Trade Partners Wine sales and supply to Malawi and Beyond

WINES

Last year saw cellarmaster Joris van Almenkerk mark the Belgian/Dutch family’s first decade of winemaking at the showpiece Elgin property, with apples initially making way for vines from 2002. Natural, minimalist and authentic wines are the goal, and the emphasis is on focus and precision. With chardonnay and syrah established calling cards, it’s no surprise that malbec and cabernet franc vines are being grafted over. A greener approach is already being applied, and more organic solutions trialled ‘to see what works’. The cellar – with quick-access fireman’s pole from Joris’ first-floor office – might be bespoke and functional but it’s also aesthetically pleasing, with its art and tasting venue appreciated by an increasing number of visitors. Fantastic value wines rated very highly, and for good reason.

International businessman Johann Rupert’s model wine-enterprise, named for his late brother, has 18th-century Franschhoek estate L’Ormarins as its mountain-silhouetted home. The venture encompasses an internationally awarded sextet of brands, and visitor attractions such as the 100+ year retrospective Franschhoek Motor Museum, linked to two tasting venues by bespoke trams. Grapes are sourced from the venture’s prime vineyards in Darling, Swartland, Elandskloof and the home farm, as well as other significant sites including old-vine parcels around the winelands. Vinified in custom, dedicated facilities such as the Cape of Good Hope Cellar, equipped with on-trend, amphora-shaped Italian concrete tanks. The team’s commitment to incremental improvements in both the vineyards and cellar is reaping rewards in the bottle. We love this brand and are super happy that their wine has already been a huge hit in Malawi.

Kevin (born in Blantyre, Malawi) and Hanli Grant (’and a few friends’) bought the Ataraxia home-farm, spectacularly situated in Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, in 2004. The vineyards are on elevated, mostly south-facing slopes (14 ha already, another 10 planned). Kevin’s aim is for the wines he makes to be ‘a pure expression of the soil in which they grow’. There are now 4: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Serenity (red blend), and a long-gestated Pinot Noir. Greek for “a serene state of mind, free from worry and preoccupation”, Ataraxia lives up to the hype. Aptly called The Skyfields, Ataraxia Wines is perfectly positioned on a commanding rise in the beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde wine-growing area. Just a short distance from the coastal village of Hermanus, a picture-perfect drive brings you to the most elevated part of these winelands. Here you can experience jaw-dropping vineyard, valley and mountain views: all from our chapel-like Wine Lounge®, while sampling some of the most exciting wines South Africa has to offer. We are huge fans of Ataraxia, and learned about this jem at Gabi’s wedding, one of our wine tasting rockstars. Their Sauvignon Blanc is one of our favorites.

Historic Bot River farm Compagnes Drift, ca 1750, was purchased in 1974 by Jayne Beaumont and her larger-than-life late husband Raoul, who completely transformed it through ‘hard work, a spirit for adventure and a proper dose of crazy’. It’s now home to three generations (Jayne has seven grandchildren living on-site or nearby), with oldest son Sebastian in charge of both cellar (boasting a new press) and vineyards, where ‘we are in the process of focusing on fewer grape varieties’. Meanwhile, Sebastian’s wife Nici’s Zest Catering partnership has been brought ‘closer to the action’ (next to the tasting room) to offer visitors ‘a little more of a food experience’, making this friendly family farm more welcoming than ever. Great wines at a great price – Tasting the Chenin Blanc felt like paying for economy and getting upgrade to First Class… and as a result we are going to be test driving a bunch of their other varietels soon, which seem to have great ratings too.

Owned by entrepreneur Penny Streeter OBE, this wine, olive and lifestyle estate in cool-climate Walker Bay intends to become a leading wine tourism destination, with an impressive array of attractions for visitors and their families, including ones that take advantage of the location on Bot River Lagoon. The offerings from the two eateries are designed to celebrate and complement the estate-grown wine range by awarded Johann Fourie, which sees several additions this edition. Also cool-climate, though further-flung, are the vineyards in the UK, at Mannings Heath Wine & Golf Estate and Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens, which will provide the grapes for Penny’s first English sparkling wine. And, in a few years, the first pinotage planted in English soil by Johann in 2018 will be ready for its first crush. We are yet to taste Benguela Cove but excited to have some in Malawi based on a recommendation by one of our favorite clients on Likoma Island.

