, peppery, camphor, and herbaceous.

Nailing down the aromatic profile of fynbos is not simple, but its guiding philosophy is clear: warm-hearted and wonderfully generous. Fynbos adds a distinctive note to the identity of the South African palate. Its complex and multifaceted aroma brings a touch of the wild Cape landscape into the glass. Take a moment to appreciate the subtle notes of fynbos. This distinctive aroma not only enhances the wine’s profile but also connects you to the rich landscape of the Cape.


To truly appreciate the impact of fynbos on wine, let’s delve into a specific example: the 2018 Proprietor’s Blend from Ernie Els Wines. This masterful mix is made up of dollops of Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. About a quarter of the blend consists of Syrah, with just over half composed of what the estate just does so well – Cabernet Sauvignon.

While this wine isn’t dominated by the scent of fynbos, a jewel of fynbos reveals itself at its core. The wine delivers notes of dark berries, black cherries, and plums, laced with hints of spice and then, of course, that refreshing, welcoming aroma of fynbos. Oak aging imparts nuances of cedar and a touch of smokiness, adding depth to its aromatic profile. The palate is stately and well-balanced, continues the upfront dark berry flavours complemented by generous silk and cassis, fulfilling the nose’s initial promise. The tannins bring gravitas, demanding reverence for the wine’s character. At six years old in the bottle, the acidity remains wonderfully fresh and food-friendly.