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Cape Wine Dynasty Heralds in a New Era

Posted by MC on

Whenever I turn off Bottelary Road in Stellenbosch to head up the long, dusty dirt track shaded by tall trees, past the unpretentious signs, towards Kaapzicht Wine Estate, I am reminded of a time past – when families and their workers focused on care of the land and the people, producing wines to the best of their ability. Not here the flashy gateposts and architecturally-designed winery buildings that are now appearing around the Western Cape. The diverse range of buildings serve various functions, overgrown with vines – quiet and calm. The cellar door is especially quaint and olde-worlde.

I am in the land of the Steytlers, proud owners of this family business since 1946 and now in the throes of being led by the fourth generation (and the next generation has already been born). Third generation brothers Danie Snr and George are the cellarmaster and viticulturist respectively. Danie Jnr is now the winemaker, Danie Snr’s wife Yngvld handles exports, marketing and finance, George’s wife Mandy manages the estate’s function venue and guest cottage, and Danie Jnr’s wife Carin is responsible for domestic sales and, increasingly, social media.

The three families co-exist happily on the 190 hectare Kaapzicht Wine Estate in the warm, picturesque Stellenbosch sub-region of Bottelary, home to South Africa’s beloved pinotage, overlooking the famed Table Mountain (Kaapzicht means Cape View in Dutch) along with 120 farmworkers and their families.

Kaapzicht is a true ‘Estate’, with all their wines made from grapes grown on the property and vinified in their own wine cellar. When the Steytlers first bought the land, it was mostly planted to white varieties. These days the property boasts 70% red grape vines including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, shiraz, pinotage, cinsault, cabernet franc, petit verdot, malbec and pinot noir. Many of these have considerable vine age, which has a strong bearing on complexity in wines and this is evident across the Kaapzicht and Steytler ranges.

They’ve certainly made a success of the move to red cultivars. Steytler wines have won a multitude of accolades, one of Danie Snr’s proudest being the Steytler Vision 2001 (Cape Blend: min. 25% pinotage, remainder Bordeaux red varieties) winning the trophy for Best Blended Red at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London in 2004. And, to prove that pinotage can be made into a world class wine, his Steytler Pinotage 2006 was chosen as Best Single Varietal Red Wine over all varieties and countries in the world by the Decanter judges in 2009.

Danie humbly acknowledges that the land provides all the building blocks for that success – old weathered granite soils on the relatively steep north-western slopes enjoy warm direct sunlight, just 30km from the Atlantic Ocean and its cool sea breezes, all combining for the perfect formula to create their full bodied, fruity wines.

Whites aren’t totally disregarded, and in addition to chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc and a little chardonnay, the Steytlers grow muscat d'Alexandrie to make their signature Hanepoot Jerepigo, a luscious fortified dessert wine with an aging potential of 30 years.

The changing of the guard within the family has also resulted in a revamp in packaging of the whole range (to positive reviews) and the launch of the Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc 1947 – extremely limited quantities of a complex wine made off vines planted in 1947. Add its super-premium packaging and you have a legendary wine in the making.

Another ingredient in the formula for success may well be their nurtured and content workforce. With the help of charity organisation Pebble, the Steytlers revamped the old kindergarten on the farm and employed two young teachers to look after the babies and toddlers. They’ve also been paying the school bills for over 40 children of their employees since 2002, and have set up an after-school club where the youngsters can do their homework under supervision and are also taught games, drama, life skills and various sports.

“We believe better education is the key for the future of South Africa and are trying to do everything possible to prepare our farm children for a better life,” says Danie Snr’s wife Yngvild.

Soccer is a local obsession, and the vineyard workers have their own men’s, women’s and youth soccer clubs and matches against other farm soccer clubs in the valley are a regular weekend feature. Alongside the soccer field, in the small ravines on the farm, you’ll find peacefully grazing horses and ponies, rescued from a life of misery and malnutrition by Animal Welfare and now living out their lives in tranquillity at Kaapzicht. Maryke (who also lives on Kaapzicht Estate with her family) trains the animals and offers free riding sessions to handicapped children several times a week.

Not only is the Steytler family making excellent wines with an international reputation, but they are also doing truly good things in their local community – and they are here to stay for many generations to come. Kaapzicht and Planet Wine have been partners in business for over 10 years and we have recently added their 1947 Chenin Blanc, muscat grape juice, Estate Red and Potstill Brandy to our range.

Take advantage of this newsletter special to experience a slice of the real Stellenbosch: Kaapzicht Estate Red Collection

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