‘Since 1707, when the first Bosman arrived in SA as a “sieketrooster” (sick comforter), we’ve believed in respecting the land and the people that farm the land,’ says 8th-generation Petrus Bosman, whose family’s dedication to growing terroir wines matches their commitment to sustainability and ethical initiatives (going back to 2008 and the formation of the Adama Worker Trust, which set a benchmark for transformation; the following year saw the venture certified with Fairtrade). In charge of their (renovated) 260-year-old cellar in Wellington since 2007, winemaker Corlea Fourie has unrivalled access to grapes from their Bosman Adama nursery, the largest in Africa, with vineholdings in Wellington and Hermon as well as Hemel-en-Aarde, where tastings and picnics are offered. Some great wines at an amazing pricepoint. Hot tip try the Bosman Cab Sav.

A year of contrasts and high drama for this acclaimed, family-owned winery in Hemel-en-Aarde. Scant months after witnessing heavy snow at the Kaaimansgat/Crocodile’s Lair vineyard in far-flung Elandskloof, the team had to contend with a potentially devastating wildfire which tore through their local valley at the start of vintage, threatening buildings and vines. Thanks to the agile fire service, alert staff and helpful neighbours, they not only managed to escape serious damage, but succeeded in bringing top-quality fruit into the cellar, winemaker Chris Albrecht declaring himself delighted with the resulting wines. Most of their range is now suitable for vegans, a growing trend which cellarmaster and co-founder Peter Finlayson has observed as he travels the world, sharing his deep knowledge of this cool-climate area. Another highly recommended brand that we are looking forward to tasting.

David Nieuwoudt leads a ‘team with attitude’ to produce award-winning wines from our high-altitude vineyards. The secret behind our ‘wines with altitude’? A unique terroir and a pure, virus-free environment. Cimmited to responsible living is reflected in everything we do, from the way we manage our facilities to the audits we participate in and the special projects we support. We care about people and we care about the environment. But most of all, Cederberg care about how responsibly they, as people, interact with the pristine Cederberg Wilderness around them. Another favorite in Malawi especially the Ghost Corner range.

Wine, food, art, nature and technology merge at this Hemel-en-Aarde farm ‘created’ from virgin land by Swiss-born vini-viti man Jean-Claude (JC) Martin and wife Carolyn (of the respected SA winegrowing Finlayson family). They collaborate with geologists and soil scientists in ongoing expansion of their eclectic varietal mix. Joining the area’s first chenin (debuting last edition) is this year’s three newcomers: interesting blends of grenache, viognier and roussanne and a Reserve Syrah. Consultation with tech gurus and international universities informs sophisticated trade and direct-to-consumer marketing and social media activities, while innovations to their ever-changing wine-and-food pairings (sometimes tied in with top art exhibits) attract the trendy and discerning (and multiple global wine tourism accolades). Lotte absolutely loves Creation wines. A not so well know brand in Malawi but we are keen to change that and bring in a wide range of Creation wines.

The new team in charge of this internationally hailed boutique red-wine specialist winery on Stellenbosch’s Polkadraai Hills have big plans, with renovations and upgrades for the manor house and tasting room as well as the cellar. But attention to detail in the vineyards and meticulous crafting of Bordeaux-styled wines in their gravity-flow facility remain unchanged under the watchful eye of cellarmaster Charles Williams and MD Albie Koch. Their journey to organic certification is almost complete, as they seek to farm in a more natural fashion and preserve the farm for future generations. Very highly rated wines at realtively good value.

Freed up by winemaker Charla Haasbroek, now in full control at De Trafford’s Breede River sister winery Sijnn, assistant winemaker Fred Fismer helping both there and here at De Trafford’s Stellenbosch Mountain home farm, and inspired by recent trips to regions both mainstream (Rhône, Loire, Bordeaux, Piedmont, Douro) and fringe (Banyuls, Priorat, Etna, Georgia, Croatia), David Trafford, nearing his third decade as one of SA’s most respected and admired non-interventionist boutique winegrowers, says he ‘can play again’. Projects include ‘creative, small-lot winemaking’ in his original makeshift cellar: a skin-contact and Reserve chenin, wholebunch cinsaut, wholeberry cab franc in amphoras. ‘Oh, and a little chardonnay and chenin.’ Just as well Saturday tasting times have been extended. Maintenance continues to ensure top quality, with vine renewal keeping the blocks virus-free and allowing for conversion to more drought-resistant rootstock. Delicious wines with a great reputation across the board.

