28th February 2013, Posted in History
It is estimated that there are a staggering 800 or so wine farms in Stellenbosch and the immediate surrounding areas. However long you might be looking to stay in the area, even the most hardened drinkers will be hard pressed to get through just a fraction of these. So with so many options, how to narrow it down to something more realistic at the outset? Our advice would be to start with some of the oldest and most historic of the bunch as these generally retain the highest prestige and boast the most interesting wine experience even today. Many of these estates would have played a role in laying the very foundations of Stellenbosch as far back as the late 17th century. If it wasn’t for these pioneers, Stellenbosch may well never have been born.
Probably the oldest, and possibly the grandest, of all the wine farms in Stellenbosch is Vergelegen, near Somerset West, which was established by a Governor of the Cape Colony back in the late 1690s and then, after a long lull, was injected with a new lease of life by Andre van Rensburg in the early 2000s. Van Rensburg’s reds and whites are said to compete with the very best that Bordeaux might have to offer. Meerlust and Rust en Vrede boast a similarly lengthy and prestigious heritage and equally high-quality Bordeaux- style wines amongst other varieties. Meerlust has been under the stewardship of the Myburgh family for more than eight generations, while Rust en Vrede is one of the oldest wine farms in the Cape, originally established in 1694. If sparkling wine is more your cup of tea, then head to Simonsig, one of South Africa’s first and best producers of Methode Cap Classique which made in the traditional champagne fashion. Simonsig was also one of the founding fathers of the Stellenbosch wine route, the oldest wine route in South Africa.
Having soaked up all this history and heritage (as well as a lot of wine no doubt), a picnic, a nap on the grass and perhaps an injection of modernity may well be in order. Well, for a great combination of all of the above Spier is the place to be. This innovative and superbly-marketed estate hosts an eclectic range of events and expos from TED talks to open air theatre productions and is also home to the beautiful and ultra stylish Moyo restaurant. What Spier lacks in history it more than makes up for through the overall experience.
This small list may only be the tip of the iceberg, but will serve as a good introduction to the Stellenbosch wine story, from the distant past until the uber-modern present, and will surely be alluring enough to keep you thirsting for more.