Our Story

The de Villiers family has left deep footprints in the history of the South African wine industry through the centuries, and Kleinood and the Tamboerskloof wines are no exception.

The story of Kleinood farm

The de Villiers family has left deep footprints in the history of the South African wine industry through the centuries, and Kleinood and the Tamboerskloof wines are no exception.

The French Huguenot, Jacob de Villiers, bought the wine farm Boschendal between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, after immigrating to the Cape of Good Hope in 1688. In the year 2000 Gerard de Villiers, a direct descendant of Jacob, and his wife, Libby, found the piece of land that stole their hearts - complete with mountains, river and a pristine tract of indigenous forest.

They renamed the farm to Kleinood. Kleinood is an Afrikaans word from Dutch and German origin meaning something small and precious. This is exactly what Kleinood means to them and precisely what it is - a small farm, very dear to their hearts, specializing in the production of only a Syrah based red wine, a small production of Viognier and De Boerin virgin olive oil. Kleinood lies nestled in the Blaauwklippen Valley on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain outside Stellenbosch - the premier wine area in the Cape. They decided on which cultivars to plant after several years of careful analysis of soil types and climatic conditions on the farm. Thus, not only their passion, but also the terroir, the sun and the rain led them to plant Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Viognier on North and West facing slopes. From this delicate balance between science and passion the Tamboerskloof wines, now cultivated, nurtured, harvested, pressed, matured and bottled with equal care, were born.

Before moving to the Boland, Gerard, Libby and their two children, Spicer and Katharien, lived in the Cape Town suburb Tamboerskloof for 25 years. Hence, they decided to call their wine Tamboerskloof. The name Tamboerskloof means the valley (kloof) of the drums (tamboer). Tamboerskloof is once again an integral part of the de Villiers family history as well as that of Cape Town and the Boland.

The Dutch settlers immigrated to the Cape in 1652 to farm with fruit and vegetables to supply the Dutch East Indian Company ships on their way to the east. Lookout posts manned with spotters were established on the hills and mountains around the Cape peninsula. These spotters drummed the message of an approaching ship from one lookout post to the next until the farmers in the surrounding valleys heard the drums and proceeded to harvest their crops and hasten to Cape Town harbour with their wagons in order to meet the ship on arrival.

Times have changed. They now receive their orders for Tamboerskloof Syrah, Tamboerskloof Viognier and de Boerin olive oil by email from Europe, but still hasten with their precious product to the Cape Town harbour to meet the delivery deadline.

Gerard, an engineer by profession, who has devoted his substantial skills and energies to designing cellars for some of the biggest names in the Cape wine industry designed and built the winery. Libby, responsible for the architectural design, created timeless buildings with strong traditional Cape influences and materials. Gerard used his experience to design a state of the art winery without losing contact with traditional winemaking methods. Everything is simply and holistically designed and dedicated to explore, develop and use the full potential of the farm and their personal skills in order to produce the best wine Kleinood is capable of.

As the name so aptly reflects, this is very much a personal and highly individual project where no viticultural or oenological effort is spared to produce wines of excellence. However, primarily Kleinood is a home where, once again, a de Villiers family has come home to roost.

Meticulous care and handling

One of the secrets of the Kleinood wines lies in picking at exactly the right time. Each year the team inspects the vineyards from an aerial perspective. This allows them to do an infrared survey of the vineyards, thus determining vigour and ripeness of different areas in each block. Each area is then picked accordingly.

"The vines and grapes undergo extensive monitoring throughout the year to ensure that we understand our vineyards and learn how to farm them better," says Gunter. "In this manner we establish the pruning weight of the pruned shoots, the weight of the bunches, the size and weight of the berries etcetera for each block, affording us the opportunity to create the correct balance between terroir, vine and grape," he explains.

The Kleinood team is also hard at work establishing a fully sustainable ecosystem in their vineyards. All prunings are mulched and composted together with crushed grape skins and stems as well as all compostable materials from the gardens. The resulting compost is transferred straight back into the vineyards, orchards and gardens. This practice reduces the need for fungicides and pesticides. Traffic in the vineyards is also reduced to an absolute minimum, thus keeping the soil loose and healthy.

Grapes are chosen in the vineyards on a regular basis from the start of veraison and as many as five passes are conducted before the grapes are finally picked and brought to the cellar in small picking boxes.

Attention to detail – every step of the way

The distinctive, yet characteristically understated, labels are hand printed with an antique press on hand made paper torn to size by hand and stuck onto each individual bottle by hand. The front label bears only the name and vintage of the wine. The back label states its provenance. The sole insignia depicts a sheep bearing a flag, derived from the official de Villiers family crest.

Although the first Rhône style Syrah was bottled in 2002, the Syrah 2003 was the first to be released on the market, followed by the 2006 maiden vintage Viognier. The wines have been lauded by critics and wine lovers alike, with the Syrah 2006 receiving 4.5 stars in the Platter’s Wine Guide and the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Viognier each receiving the same stellar rating in this acclaimed guide.