There’s no denying the glittering pull of this splendidly sited property on the highpoint of the Helshoogte Pass outside Stellenbosch town, with magnificent views. It was founded in the early 1980s by the originator of this guide, John Platter, but has changed dramatically since then, especially with the arrival in 2003 of London-based diamantaire Laurence Graff as its fifth owner. Art everywhere, both inside and out; and two restaurants, for example, with Kevin Grobler arriving in 2019 as head chef of the eponymous one; not to mention the diamond centre that one might expect, given the proprietor; and luxury accommodation that has been recently expanded. And to crown it all (in our opinion), Morné Vrey’s fine range of wines, prestigious and hardly cheap – even the third tier is branded as Luxury. A delicious well priced wine that is already a favorite in Malawi.

This edition marks 45 years since the founding of this renowned Hemel-en-Aarde Valley estate, and an important milestone not just for the Hamilton Russell family, but also the local history of their longtime focus varieties, Burgundy’s greatest grapes, pinot noir and chardonnay. Owner Anthony Hamilton Russell is hoping for a slightly larger vintage this year, after the loss of more than 10% of the pinot noir due to a wildfire which tore through the valley just before the 2019 harvest. One of the most southerly wine Estates in Africa, this Pinot noir and Chardonnay specialist pioneered viticulture in the beautiful, cool, maritime, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation behind the old fishing village of Hermanus. Looking forward to tasting Southern Wright and Ashbourne on our next order and Hamilton Russell in the future…

The Mackenzie family, owners since 1987 of this friendly Bottelary Hills estate, and Carl Schultz, winemaker and latterly cellarmaster for nearly 30 years, have quietly carved a place in the industry’s upper echelon. Championing SA shiraz, they offer varietal and blended versions across the quality and price spectrum, premium bottlings earning particular local and international praise. A Bordeaux-style red, chardonnay and riesling (a Carl soft spot) are also standouts. Special wines honour special people in the farm’s history (late patriarch Ken aka The Stork, his wife The Megan, and matriarch of the prolific Finlayson dynasty of winegrowers once resident here, The Eleanor). A strong focus on sustainability includes exploring indigenous cover crops, conserving a 65-ha wetland and recycling 100% of their wastewater. Amazing reviews and a few requests have lead to us wanting to bring Hartenberg to Malawi. Exctied to test drive what seems to be an incredible winery.

The addition of four stellar reds to the 900 range of this Helderberg cellar, vineyards and visitor centre, developed by the Italian Bottega family, follows last year’s expansion of the Idiom Collection. Clearly a good return on viticultural investment, including imported Italian expertise on pruning techniques, especially instructive given the Italian varieties in the mix. Sign, too, of the belief in the potential of the site on the mountainside above Sir Lowry’s Pass village (grapes also used for separately listed sibling Whalehaven). Mike once tried to buy The Chocolate Block in OR Tambo and was referred to Idiom instead, and since then this has been one of his all time favorites. We are very excited to have Idiom in Malawi and see it as a tastier and better value option than the popular and commercialised Chocolate Block / Meerlust currently popular in Malawi.

André Shearer has built his Somerset West-based wine company into the largest supplier – currently 25% – of SA bottled wines (including own brands Indaba, Jam Jar and Braai) to the US. After 25th anniversary celebrations in 2017, came a 2018 flooded with US market honours for wine quality, staff well-being and commercial success (Wine Enthusiast Importer of the Year, inter alia). In 2019 winemaker Bruwer Raats (of Raats Family Wines, this guide’s 2018 Winery of the Year) was joined by Cape Winemakers Guild protégé Clayton Christians. Market research supported the release of Jam Jar in 187-ml ‘4-packs’, and social care underlies the Indaba Foundation’s long-term support for teacher training and early childhood education. Unbelievable value and so far the Chenin Blanc has been a huge hit to our budget concious clients.

