Dave and I were invited to attend a day exploring the Weltevrede Wine Estate in Bonnievale. Due to work commitments we missed the tractor trip to see the vineyards but we arrived in time for the media video which was shown in the old wine vat storage room. Weltevrede, meaning well satisfied, believes in the sustainability of the land, and 50% of their growth is fynbos. We were shown the Jonker family’s WOSA presentation and I was moved to tears by it. Steyn explained to us that Weltevrede is all about generational farming and that they have been farming the same land since 1912. Because they believe that the future equals the people, they have set up a charitable organization called the edge of life fund, and 50c from the sale of each bottle from the estate is donated to this charity.
With vines that are a national heritage, and being the custodians of the vines on Robben Island, one cannot help but feel that Weltevrede is woven in with the very fabric of South African history. The story behind the Robben Island vines is truly amazing. Philip Jonker went on a tour of Robben Island and after seeing that the vines under which Mandela hid his book Long Walk To Freedom had grapes, he applied to look after the vines. They needed permission to care for the vines, as well as harvest the grapes and this in and of itself was a struggle. Eventually the vines were pruned and nets were placed over the grapes and the first harvest was in 2011 and yielded 86 bunches of grapes! This was the 3rd year of curatorship – due to red tape the 1st lot of grapes got too ripe, and the second lot were eaten by birds. Philip finally made 17 bottles of sweet wine which has been called parable. These 17 bottle, plus 100 bottles of a MCC will be put on auction for the ex political prisoners fund, the Nelson Mandela fund and The Edge of Life fund. This is an ongoing project.
After watching the one minute social media videos we proceeded to the underground tasting room. These were the original wine tanks which were built in the 1930’s. These tanks were sealed with beeswax and the entrance was through the roof. In order to create the tasting room, as well as the storage facility for their 4 varieties of bubbly’s, the farm workers broke through the walls. They were paid extra for this work, and did so in their own time. It is unbelievably quiet in the tasting room and the candlelight seems to heighten ones sense of taste. The estate terroir collection focuses on soil type and each wine is named accordingly. We started with the award winning Philip Jonker Brut Entheos NV MCC, which has a lovely citrus perfume undertone and is available from the cellar door at a cost of R86. We then moved on to the Place of Rocks Chardonnay 2011 (R79) which has a soft nose of rose. These grapes grow on shale and the result is a subtle citrus and soft buttery mouthfeel. The Bedrock Black Syrah 2011 (R105) has a soft berry nose. The vines are grown in solid bedrock and these stressed smaller fruit have such an intensity. The skin ratio to juice ratio is high and the vines are hardy. The Trop!Co Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (R43) is grown in soft sandy alluvial soil. This is one of the 4 Striking Simplicity wines. We tasted the Cherrychoc Merlot 2012 (R53) which is a dry wine with cherries on the nose and a taste of bitter chocolate. They also do a Vanilla Chardonnay 2012 which retails for R43. The vanilla in this wine is very subtle on the nose and extremely pleasant.
Oom (translated into English as Uncle, but the common polite term when addressing any gentleman older than oneself) Lourens came to join us in the tasting room and shared with us the history of the area and the farm. In 1912 a Scotsman founded the Bonnievale area and brought water into the area in order to sell parcels of land to British settlers. The idea was for the area to farm lucerne and ostrich. Oom Lourens’ grandfather settled a parcel of land and planted the grape vines. On his death, the land was split between the 4 sons into parcels of 280 morgen each. The youngest son kept the Weltevrede name and this was Oom Lourens’ father. Oom Lourens is busy with a book on the farm’s history and in it he has recorded how the Italian Prisoner’s of War stayed on the farm. They were very instrumental in the road building in the Western Cape, and these prisoners taught Oom Lourens the joys of eating pasta. The farm is now half of the original farm as Oom Lourens purchased a quarter of the land back from his uncle.
Knowing that soil and micro climate make a huge difference is key to this wine estates’ success. Grapes are grown on the banks of the Riviersonderend (river without end) and are affected by the afternoon sea breeze and the surrounding Langeberg (long mountain) mountain range. The mountain air is cool and the farm enjoys a mild climate. These average low temperatures results in good wines. The 160 hectares of vines on the farm are watered using an irrigation system which feeds off their own dam. The first white wines only made an appearance on the farm in the early 1960’s and Philip, who is passionate about chardonnay, planted the first chardonnay vines in 1983 from new clones. These have a limited production in order to get the best quality grapes and the vines are grown in soft alluvial soil. They are on their second planting as the vines only last 16 years before being attacked by a virus. This makes it an expensive cultivar to work with, and the yield is not high.
After our wine tasting, we headed to the restaurant where we were served a cheese platter with some more of the estate’s wine. Oupa se wyn (Grandfathers wine) is from their national heritage vines and is a red muscadel and it is complimented by Ouma se wyn (Grandmothers wine) which is white. These make lovely gifts, and I gave one of each to my parents when their first grandchild was born in 2006. The 375ml bottles cost R49 each.
‘When all is said and done and we close the chapters on our own lives I think we would all want to look back and say it was a life worth living. I made a difference’ Phillip Jonker
Contact Them On: Tel 023 616 2141 | email: firstname.lastname@example.org |Booking essential for the underground tasting R100 and for the tractor trips R50
Disclosure: I was invited to visit Weltevrede Wine Estate. I was not asked to write a blog post about my experience. This post is in line with my blogging policy.
What I blogged:
- one year ago – Liam Tomlin Food at Leopard’s Leap