Two Dynamite Wines

Way back when I first visited South Africa over 20 years ago, Flagstone Wines was a boutique, artisan operation. It was also one of the first I encountered whose winery was not out among the vineyards, but on the waterfront in central Cape Town.

Owner and winemaker was the young Bruce Jack, who plunged into the wine industry only after studying English literature at St Andrew’s in Scotland. Unusually for a South African, he also chose to study winemaking at Roseworthy College in Australia, and not at Stellenbosch University.

It’s fair to say Flagstone Wines took off like a rocket and as it did, a new winery was needed. Re-location was to Somerset West, now out among the vineyards, but the location was unconventional: and abandoned dynamite factory dating back to 1901 that was earmarked for demolition had Jack not reinvented its purpose.

Success Story

The success of Flagstone Wines soon had bigger businesses courting Jack as they looked for a slice of the action. By 2008 he had sold the business to Constellation Brands, a huge multi-national. In return, Jack became head of Constellation’s South African operation. That gave him control over mega-brands, including the ubiquitous Kumala, and a twenty million bottle production.

In 1983 Constellation Brands acquired Australia’s BRL Hardy, at a stroke creating the world’s biggest wine business. By 2011, Constellation’s New World businesses, including Flagstone were taken over by Australian giant Accolade Wines – who in turn were the world’s fourth largest wine business, outputting a case of wine every second. Bruce Jack was part of the deal, becoming Group Winemaker for Accolade Wines. The Flagstone Wines brand went with him.

In 2018, Bruce Jack resigned from Accolade Wines “to focus on my family wine estate in the Overberg Highlands called ‘The Drift Estate’ and start a new global wine brand called ‘Bruce Jack’.” That business now supplies significant volumes of wine, but it meant the end of the association of Jack and Flagstone, after more than 20 years.

Dynamite Factory

The two wine reviewed below are part of a range that’s new to the UK market as of summer 2023. The bottles still carry the Flagstone name, though Bruce Jack is no longer involved. The wines are produced by Accolade Wines under Flagstone’s Chief Winemaker Gerhard Swart.

The heritage represented by the brand is a legitimate one however: Flagstone’s home and winery remains the old dynamite factory in Somerset West, where these wines were made. As with all such big brands, look out for discounts and promotions. The wines are reduced to £7 in Sainsburys at time of writing.

The Wines

(2023) This is nicely vibrant and tropical-fruited Sauvignon Blanc, with grapes sourced from cooler climate vineyards in Elgin, Walker Bay, Darling, and Stellenbosch, as well as selected parcels from the Breedekloof region. Perhaps it's that blending of soils and climates that gives the wine both body and ripeness, and plenty of keen acidity. It sees no oak, but is aged on the lees for a few months, which undoubtedly adds an edge of richness to the texture, the succulent mango and lychee exotic fruit flowing into limey acidity at the finish. Nicely done. On offer in Sainsbury's at £7 at time of review. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas.
(2023) The Dynamite red is 100% Shiraz grapes, mainly from vineyards in Swartland, Perdeberg, Wellington, and Paarl. From soils predominantly made of decomposed shale and granite, the fruit of the cooler 2021 vintage was harvested two weeks later than average and a portion of the wine was aged in 225-litre barriques, French and American oak, for 12 months. It's a meaty and yet juicy Shiraz, with bags of plummy flavour and a spice kick of tannin, and probably a good contender for summer barbecues.

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