‘Boys and their toys,’ quips GM (and Cape Wine Master) Brad Gold, but he can’t resist sharing high-resolution images taken by his camera drone of the unique cloud which blankets Iona, even on the hottest summer days. Remote and isolated, the estate in the Elgin highlands benefits from moist Atlantic air borne by the southeast wind, rising and cooling over the Kogelberg mountains to form misty clouds that then blanket the farm before dissipating into Elgin Valley. Andrew Gunn is the custodian of this special piece of land; wife Rozy’s lower-lying Brocha is farmed increasingly organically; a third parcel to the north is home to interesting varieties such as nebbiolo. The portfolio has been refined to best express unique vineyard sites. Very highly rated and great value. We have not had the pleasure of tasting yet but look forward to that as Iona are coming to Malawi soon.

Husband-and-wife team Gary and Kathy Jordan have steered the fortunes of their internationally acclaimed Stellenboschkloof family estate since 1993, consistently improving on its reputation through precision winemaking and careful curation of the terroir-matched classic varieties planted by Gary’s parents, Ted and Sheelagh after they bought the farm in 1982. With the upgrade of the tasting venue complete, and renovation of their recently acquired boutique country estate in the UK well underway, they’re now ticking another item off their bucket list: the planting of assyrtiko, paying homage to Kathy’s Greek heritage, to be trained in traditional Santorini manner with ground-hugging baskets to minimise wind damage. Winemaker Sjaak Nelson has already installed the correct amphoras in the Jordan underground cellar in anticipation. Some fantastic and incredible value wines that have already proved popular in Malawi.

The Steytler family have farmed this large Bottelary hillside property since 1946, and are proud that their 1947 chenin vineyard is one which has certified Old Vine status. Danie Steytler jnr, now in his second decade as winemaker, has played a key role in celebrating both family and viticultural heritage through an emphasis on pinotage, chenin and latterly cinsaut. Another focus is on preserving their venerable bushvines through improved soil health and biodiversity. For the first time, a cover crop of turnips was planted between the rows. This not only prevented soil loss during the wet winter season, but also provided organic matter and nutrients for the soil – and ingredients for hearty soups! Another delicious and popular wine, that has had great reviews so far in Malawi.

Near-universally regarded as one of SA’s ‘first-growths’, this dynamic and progressive 4th-generation family estate on Stellenbosch’s Simonsberg has three cornerstones for quality: only the best fruit (whether estate-grown or brought-in), inspired winemaking (cellarmaster Abrie Beeslaar three times International Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine & Spirit Competition) and ongoing investment in both vineyard and cellar. Recently owners and brothers Paul and Johann Krige acquired a state-of-the-art optical sorter and automatic punch-down machines for their new open fermenters. But technological advancement is always tempered with respect for tradition. Hence the sustained focus on pinotage, the venerable bushvines, the manual punch-down regimes for many of the old cement ‘kuipe’. Not forgetting the time-honoured snoek barbecue, available to groups by arrangement, along with other visitor attractions. An absolute favorite around these parts…. and exceptionally well priced given the quality of this wine!

The ingenious weather prediction system still hangs outside the Scholtzenhof home-farm which Ken Forrester and family bought 25 years ago, but the tasting room is almost unrecognisable courtesy of the revamp facilitated by the 2016 buy-in by international wine specialist AdVini. The team are also adapting to the adjacent new cellar and storage space, also completed last year. Ken spent much of the year celebrating the quarter-century anniversary with customary bonhomie by sharing vintage wines – many from his private cellar – with guests throughout South Africa. The proceeds went to Spark, a winelands education cause Ken Forrester Wines is happy to support. Capping the celebrations was a place in the annual Chenin Blanc Top 10 for The FMC, breaking years of drought for this iconic wine at the prestigious competition. Another great value wine that has had the local Malawi market very excited about better affordable wines.

The team behind MAN Family Wines have swapped the tractor shed where they started their 300-case ‘weekend project’ in 2001 for an elegantly renovated Cape-Dutch-gabled home at the Lievland estate between Stellenbosch and Paarl. A welcoming tasting lounge has opened there, converting yet more fans to their well-priced, ultra-drinkable range. Now producing 280,000 cases and exporting to more than 30 countries globally, the trio of winemaking husbands – José Conde of Stark-Condé, Philip and Tyrell Myburgh of Joostenberg – still answer to the wives who lent their initials to this brand: Marie, Anette and Nicky. Some incredible value easy drinking wines that have also proved very popular in the Warm Heart of Africa.

