NEDERBURG: CRAFTED OVER TWO CENTURIES
Walk into Nederburg’s pristine, temperature-controlled cellars on any given day and you will find cellarmaster Razvan Macici and his colleagues Tariro Masayiti and Wilhelm Pienaar, quietly and intently tasting, blending, comparing and choosing from the many barrels and tanks from which the farm’s famous wines are made, not just for the tables of South Africans but wine enthusiasts on every continent.
When Philippus Wolvaart received the title deed to his Klein Drakenstein farm from the Dutch East India Company in 1791, he called his property Nederburg, after a local official. Little could he have known that one day it would become a household name for generations of South Africans, and now for winelovers further afield. Clearing his 49 hectares of land at the foot of the majestic Drakenstein Mountains and planting his vineyards in unchartered terrain, he could scarcely have realised he was laying the foundations for South Africa’s most awarded winery. Nor could he have imagined that the graceful house he built for his wife, who never lived to see its completion, would become an icon in the Paarl winelands and a symbol of refinement and hospitality.
More than two centuries later, Nederburg has become internationally recognised for its hallmark fusion of fruit and finesse, a style that combines classical elegance with purity of fruit expression and lively, refreshing flavours. It’s an honest and authentic authentic approach to winemaking that appeals to critics worldwide, earning trophies, medals and accolades on international and domestic competitions every year but also delighting others, who may just drink wine for the simple pleasures it gives.
“We don’t make wines to win awards”, says Nederburg cellarmaster Razvan Macici, who has continued the prize-winning legacy of his luminary predecessors like Günter Brözel and Johann Graue. “Just like in the days of Philippus Wolvaart and those who followed after him, we make wines to please people’s palates - for the sheer enjoyment of good taste. That has always been Nederburg’s focus and it is built on the premise that you need the best quality fruit to make the best quality wine.”
While there have been many changes since those early days, much endures unaltered. Nederburg may be one of the most popular destinations for visitors to the winelands but it is no mere showpiece. It remains as much a working farm as when it began, although far bigger in size today. It is here that grapes are harvested, sorted, vinified, bottled and labeled before being distributed to markets locally and abroad.
The house Wolvaart built for his family, completed in 1800, still stands proudly as one of the best examples of Cape Dutch architecture. Beautifully gabled and finely proportioned, it is generously shaded by trees and overlooks exquisite and expansive gardens bordered by roses, clivia and many fragrant examples of indigenous flora. The homestead features the original Batavian floor tiles and yellowwood timber and has been faithfully restored and furnished with period pieces. To enter the peaceful tranquility of the thatched-roofed, white-washed, H-shaped Nederburg manor house is to experience a distillation of life lived over 200 years ago.
When you drive up to the tasting complex, you notice the meticulously tended vineyards, nurtured by a team of viticulturists. They follow environmentally sound growing principles that show the greatest respect for the land that sustains the vines on which Nederburg has built its reputation. The winery was the first to be evaluated in the pilot study that led to the development of South Africa’s eco-friendly Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) programme in 1998 and which has since been hailed as the most progressive of its kind amongst wine-producing countries anywhere in the world. All grapes from which Nederburg wines are made, are IPW-certified.
It was the same underpinning respect for the land that had originally led Johann Graue to pioneer new viticultural practices when he bought the farm in 1937. He understood long before his peers that you needed superior quality plant material to grow superior vines and he introduced a programme of clonal selection that set the parameters for Nederburg’s present-day highly sophisticated plant nursery. The work of specialists here is enhanced through Nederburg’s access to international research applied to enhance quality through soil, water and canopy management in the vineyards to consistently deliver outstanding quality, flavourful and well-balanced fruit.
Graue also introduced far-reaching winemaking techniques to promote quality to critical acclaim, spurring his successor, Günter Brözel to make his own innovations that still further strengthened Nederburg’s award-winning reputation. Today, Razvan Macici and his team continue to focus on cellar technology to ensure the best possible environment in which to make wines by reducing the handling of the grapes to the minimum and so give the fruit the best possible opportunity to show it inherent characters.
Nederburg has also invested extensively in oak vats from France, Eastern Europe and North America in which to ferment some of its wines and to age its reds, as well as selected whites.
Many of the cellar team’s best efforts are showcased, along with those of other top South African wineries, at the annual Nederburg Auction, rated one of the top four wine auctions internationally. The wines Nederburg offers on auction are available exclusively through this channel and are labelled as Private Bin, setting them apart from its other wines. They can be purchased by licensed traders, who in turn, can offer them to consumers on the open market. The exclusivity of the auction extends beyond the wines themselves. The event also remains a must-attend social occasion on the South African wine calendar and every year thousands of rands are raised in aid of the Nederburg Charity Trust, whose beneficiaries are the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa, Organ Donor Foundation and an AIDS-HIV-support NGO, Mothers2Mothers.
Nederburg’s range is designed to accommodate a broad spectrum of palates and pockets from wines for relaxed, everyday enjoyment to those catering to more specialist, connoisseur tastes. Common to all is a relentless focus on excellence and the closest attention to detail, resulting in acclaim and awards not just for the top-end wines but also for the mainstream, accessibly priced and accessibly styled offerings.
At the apex of the range are two blends: Ingenuity White, twice accorded a five-star rating in the Platter’s South African Wine Guide and made from eight white varietals, and Ingenuity Red, also much decorated and made from three relatively unusual Italian cultivars. The Manor House ensemble of varietal wines are made from the best-of-best grapes to reach Nederburg’s cellars. Special vineyards, selected for their outstanding fruit, are earmarked for this purpose. The wines, named to reflect the harmonious proportions of Nederburg’s homestead include a Shiraz, once judged the best in the world on the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London; a Cabernet Sauvignon; a Sauvignon Blanc, selected as one of South Africa’s best examples of the varietal by WINE magazine; and a Chardonnay.
Nederburg’s Winemaster’s Reserve line-up includes a broad spectrum of finely balanced varietal and blended red and white wines, including the famous Baronne that for some South Africans has become synonymous with wine itself. The Noble Late Harvest is one of the most awarded, and in 2009, won no fewer than six accolades including two international trophies, double gold medals, and a five-star Platter rating.
The entry-level Foundation wines offer accessible enjoyment and amongst them you will find Lyric, Duet and the off-dry Rosé, in its inimitable teardrop bottle.
Nederburg’s agreement with FIFA has also resulted in a special trio of wines to mark the 2010 FIFA World Cup ™. The three limited-edition wines are a Cabernet Sauvignon, a dry rosé, and a Sauvignon blanc, available locally and in selected markets abroad till the end of the year.
Each of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ wines will feature a special facility on the back label that will enable consumers to instantly access information on Nederburg by clicking on a unique QR code with their cellphone cameras. The information will then appear on their phone screens.
Many of Nederburg’s award-winning offerings can be sampled at the winery’s tasting complex with fine views of the Drakenstein Mountains, vineyards and exquisitely tended gardens. Cool and shaded in summer, the general tasting area is made cosy in winter with a welcoming fire. Tours of the farm, the cellars and the historical quarters start here too.
Visitors can enjoy their wines with tasty mezze platters. During the summer months, picnic baskets brimming with home-made delicacies can be pre-ordered (preferably two days’ in advance), while in winter, delectable platters are on offer. For special events and by appointment, breakfast, lunch and dinner can be arranged for private groups in the manor house.
The manor house, for example, is the venue for a gourmet pairing of Manor House and Ingenuity wines, with contemporary Cape cuisine.
The farm also hosts outdoor concerts, harvesting activities and other special days.