As the oldest estate in the Swartland, the fascinating history of Allesverloren in the Riebeek valley can be traced back all the way to the late-1600s, when this area was still the local version of the Wild West. We recently caught up Danie Malan, the fifth-generation Malan to farm on this legendary piece of land, as well as the owner of Allesverloren Wines.
According to Danie, the picturesque farm between Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel was given its rather interesting name in 1704, when it was officially recognised as a loan farm by Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel, who granted the lease to a widow Cloete. Allesverloren is the Dutch term for ‘all is lost’ and the name referred to a period of despair when the first settlers returned home from a provision quest to find their homestead burnt down and cattle stolen.
The original farmhouse had been built as early as 1696, when the holdfast was established as one of the first wheat- and cattle farms in the area of Kasteelberg. At that time, the wheat farmers who moved up to the Swartland also planted vines to make wine for their own consumption. This would ultimately lead to the establishment of the Santam Swartland Wine & Olive Route, but a few important historical things had to happen first.
The Malan family took ownership of Allesverloren in 1872, when it was purchased by Daniel Francois Malan. When he arrived from Wellington to take control of the 700-hectare farm, he realised that there were a few operational vineyards on his land, and went about producing wines for the family as somewhat of a hobby. This quickly crew to a cottage enterprise when he started supplying other wheat farmers in the region as well. Sweet fortified wines were his forte, and so he began to lay the groundwork for the farm’s renowned port wines that have garnered plenty of awards around the globe since.
According to Danie, the Swartland is a unique destination that shapes its people as much as it does its wines. “The main thing that sets the Swartland apart from the rest of the country is its people, and the people are shaped by the land. Nothing here comes easy,” he explains. “The area is quite arid, but despite that fact it has always been one of the main grain-producing regions in South Africa. Dryland farming is a tough business, and the farmers who practice it are just as tough. However, this type of hardship also fosters a strong sense of community. In the Swartland we have time and respect for one another – your neighbour is not just your neighbour; he is also your friend. There is this unshakeable sense of camaraderie – if something has to happen, we all band together to make it happen.”
It’s this can-do attitude that ultimately lead to the establishment of the Santam Swartland Wine- & Olive Route on 6 April 1986. “When the powers that be divided all the cellars into wine routes back in my father’s time, they found that there were six cellars that didn’t seem to belong anywhere. Allesverloren, Riebeek Cellars, Swartland Cellars, Porterville Cellars, Darling Cellars and Winkelshoek didn’t quite seem to fit, but ended up being filed under Stellenbosch for practical purposes. This is why we used to show our wines under the Stellenbosch banner up until 1985,” remembers Danie.
This all changed when Olla Oliver encountered the late Fanie Malan at Allesverloren one day en route to Swartland Cellar and expressed his surprise at finding him there. “He told my father he thought the farm was in Stellenbosch and this was the final straw – my dad rounded up the directors of the Swartland wineries and it was decided to differentiate themselves and establish a wine route of their own,” he chuckles.
“Between Hennie Hanekom, my dad and the rest of the directors, they established the Swartland wine route without any funding – no big donor, nothing. It definitely wasn’t an easy feat, but it was made simpler by the fact that the people in charge knew one another, respected one another and were able to band together when it mattered most. That was the start of it all, and since then we have kept growing, slowly but steadily.”
These days Allesverloren is one of the jewels in the crown of the Swartland Wine- & Olive Route. The award-winning winery offers tastings of their wines at a tasting room that is open to the public on from 09:00 – 17:00 Monday to Friday, and between 09:00 and 14:00 on Saturdays. Tastings are charged at R50 per person for the full range, featuring 10 wines, which includes varietals such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tinta Barocca, Touringa Naçional and other innovative wines and blends. Groups larger than 10 must book in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The farm is also home to the Pleasant Pheasant Country Restaurant & Pub where guests can enjoy a variety of delicious steakhouse meals in a lovely, family-friendly setting; as well as the Allesverloren Function & Wedding Venue, which is known as one of the foremost wedding destinations in the Riebeek Valley. Make a point of visiting this historical location when you make your way to the Swartland to taste their gorgeous wines and learn more about the farm and family that were pivotal in putting our unique region on the map.