Stellenbosch Hills

Stellenbosch Hills arose out of the rebranding of the Vlottenburg Winery outside Stellenbosch in 2003.

Stellenbosch Hills arose out of the rebranding of the Vlottenburg Winery outside Stellenbosch in 2003. The rebranding of the Vlottenburg Winery, which was founded in 1945, was done as part of a revitalized strategy to pursue local and international markets.

Paramount to the new brand is the fact that until 2003 some 95% of the winery’s wine was sold in to Western Cape liquor giant Distell. Stellenbosch Hills was born from a strategy to increase the volumes of wine we ourselves want to market locally and internationally. Until the birth of Stellenbosch Hills, Vlottenburg was selling all its branded wines from the cellar door. No distribution networks. No international agents. With this new strategy, bulk sales to Distell are down to 75%, with 25% set for the local and international markets. A new label and a new name were deemed to be necessary to enter these competitive markets for the first time. And one has to admit that to have Stellenbosch as part of your brand name is one heck of an honour and marketing advantage.

A major part of present and future strategy is the winery’s relationship with the Baarsma agency who are looking after the brand in Europe and the United States of America.

The name Stellenbosch Hills also more accurately portrays the catchment area from which the winery sources its grapes. With the increasing importance of terroir, it was important that the winery postions itself as not only being limited to accessing grapes from the Vlottenburg region, but also sourcing fruit from our members’ farms in Lynedoch and Stellenbosch Kloof.

Stellenbosch Hills makes its wine from grapes grown on the farms of its 20 member/shareholders, which are situated in this acclaimed region’s prime viticultural areas.

Cellarmaster PG Slabbert has access to some 780 hectares of vineyards, with this year’s harvest coming in at 8 000 ton of which 65% were red and 35% white grapes.

With the fruit originating from a variety of terroirs and soils, and with the winery’s strict emphasis on quality, vineyard management plays a far greater role than was the case 30 years ago. The emphasis is on the market and providing the varietals, styles and the quality the market demands.

In tandem with viticulturist consultant Johan Pienaar vineyards and varietals are pre-selected and managed throughout the season to ensure that the grapes arriving at the cellar during harvest season are of premium quality.

This market-driven approach, from the vineyard management to the new identity and distribution networks, will by no means sacrifice two values the winery has held dear since its birth – quality and good value

The quality is underscored by the winery’s showings at premier competitions. Still under the Vlottenburg label, the winery set a lively cat among the pigeons in 2003 Fairbairn Capital Trophy Wine Show when it won two trophies for its 2001 Merlot, dusting-up a couple of major players in the process. The Pinotage has also been a regular guest in the ABSA Top 10 list, calling in during the 1998 and 2002 contests.

To what can this success be ascribed?

“As a winemaker it is very exciting – and challenging – to have varietals from such a diverse range of terroirs to my disposal,” says Cellarmaster Slabbert. “This allows be to blend one varietal from grapes sourced kilometers apart, each with its own character due to temperature and soil differences.”

To serve the new markets locally and in Europe, the Stellenbosch Hills board greenlighted an investment of some R15m in expanding the red wine cellar, buying barrels and giving the tasting area and façade a facelift. A new larger, more comfortable tasting and entertainment area allows the winery to accommodate more visitors, tasters and curious passersby. Besides producing quality wines, it is important that Stellenbosch Hills remains a landmark in the area, taking advantage of the tremendous surge in wine tourism.

The name may have changed, but I like to think that everyone still knows where we are!

Stellenbosch Hills Wines