Nederburg Wine Estate
Main entrance to Nederburg
One of Cape Town's best kept secrets is a visit to the Nederburg Wine Estate in Paarl.
To get to the estate one drives along the N1 towards Paarl and just before the Huguenot tunnel toll plaza one leaves the N1 using exit 62.
Turning left on the bridge you drive along a winding road through the vineyards until you reach the Nederburg estate.
The land which was originally granted to a farmer named P B Wolvaart way back in November 1791 measured 49 hectares and is situated in the district of Drakenstein (today known as Paarl) between the Palmiet and Berg Rivers.
Philippus Wolvaart was a hard working farmer and used his 10 draught oxen and six horses to clear his land of bush.
Once the land was cleared he started planting vines.
Nederburg Manor House
During the same period as he was clearing his land he also built the Nederburg Manor House which he managed to complete in 1800,
The H shaped house with its beautiful front gable is typical of the building style utilised by the Dutch at the Cape at that time.
Buildings were normally thatch-roofed and beautifully proportioned with yellowwood shutters, beams and doors and Batavian floor tiles.
The building of the Nederburg Manor house was a daunting task for Wolvaart as all the materials used in the construction had to be transported from Cape Town by cart, a trek that would have taken him two days to complete.
Nothing seemed to faze Wolvaart and by 1808 he had 63000 vines planted and he was producing some 23280 litres of wine and 2328 litres of brandy per year on his farm.
A remarkable feat considering that they had no technology in those days and everything had to be built or made by hand.
Wolvaart eventually sold his farm to a Mr W P Retief in 1810 and thereafter the farm regularly changed hands until in 1937 the farm was purchased by a Mr J R G Graue.
On taking ownership Johan Georg Graue got to work and soon pioneered new practices in wine-growing and winemaking that would change the face of the wine industry in South Africa.
Graue knew that to make good wines it was necessary to be selective with the plants he was planting and also the sites where they would be planted.
Other innovations introduced by him were the cold fermentation of the wines as well as sterile bottling.
Cold fermentation allows for the diffusion of fruity aromas and aroma precursors from the grape skins, as well as the extraction of some desirable phenolics, and contributes to the body and ageing potential of the wine.
It also simultaneously extracts less desirable herbaceous, bitter and astringent compounds from the wines.
These spectacular innovations were way ahead of their time and increased Nederburg's reputation for excellence.
Soon the farm was winning awards for its wines which it still continues to do today.
As with most things changes happened at Nederburg in 1953 when Günter Brözel who had studied at the Geisenheim Institute in Germany took over as the winemaker.
He was inventive and soon had success with his wines when he became the first person in South Africa to win the International Wine & Spirits Competition Winemaker of the Year Award for his “Edelkeur Wine”.
This noble late harvest wine was to become the benchmark against which the Cape’s famed dessert wines were measured.
There was however a problem with “Edelkeur” as legislation in South Africa did not allow winemakers to make a natural table wine with a sugar content in excess of 20 grams per litre.
To solve this problem Günter Brözel lobbied the authorities until such time as the law was changed.
Being such a special wine “Edelkeur” was made in such small quantities that a single buyer could buy the whole consignment.
This became a problem as Günter Brözel wanted his wine to be tasted by people all over South Africa and the world.
To allow the wine to be distributed throughout South Africa the now famous Nederburg Wine auction was introduced where the wine would be sold to the trade and so be distributed throughout the world.
Nederburg Auction Hall
The first auction was held in 1975 and has since become an annual event where buyers from all over the world attend to buy the special wines produced at the Cape.
Since its early beginnings Nederburg has grown to be a giant in the wine industry of the Cape.
It now has the capacity to process in excess 16000 tons of grapes per annum through its automated plant and produces hundreds of thousands of bottles of wine per annum.
Nederburg also produces speciality wines from grapes grown in selected vineyards.
The process of winemaking starts annually in early January when the harvest begins and grapes are delivered to the plant.
After being unloaded the grapes are destemmed and crushed to produce grape juice which is seperated from the skins before being pumped to the fermentation tanks.
Depending on the colour of the wine being made the skins are pumped back into the juice to allow the pigmentations in the skins to colour the fermenting wine and release their tannins.
Once fermentation is complete the skins are removed and the red wines are placed in oak barrels while the white wines are placed in stainless steel tanks to mature before they are ready to be bottled.
Red wines can mature up to 15 months in oak before being bottled.
As Nederburg is very small farm in terms of todays standards (49 hectares) most of the grapes used in making Nederburg wines are grown on a 975 hectare farm known as Papkuilsfontein in the Darling area.
These grapes are transported to the farm where they are processed into some of the most extraordinary wines you can buy anywhere.
Visiting the Nederburg farm and touring the cellars especially during the harvest period is extremely interesting as one can see the whole process which the grapes go through to become wine.
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Nederburg Wine Estate