The de Villiers' approach to establishing their own wine label, though determinedly low key, is underpinned by a dedication to producing a singular and intensely personal wine of the highest quality.

Great wine is made in the vineyard

Kleinood is a small farm of just twelve hectares of arable land. Ten hectares are devoted to vines while the remaining two are under olive trees.

When Gerard de Villiers purchased this unique property in 2000 there were no vines on the farm. Extensive soil tests were conducted involving more than 150 inspection and sampling pits on the 13 hectares available for cultivation. These tests showed up different clay-based soil types - Tukulu, Kroonstad, Klapmuts and Witfontein. Based on the results from these exhaustive tests combined with meticulous monitoring of weather patterns and sun and wind directions the farm was divided into 23 half-hectare blocks. The soil was then deep ploughed and prepared for planting.

Terroir dictated that Shiraz be the variety of choice with a hectare, each of Viognier and Mouvèrdre for blending purposes. Tamboerskloof Viognier has subsequently become a much sought after and highly acclaimed wine. It is pure chance that these are also Gerard's favourite wines. "We preferred to veer away from the traditional South African and Argentinean Shiraz clones commonly planted in the Cape Wine lands.“This was mainly due to the fact that they were not certified to be virus free, and we weren't entirely satisfied with the wine styles resulting from them," explains Gerard.

Patience and perseverance were crucial at this critical stage. "We were subsequently able to source Rhône Syrah clones 174, 300, 470 and 747 from a laboratory that planned to generate budding eyes from scrapings made from the mother plants and propagated in a laboratory. These were guaranteed to be virus free, but we would have to wait an extra year."

In order to save time, the course of action involved planting the rootstocks for later field grafting of the clonal buds. This involved a meticulous process of varying the rootstock type, the planting row widths, the plant spacing in the rows and the row directions to suit the terroir. The wild rootstock vines were allowed to grow vigorously under regular irrigation for a year, thus creating a strong root system. A year after planting the rootstock vines everything above the ground was cut off generating an incredible amount of vegetable matter. Two shoots were allowed to grow from the stump and the shoots were tied to the first wire.

A special grafting team grafted the four different clones onto both the shoots for each vine. The clonal splits in the various blocks were based on the soil characteristics and vigour potential of the soil, as well as the rootstock. After a few months it was decided which of the two shoots was the stronger, while the other was removed, thus allowing all the energy from a strong root system to feed the single shoot. Not only were these virus free vines, it was the first time that Syrah grapes from these clones had been made commercially available in South Africa.

Italian consultant Alberto Antonini oversees and advises on the meticulous viticultural development. Each half-hectare block on the farm is managed as a separate unit and has its own individual irrigation system. Thus, the grapes from each unit are looked after, irrigated, harvested, crushed, fermented and matured in wood separately. "Only in the blending phase do we decide which wine is good enough, with the final blend comprising all the different components which form the building blocks for our Tamboerskloof wines," comments winemaker Gunter Schultz.

Fine wines require flexibility and time

The winery, a study in simplicity, combines the structural and technological expertise of owner-designer Gerard in a clever combination of high-tech and tradition. It was designed to work very softly with the grapes and to afford the winemaker the most flexibility possible.

At arrival in the winery the bunches are sorted by hand on a sorting table. The berries are also hand sorted on a separate table after destalking. They are then crushed into a satellite tank that is electronically lifted up to roof level, suspended, and rolled from an overhead beam to the fermenter that has been earmarked to receive that particular block. This intricate process ensures the grapes do not undergo any harsh pumping treatment. 'Softly, gently' is the Kleinood mantra.

The cellar houses no less than 14 different size fermenters. This allows flexibility to ferment the batches of grapes coming from the vineyard in a correctly sized tank. Some fermenters are closed with a big manhole at the top, suitable for punching down, while others are open-top fermenters. The same innovative system, designed by Gerard, used for moving grapes is used to operate the very soft pneumatic punch-down device which replaces and replicates the labour-intensive traditional punching down of the cap by hand. "Fixed piping was installed for pump-overs to facilitate skin contact during fermentation," explains Gerard.

The 'free run' wine gravitates into barrels from the fermenters, while the fermented skins are scraped by hand into a basket for pressing in the cellar’s state of the art basket press. Malolactic fermentation takes place in tank or a selection of French 5001 medium-toasted, tight grained oak barrels from a selection of coopers including Boutes, Sylvan, Garonaise and Cadus.

The barrel maturation room has four different temperature zones controlled to facilitate malolactic fermentation in one corner behind a temperature control curtain, and cold maturation in another part of the room. The humidity in the room is controlled by computer to ensure optimum humidity for the maturation process. The wine is blended and then left in the blending tanks for at least three months for the various components to 'marry', integrate and develop the desired complexity, roundness and elegance. Tamboerskloof Syrah is matured in the bottle at a temperature of 14 to 15 degrees centigrade for a minimum of one year prior to release onto the market.

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