If this was a multimedia guide, the words you’re reading would be accompanied with thunderous applause for the team this edition achieving an unparalleled fourth coveted pinnacle award in this guide. They’ve been Winery of the Year in both 2014 and 2016, then Top Performing Winery of the Year last year, and now (cue fireworks) they clinch a second consecutive Top Performing Winery accolade, with five maximum ratings, including Shiraz of the Year and Vin de Paille of the Year. All the more extraordinary for the modesty of the team led by Andrea and Chris Mullineux, wife-and-husband founders and co-owners (with Indian businessman Analjit Singh) of this non-interventionist venture based on Swartland farm Roundstone. Their aim is to reflect the diverse soils of the area using shiraz and chenin blanc as the lens in the varietal bottlings, and as cornerstone of the blends. While acknowledging that old vines play an important role, an eye on the changing climate has seen Chris and consultant Rosa Kruger initiate a planting programme. Look forward to – depending on performance – macabeu/viura, verdelho, assyrtiko and/or vermentino, among others, entering in the cellar, where Andrea and assistant Wade Sander weave their magic. For the team’s near-equally stellar Franschhoek-based project, see under Leeu Passant. Very popular so far, and some requests coming in for some of their more bespoke and less budget concious wines. Watch this space.

Named best producer overall at the 2019 Trophy Wine Show, the ‘pack’ led by Jeremy and Emma Borg was also recognised by Forbes magazine as one of four outstanding SA producers doing things in a different and dynamic way – in short, helping conserve the endangered Painted Wolf (African Wild Dog) while producing ‘wines with character that offer fair value across the board’. More good news, for their wine fans and conservation partners alike, is that they’re now also sourcing grapes from Breedekloof, Wellington and Walker Bay ‘to offset the possibility of yet another dry period and to position ourselves for future growth’. A VERY popular wine in Malawi as Jeremy and Amanda went to school in Malawi, and hence good support especially given their conservation focus. Additionally their wines are delicious and fair value…. you are onto a winner and can feel good about supporting conservation and drinking good wine.

This substantial estate pioneered commercial winefarming in Elgin in the late 1980s. As in the valley as a whole, applegrowing remains important, but the Paul Cluver wines continue to gather prestige, with the family of the founder, neurosurgeon Dr Paul Cluver, fully involved. The focus is on white wines in this cooler climate, with pinot noir the only red. All of them tend to the classic in style and are widely regarded as benchmarks. Social and environmental sustainability have always been of central concern – the latter reflected in WWF-SA Conservation Champion status. The restaurant on the estate has been refurbished (its name, Salt, reflects the personal collection of one of the owners of 147 salts from around the world), and the mountain bike route has been revamped. Exceptionally good wines and very affordable.

When it comes to the vineyard and boutique cellar, the Boustred family of Remhoogte believe less is more – except for rainfall! A good quantity of which fell in winter, causing patriarch Murray and sons Chris (winemaker) and Rob (sales and marketing) to be upbeat about the prospects for the new harvest. ‘It’s the first time in years the dam filled up and overflowed.’ The visitor venue at this special spot, where wagons once braked while descending the sloping trail to Stellenbosch town (hence the farm name), has the ubiquitous winelands views of vineyards (inlcuding of new cab franc, pinotage and chenin) but much rarer ones, too, of wildebeest, springbok and zebra in the game camp below. A very classy winery with relatively very good prices. We are huge fans and so is everyone in Malawi who was willing to spend a little bit more… The Jean Roi and Sir Thomas Cullinan have been a huge hit.

This historic Stellenbosch property, first granted in 1694, was rescued from decay and restored by Springbok rugby legend Jannie Engelbrecht in the early 1970s and has been listed in this guide since its inception (described in the 1980 first edition as ‘a promising newcomer’). The graceful Cape Dutch buildings preside over pristine vineyards, cellars, tasting facilities and a celebrated fine-dining restaurant, offering a memorable tourism experience. Latterly under the custodianship of son Jean, the brand has established itself among the Cape’s wine aristocracy, producing only high-end reds based on their signature cabernet and syrah plantings. Winemaker and Cape Winemakers Guild member Coenie Snyman has held the reins since 2006, honing, fine tuning and extending the range. Quality not Quantity. The End.

