A Look at 2 of the Oldest Wineries in South Africa

A Look at 2 of the Oldest Wineries in South Africa

While South Africa’s wineries may not get as much attention as those of the Old World, they have developed a strong reputation over the years. Wine was first produced in what is now South Africa in February 1659, according to Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company. By the end of the 17th century, wine production in the region had grown so much that the colony started to export wines to Europe.

Production grew to 4 million liters per year by the end of the 18th century and continued to increase in the 19th century, when the British took control of the Cape from the Dutch. With this change and with greater ship traffic, vineyard areas doubled in size, with 31 million vines planted by 1825. Although the country’s wine industry has since experienced ups and downs, its vintners produce some outstanding wines celebrated by wine lovers throughout the world.

The following is a look at two of South Africa’s oldest and most recognized wineries: Spier Wine Farm and Vergelegen Estate.

Spier Wine Farm

Spier Logo

Dating back to 1692, Spier is located in the famous Stellenbosch wine region. Committed to sustainability, Spier has earned Conservation Champion status from the World Wildlife Fund-South Africa (WWF-SA). A farm as well as a vineyard, Spier grows wine grapes and other produce without the use of pesticides or artificial fertilizers, and livestock and chickens roam freely without exposure to hormones or antibiotics.

Spier produces a number of award-winning wines across five collections. Spier white wines include the 2016 Ideology Sémillon and the 2016 21 Gables Chenin Blanc, which won the IWSC Chenin Blanc Trophy in 2018. Its red wines include a 2012 Blind Astronomer Pinotage and the Spier Signature Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery also makes the 2016 Farm House Organic Rosé, which is made with hand-picked organic Shiraz grapes.

Visitors can sample Spier’s wines paired with fresh cuisine at Eight Restaurant, which sources its food from the vineyard’s farm or nearby producers. The vegetables served are free from artificial chemicals and pesticides, and the sirloin, sausages, and filets come from Spier’s own grass-fed cattle. Dishes include the Farmer Angus pork neck steak and the grass-fed Farmer Angus rump, while vegetarians can choose from the twice-baked spinach soufflé or the sweet potato gnocchi, which is served with mushrooms, spinach, and broccoli.

Another dining option at Spier Wine Farm is Vadas Smokehouse and Bakery, which overlooks the beautiful estate. Guests can choose from a variety of slow-cooked meats, such as pork neck, lamb shoulder, and beef brisket, which are smoked at a low temperature. Finally, Spier Wine Farm sells picnic baskets packed with cheeses, wines, and charcuterie. Guests can purchase a basket to enjoy under the beautiful ancient oak trees or near the estate’s dam.

Vergelegen Estate

Vergelegen logo

Established in 1700, Vergelegen stands out as one of the most beautiful wineries in Cape Town. The name means “situated far away,” which is fitting given that it is located in the Hottentots Holland mountain range, which took three days to reach via ox wagon at the time it was developed.

Over the course of its more than 300-year history, the estate has been owned by several explorers and influential settlers, including Willem Adriaan van der Stel, governor of the Cape Colony from 1699-1707. After purchasing the land in 1700, he created a beautiful homestead by planting vines and trees, cultivating fruit orchards, building cattle stations, and digging irrigation canals.

The estate preserves its natural beauty and now features a gravity-flow cellar with the classic Cape aesthetic. The octagonal cellar complements the octagonal garden developed by van der Stel and sits on a hill that offers beautiful views of Table Mountain and False Bay.

Vergelegen produces a number of award-winning wines, including the 2015 G.V.B. White, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon that earned 92 points from Stephen Tanzer in the International Wine Report. Red wine enthusiasts should be sure to try the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is considered one of Vergelegen’s best wines in the last three decades. The winery produced 30,000 bottles of this vintage, which earned 92 points from Tanzer.

Vergelegen serves its wines at its Camphors at Vergelegen restaurant, named after the huge camphor trees that van der Stel planted on the estate in 1700. The restaurant has been recognized by JHP Gourmet Guide on its list of 21 exceptional South African restaurants and has earned recognition multiple times in the Eat Out Mercedes Benz Restaurant Awards. The menu includes a diverse array of entrées, such as dry-aged duck with rhubarb and shiitake mushrooms and atchar-glazed hake with mussels and turnip.

Guests can also opt for a more casual dining experience at the Stables at Vergelegen, a bistro-style eatery with gorgeous views of the mountains. Finally, those who want an authentic vineyard experience can enjoy a white-tablecloth picnic in the estate’s beautiful camphor tree forest. With their long history and beautiful vineyards, Spier Wine Farm and Vergelegen Estate offer a great introduction to South African wines. Before visiting, read up on the most recent vintages to get an idea of the best wines to sample. Also, be sure to call ahead if you plan to dine at the restaurants. You may find that South Africa becomes one of your favorite wine destinations after you tour these beautiful estates and sample their exceptional wines.