South Africa celebrates National Heritage Day on September 24. As the region with the second-highest area after Stellenbosch of old vines, the Swartland certainly falls within the spotlight of the occasion.
“Old vines make wine with a unique character,” declares the Old Vine Project (OVP), the organisation championing the protection of vineyards beyond 35 years old. “The OVP believes that the renewed focus on the quality that old vine wines in South Africa can help to raise the price of grapes in our country and create a sustainable model for the farming community.”
This need for protection has arisen because the older a vine gets, the less fruit it yields. For farms to remain sustainable, farmers must replace vineyards. Some have escaped uprooting, however, often due to a nostalgic connection a farmer might have for the vineyard, or by purely being forgotten.
For context, only 4 000ha of South Africa’s total 90 500ha of vineyards are 35 years and older.
These vineyards – many located in the Swartland or made by Swartland winemakers – are now producing some of South Africa’s most remarkable wines. Keeping them almost certainly also satisfies our yearning for a more thoughtful life that acknowledges the importance of having respect for longevity.
In pursuit of maintaining awareness of the issue, the OVP declared August 1 to be Old Vine Day just weeks ago.
Furthermore, the Swartland will be one of the important focus areas during an upcoming international congress on Chenin Blanc, because of its excellence with the variety, but also its old vines too.
While many of South Africa’s prominent wineries buy old vine grapes in the Swartland, exploring the region will inevitably lead visitors to some of the prominent old vine wineries.
AA Badenhorst Family Wines
Kalmoesfontein Farm in the Paardeberg, home to AA Badenhorst Family Wines, is surrounded by mostly old bush vines planted in the 1950s and 60s to Chenin Blanc, Cinsault and Grenache. The latter are unirrigated and the oldest producing vines in the country
Its single vineyard range sourced from old vine vineyards includes Piet Bok se Bos, Golden Slopes, Klip Kop Chenin Blanc, Geel Kapel Muskadel, Raaigras Grenache and Ramnasgras Cinsault.
Nearby, Jasper and Franziska Wickens’ Waterval Farm is where Swerwer Wines are made. Franziska’s family have long farmed the land here and records show a record of vines since the 1930s.
The Sadie Family Wines
Eben Sadie of The Sadie Family Wines is often associated with South Africa’s old vine heritage. He produces a range of old vine wines, including Treinspoor Tinta Barocca from a vineyard near Malmesbury that was planted in 1974. The variety was widely planted in the region from 1950 to 1978 and has survived to possibly comprise the biggest portion of Swartland’s old vine reds.
Eben also makes Mev Kirsten – the wine from a Chenin Blanc vineyard planted in the 1920s currently recognised as the country’s oldest.
Having recently expanded his own Paardeberg vineyards from 17ha to 37ha, Eben is excited about the release of a new wine – his first in a decade. This will be made from old vine Chenin Blanc grapes on what was formerly the neighbouring property.
Riebeek Valley Wine Co
Established in 1941, the Riebeek Valley Wine Co (previously known as Riebeek Cellars) are the authentic W.O. Swartland wine producer. Vineyards farmed by families across the Riebeek Valley, including 3rd and 4th generation wine grape growers, are their only source, ensuring the continuity of the finest quality W.O. Swartland wines.
Its wines produced from certified Heritage Vineyards include the RAAR Skin Contact Chenin Blanc and 22 Families Chenin Blanc Old Vine Certified.
David & Nadia
David and Nadia Sadie focus on making a spectrum of wines from organic, old and dry land bush vine vineyards from different areas of the Swartland.
They have a number of wines certified with the OVP – all made from Chenin Blanc – Ho
Mullineux Family Wines
Andrea and Chris Mullineux are based in Riebeeksrivier, at Roundstone Farm. Among their certified Heritage Vineyard wines are the Mullineux Old Vines White and Leeu Passant Dry Red.
• Access a map of the Swartland’s wineries here: https://swartlandwineandolives.co.za/map-of-the-swartland-wine-and-olive-route/ or contact the Swartland Wine and Olives Route, here: https://swartlandwineandolives.co.za/contact-swartland-wine-and-olives-route/.