It’s all change at this venerable old Constantia estate, as new cellarmaster Elunda Basson takes over the reins. She brings with her a wealth of bubbly expertise from her previous position in charge of production at The House of JC le Roux, and is looking forward to adding her stamp and taking the range to even greater heights. Other changes include a make-over for the fine-dining offering at Steenberg Hotel & Spa after 21 years of delighting customers. New Tryn Restaurant has opened its doors and looks set to take its place among the culinary hotspots of the Cape. Meanwhile the ever-popular Bistro Sixteen82 continues to offer informal dining for many, including the locals on the property’s residential and golf estate. We sampled the delicious Merlot and loved it soo much we are brining in a bunch of ther varietels on the next order.

It’s all change at this venerable old Constantia estate, as new cellarmaster Elunda Basson takes over the reins. She brings with her a wealth of bubbly expertise from her previous position in charge of production at The House of JC le Roux, and is looking forward to adding her stamp and taking the range to even greater heights. Other changes include a make-over for the fine-dining offering at Steenberg Hotel & Spa after 21 years of delighting customers. New Tryn Restaurant has opened its doors and looks set to take its place among the culinary hotspots of the Cape. Meanwhile the ever-popular Bistro Sixteen82 continues to offer informal dining for many, including the locals on the property’s residential and golf estate. We sampled the delicious Merlot and loved it so much we are bringing in a bunch of their varietels on our next order.

Less than two decades back, before Strandveld was established as a collaborative venture among a group of friends, it was a neglected sheep farm. New plantings continue, testifying to the dynamism at this, Africa’s most southerly winery. Viticulture is not easy in the wind-bitten, often misty conditions, but winemaker Conrad Vlok gets the distinctive grapes he wants. The range has now expanded with a fine, maiden grenache, which speaks of its cool maritime origins just as the sauvignons do. But Strandveld goes wider than wine: it is part of the Nuwejaars project, protecting the precious wetlands and their endemic populations. Previously an unknown in Malawi but thanks to some generous samples we fell in love with the wine, the brand and their incredible photos. Strandveld gets great ratings and we look forward to showcasing this fantstic brand to the people of Malawi.

The phoenix on Thelema’s label speaks volumes about both farm and family. Gyles Webb swapped accounting for winemaking in the early 1980s, fledging from an old Helshoogte Pass fruit farm one of SA’s best-loved quality-wine producers by the 1990s. Drive and success (similarly cool-climate Elgin property Sutherland was bought in 2002 to supplement Thelema’s wines, flying out of the cellar) never compromised the personal touch. In the early days Gyles’ redoubtable mother-in-law Edna ‘Ed’ McLean entertained winelovers and wife Barbara did deliveries, now son Thomas manages affairs while Gyles guides the cellar team (introducing a second Sutherland pinot noir). It was the turn of visitors and staff in 2019, treated respectively to an extended tasting area (incorporating a scenic deck, private venue and underground bottle cellar) and a tea/lunch room with scenic vineyard views. Incredible wine getting fantastic reviews and definitely one of our topsellers. Thelema and Sutherland are flying off the shelves.

The views might tempt a visitor to undervalue the really important intrinsics of this fine Stellenbosch property, but can’t be ignored: a stunning 360-degree panorama, including a fan of vineyards and olive groves on the undulating slopes below. For this is an olive and wine farm, owned by GT and Anne-Marie Ferreira, part of whose art collection is dotted around the buildings and gardens. As successful business-people do, they have put the right people in place. This includes Aidan Morton, longtime and deeply experienced viticulturist, looking after the extensive Elgin vineyards, too; and a more recent arrival, winemaker Stuart Botha who, apart from taking a firm grip on the valuable Tokara tradition, has experimented with concrete small fermenters with good results. The management guiding hand is that of Karl Lambour, executing day-to-day operations and future strategy. A popular wine in Malawi and for good reason. Tasty and good value.

