De Wetshof Estate Information

De Wetshof Estate has over the past two decades become renowned in the Cape for its innovative and advanced use of technology in helping to produce both better grapes and create great wines.

Proprietor and winemaker, Danie de Wet’s love of wine emanates from the time he was a young boy following his father around the farm in the Robertson Valley. The De Wet ancestors arrived at the Cape in 1694 and the family has been involved in the wine industry ever since.

But Danie, who studied at Geisenheim in Germany, realised early in his career the importance of combining a good grounding in wine, natural instinct, together with cutting edge technology, to stay at the forefront of a dynamic and ever-changing industry.

These concepts he has applied in both the vineyard and the cellar.

Careful planning has gone into soil mapping all vineyards on the estate, to identify the correct terroir for the various varietals he nurtures. These run from the alluvial soils near the Breede River, which runs through the estate, as well as the lime-rich slopes stretching up the slopes of the surrounding hills and mountains.

A pioneer in developing noble white wine varieties in the region in the 1970s, De Wetshof Estate has also been in the vanguard of quality red wine development during the past decade and specifically Pinot noir. To this end, Danie has worked extensively with international viticulturist, Dr Phil Freese, from the USA and local expert Francois Viljoen, who heads VinPro and has an incredible grasp of local conditions.

A great deal of careful planning has gone into the new Pinot noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vineyards planted on the estate, in the same way Danie did when establishing the vines which have helped make the estate the premier Chardonnay House in South Africa.

This emphasis on Chardonnay dates back to Danie’s days as a student at the Geisenheim Institute in Germany, where he studied viticultural and oenological. While there he tasted many fine examples of this variety, as well as undertaking visits to leading Burgundian wineries. Today he has his own vineyard specific Chardonnays offering widely differing styles.

Vineyard development is an ongoing focus – another stepping stone in how best to provide the individual vines with what they need to produce the best fruit.

This development has also gone hand-in-hand with evolvement of techniques and the conducting of tests over many years.

As technology has evolved, so Danie has been at the forefront, experimenting with ways to improve the quality of the grapes going into his cellar. This includes the use of NASA satellite technology, as well as forming an integral and sophisticated weather station project in the valley.

An ongoing study is also being conducted to determine water levels in the soil in the vineyards using neutron probes. This includes the introduction of the "bomb" into the vineyards to test the water stress levels in a leaf.

The "bomb" was the name given to an instrument previously used only in laboratories, but now adapted for field use. This experimentation was taken to a new level when Danie, Phil and Francois worked on ET or evapo-transporation, to determine the evaporation of water through the leaves of the vine.

They are studying water evaporation from leaves and water management of vines between verasion (when the berry is set) and when it ripens sufficiently for harvesting.

This is normally a 45-day window of opportunity and has been studied under ideal circumstances when no rain fell at De Wetshof during that period a few years ago.

Danie said using these modern tools helped draw up a model of what a vine’s requirements were under different conditions and stages of the growing season.

In the same vein, the latest technology has been incorporated in the estate’s new multi-dimensional cellar, able to accommodate red and white wines.

The cellar façade is based on the renowned and historic First Customs House in Cape Town, while the tasting room/administration offices is a replica of the Koopmans/De Wet House in Strand Street, Cape Town, dating back to 1791 and both buildings were designed by Louis Michel Thibault one of the most renowned architects of early Cape architecture.

Besides all the technology used in the vineyards and cellar, computers have also been used in the crèche, pre-and after-school care centre for a number of years.

Initially basic educational games programmes were installed to help the children get to grips with the machines and advanced educational programmes are to be introduced.

These advances will help the children as none of the schools they attend yet have computers.

The crèche was started in the late 1980s and the care centre in the mid-1990s with great success. This can be measured by the high pass rate of many of the students who passed through its doors and are now in primary and high school.

De Wetshof Estate