Producer Profile
Restless River
Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa

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Restless River

Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa

Deep rooted. Low intervention. South African.

Started in 2004, Restless River is a small winery located in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation of South Africa. The winery started in Craig and Anne Wessel’s garage and slowly moved to the farm shed to allow for more space and larger production. Still, the winery remains a small and truly artisanal estate, driven by passion and a knack for experimentation.

Location: Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa

Viticultural standards: organically farmed

Our pick of the best wine from this producer: Restless River Ave Maria Chardonnay

Interesting fact: Craig Wessel’s history in South Africa can be traced all the way back to 1760, when his family ancestors first settled in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. He is also a great x7 grandson of South African President, Paul Kruger, who governed from 1883 to 1900.

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Vineyards in Restless River

Only 5km from the cold South Atlantic ocean and with vineyards at an altitude reaching 1200ft, the estate benefits from a cool climate with maritime influence, with daytime temperatures during summer being some of the lowest in the South African wine landscape. Along with artisanal and low intervention winemaking methods, this unique terroir allows Restless River to produce elegant and light wines with outstanding balance and complexity.

Restless River winery in South Africa

Craig Wessel, Restless River’s owner and winemaker, has a long history in the valley. Hundreds of years ago, his ancestors set up home and some historians say it was Wessel who called the valley ‘Hemel-en-Aarde’. In 2004, Craig and Anne Wessels bought 20 hectares of Wessels’ original farm, and in so doing, the name of the original settler was once again returned to the valley. As of today, 7 hectares are planted with vines in ancient, granite-based, rocky, deep clay soils. The farm has some of the oldest Cabernet sauvignon and Chardonnay in the Hemel-en-Aarde, with vines first planted in 1999. Pinot noir followed and was planted in 2013. These older vines struggle a lot to grow and develop in this environment, yielding small quantities of exceptional grapes.

Craig Wessel walking through his Restless River vineyards

As a couple-run winery, Craig farms the land and makes the wine, and Anne runs the business side of the estate. Craig’s ‘learn-as-you-go’ mentality, coupled with his creative and daring personality, makes him a very exciting producer that we are grateful to have partnered with. His winemaking approach surely is unconventional, some could even say “fairly extreme”, picking the fruit very early to give his wines the acidity and freshness that he seeks. His Sauvignon Blanc is produced using carbonic maceration (used in making lighter, fruiter reds – most commonly in Beaujolais) and skin contact. It spent around 16 months in traditional clay amphora to develop and mature. Restless River also produces a Piquette, a technique used to make a slightly fizzy, low alcohol easy-drinking summer quaffer. It is produced by rehydrating Sauvignon and Chardonnay grape skins into water and then pressing again, fermenting and producing a light spritz naturally in the bottle. Still, Craig’s low intervention and experimental style is very considerate and guided more his senses than science”.

Craig Wessel with his dog in his Restless River vineyards