The Grier family winery fizzes with ideas and projects to push their winemaking envelope – entirely appropriate given their status as pioneers of méthode cap classique sparkling from 1983 under cellar chief and Cape Winemakers Guild member Jeff Grier. Natural ferments and use of amphoras and ‘eggs’ are but a few examples of such advances. More radically, they placed demijohns of fortified chenin on the tasting room roof and let them maderise al fresco for a delicious new ‘sun wine’ debuting this edition. Major emphasis remains on MCC production, however, and here 2nd-generation Xander Grier is the young cellar kingpin, colleague Nathan Valentine looking after the non-sparkling wines, both mentored by Jeff and his cousin, the viticulturist Simon Grier. Sustainability, eco and social, is central, hence solar panels and a rainwater recovery system, and homing winelands charity Pebbles on the Stellenbosch estate. A huge hit in Malawi with some big reorders coming in already.

The Vondeling home-farm in Voor Paardeberg ward lies at the foot of Paardeberg Mountain, estimated to have 1,000 plant species, nearly 200 threatened or endangered. As WWF-SA Conservation Champions, the team’s efforts have helped highlight this rich diversity. Sustainability drives both viticultural and winemaking practices, as well as management of the fynbos, which is again flourishing after 2019’s good rains. Vondeling’s green credentials are boosted by the on-site solar array, which powers over half the property, houses and two large cellars. Winemaker Matthew Copeland’s plans for Rurale, SA’s first certified méthode ancestrale sparkling, are to include pinotage, increase production and upgrade the packaging to place it alongside other premium sparkling wines.

We intend to continue building a brand to rival the top in the world,’ state the recent owners of this fine property, undergoing vineyard and wine rejuvenation from 2017 under Charles Marston and Kishore Bopardikar of San Francisco investment company Eileses Capital. The subsequent purchase of neighbour Uitkyk amalgamated a formidable team (now boosted by ex-Steenberg Cape Winemakers Guild member JD Pretorius), drawing on 700 ha of prime Simonsberg-Stellenbosch vineyard land. A terroir-driven viticultural programme focuses on classic Bordeaux varieties, starting with some 170 ha being replanted with cabernet, cab franc and merlot. It’s already reflected in the portfolio, with erstwhile Cape Blend, Three Cape Ladies, now Left Bank styled, and former sauvignon, Prof Black, reinvented as a duo with semillon. Meanwhile The White Lady from Burgundy continues her five-star run – in homage to Warwick’s former co-owner and pioneering woman vintner Norma Ratcliffe, perhaps? We are huge fans of The First Lady Sauvignon Blanc and keen to test drive some of their other fine wines.

This handsome estate in Stellenbosch’s Blaauwklippen Valley was bought by Jeremy and Leigh Ord late last century, and rejuvenated and developed with the crucial help of accomplished cellarmaster and business partner Kevin Arnold (the Italianate buildings and courtyard date from then). The farm’s planting diversity is well expressed in the flagship red blend, The Jem, which is now to be released annually on the ‘founding day’ of the estate, 1 April. The Library Collection, of mostly experimental wines, can now be sampled, together with the Estate bottlings, in a dedicated room in the upgraded visitor facilities. Other developments include new plantings of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, and, in the cellar, more concrete ‘eggs’ and large oak vats to expand the range of winemaking possibilities. The Pecan Stream range is good value and delicious, especially the Pebble Hill. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are a little more upmarket and have come back with raving reviews and reorders.

Philip Jonker is the fourth generation on this Breede riverside estate between Robertson and Bonnievale. While his father Lourens, a former industry leader who re-energised the Weltevrede label in the 1970s, remains a ‘free consultant’, Philip has expanded the portfolio, adding MCC production, exploring chardonnay’s versatility and testing new sites for shiraz. The farm’s sizeable conservation portion, vineyard guest cottages and new-look tasting area (in progress) further occupy a family, rooted here since 1912, whose social commitment helped spearhead a remarkable new community school. Built with local contributions (money and expertise) to a trust fund, with some 40% government input, on 12 hectares donated by Weltevrede, Jakes Gerwel Technical High School opened in Bonnievale town in 2018. We love the Cherry Choc and are keen to taste more of these tasty vinos.