Exploring our past to understand the present and shape the future
At Nederburg, we believe that our past informs our present and future. We’ll soon be shedding some light on where we’re going (we’ve got some exciting changes coming soon...this time to our wines), and well, it’s Heritage Month, so this gives us a reason to take a look back at some of our history, and that of our winemakers and viticulturist.
First, here are some facts about our history…
We have a framed copy of the original title deed, showing the granting of the farm to founder, Philippus Wolvaart on December 1, 1791 by the Dutch East India Company (DEIC). No-one is sure why, but he named the farm after DEIC commissioner, Sebastiaan Cornelis Nederburgh. Later, the “h” was dropped from the spelling of the farm’s name and it became Nederburg.
Wolvaart paid 5 600 guilders for the land that lay between the Berg and Palmiet rivers and measured 57 morgen and 300 square roods. He planted grapes to make wine and brandy. He also envisaged and built a beautiful and gracious family home. Sadly, his wife died in 1798, before she could experience the elegant H-shaped, gabled residence he had built for her. Completed in 1800, it is now a national monument and continues to assume pride of place on the farm.
Nederburg changed hands over the decades and when it was bought in 1937 by Johann Graue from Germany, he expanded the property by acquiring neighbouring land. Today the winery draws fruit from its own three farms, as well as a meticulously selected network of top Cape growers.
Graue had been a director and part-owner of the Haake-Beck Brewery in Bremen before coming to South Africa. (You can see the influence in the Nederburg crest, which features crossed anchors, an adaptation of the arms of the Haake-Beck Brewery, where Becks Beer is still made today.)
Apart from his brewing expertise, Graue was also tea specialist. His background led him to understand the very clear relationship between the quality of the grapes reaching the cellar and the eventual wine. He was one of the very first in South Africa to focus on identifying top-performing grape clones in his bid to advance quality. He also introduced the process of cold fermentation for better fruit flavour and vitality and was rewarded with many prizes on local wine shows.
Graue sent his son, Arnold to study winemaking in Germany. He returned and showed enormous promise, accelerating his father’s award-winning reputation but his life was cut short in a light aircraft accident in 1953.
Arnold was succeeded by Günter Brözel, also from Germany, who pioneered South Africa’s first noble late harvest wine. Because its residual sugar levels were higher than those permitted by legislation at the time, the only way the authorities would permit its sale was via auction and that is how the Nederburg Auction, now known as the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction, was born in 1975.
Now, let’s turn the focus to our winemaking and viticulture team members. We’ve asked them to tell us what reminds them of their heritage, and to share their stand-out food-related memories that bind them to their past.
First up is our energetic cellar-master, Lizelle Gerber, who says: “My immediate reflex answer is die klein blou Shoprite sakkie! This memory goes back to the 1970s when all our hand-written family recipes were kept in a little blue Shoprite bag. Included was a banana bread recipe, hand-written by myself in very neat cursive writing when I was around 9 years old. There’s another, a sago pudding recipe, that my mother apparently wrote just after I was born. She got the recipe via Springbok Radio, when it still existed in those days. Presenters Esme Euyrard and Jan Cronje hosted a programme called So Maak Mens and my mom wrote this recipe down very quickly while listening to the presenters explain the various steps involved. For me, it’s still the very best flop-free recipe, all these years later.”
Isabel Teubes, our viticulturist, explains that it’s the simple things that take her back to her heritage. “My great grandmother’s antique Oregon pine buffet that dates to 1900 and has pride of place in my home. It features prominently whenever I serve my guests some heart-warming food and delicious wines. The dish that takes me back to my earlier years, is lamb rib with pumpkin cakes and green beans. Typical Boerekos!”
For Samuel Viljoen, our winemaker, it’s a place rather than an item that reminds him of where he comes from. “Standing at the beacon of Heuningsberg Nature Reserve and taking in the views of Bredasdorp and the surrounding area. This is where I grew up. I have so many fond memories of this place. For example, the Shipwreck Museum. It always fascinated me, and still does! Then also, sitting around the dining table on Sundays, chatting and digging into delicious lamb roast with concertina potatoes and Malva pudding for dessert.”
Our assistant red-winemaker, Zinaschke Steyn, explains that it’s the ball and claw lounge suite that’s still in her parents’ home that comes to mind when she thinks of her heritage. “It’s been in our family for many generations and always remind me of Christmastime when we’d all be together. Then there’s my grandmother’s old AMC pots and the delicious Sunday lunches she cooked when I was a child. I never ate pumpkin, unless it was prepared by grandma! Traditional paptert also makes me think of my Transvaal heritage. This dish is always a winner with a braai and even the Kapenaars who don’t know pap loves it! My dad’s melktert is another nostalgic dish I savour whenever I can. He uses Ouma Poppie’s recipe…my mouth waters when I think of it!”
Meanwhile, our assistant white-winemaker, Jamie Williams, specifies that her heritage conjures up memories of music and dance. “When I was much younger, I used to listen to my mom’s jazz music cassette tapes and would often go with her and my aunt to jazz dance classes – similar to salsa – and witness the music and dance come together. In that moment, I used to be so proud of my heritage. Until this day, I still favour jazz music, and jazz dancing is something I’d most certainly would like to pass on to my children.” Koesisters also takes Jamie back to years ago when she ate these on Sunday mornings before church. “I used to take a big Tupperware bowl of my grandmother to a lady across the block who made the softest koeksisters imaginable and sold them for R5 a bowl. This was our Sunday breakfast, with a cup of Rooibos tea.”
We hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane. Take it step further by purchasing our spring box of Heritage Heroes wines, curated by none other than sommelier extraordinaire, Pearl Oliver-Mbumba. Available until 30 October, it includes two bottles each of our Heritage Heroes The Anchorman Chenin Blanc 2018, Heritage Heroes The Beautiful Lady Gewürztraminer 2019 and Heritage Heroes The Motorcycle Marvel Rhône-style blend 2017 at only R1 030 (15% discount).