Frequently Asked Questions

We answer your questions about the Cederberg.

FAQ: How did you start making wine here at Dwarsrivier?
Before the political changes of the 1990s, wine farming was an income like any other kind of farming, may it be sheep, fruit or fish. The big names in the industry were well known, of course. Up to 1990 the Nieuwoudts focused on fruit, tobacco, vegetables and livestock. During the 1990s, when sanctions were lifted, farming life changed quite radically and many farmers started specialising. Younger farmers, in many cases, faced huge challenges – the whole world had suddenly become their playground and delivery field. In the Cederberg, David Nieuwoudt returned to the land where he grew up and decided to focus on wine – after all, that was what he studied and loved. The year? 1997.

FAQ: The ‘water story’: What is so interesting about Dwarsrivier’s water?
All the water used on the farm comes from the Dwars River, which originates west of Sneeuberg Mountain, partly on our land. Nothing comes from the Uitkyk area. If we refer to the farm we mean the household water consumption of 29 houses, the holiday resort, the irrigation system for the vineyards and all the cellar water. The holiday resort’s irrigation comes from another source.

FAQ: What is the Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor?
The Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor (GCBC) is a unique project in the sense that nowhere in South Africa is there an area as large as this that includes the people, their agricultural and other activities, and an unspoilt natural area, says project co-ordinator Jaco Venter. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) financed the initial work for the project. This was so successful that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) donated R1,5 million to fund the implementation phase over five years.

FAQ: Do you notice any signs of climate change?
For many years, Cederberg Wines started picking grapes in mid-February, but in recent years the farm has often starting picking in the last week of January. On the one hand this is in line with global warming trends evident throughout the international wine industry; on the other hand it is a result of virus-free plant material that ripens earlier.

FAQ: Does it ever get as hot in the Cederberg as it does in Clanwilliam and Citrusdal?
The Cederberg is not as hot as Clanwilliam or Citrusdal. These towns are known for their high day and night temperatures. A person travelling to us in an air-conditioned car doesn’t realise that the temperature has dropped a fair amount from the N7 (and Clanwilliam or Citrusdal) up into the Cederberg Mountains to where we are at an average of 1 000 m above sea level. From the N7 to the farm there is an average temperature difference of between 7 and 12 °C on any given day, due to the cold Mediterranean climate. The dry climate with little or no humidity makes even higher temperatures bearable. In the Cederberg, the average temperature difference between day and night can be between 20 and 25 °C.

FAQ: How does your terroir differ from other areas and what makes yours so significant?
Aspect: If one talks about terroir, there are four important factors: soil type, slope (topography), climate and geology. Grape varieties are largely influenced by the soil type and the slope on which they are planted. Every variety requires its own specific site.
Soil types: We do not have homogeneous soils. The soil types differ radically within a small geographical area, for example sandy soil to loam and sandstone to slate. The main soil types are sandstone, red and grey slate, decomposed granite, sandy loam, Hutton and Glenrosa. Planting a single variety on different soil types brings out multidimensional characteristics, which create complexity and identity in the wine.
Slope: As a result of the mountainous terrain, we have many different slopes with a variety of soil types. This allows us to match different varieties to their optimum soil type and aspect for quality grape production. For example, Cabernet sauvignon is planted on a slightly warmer south-western slope compared to Shiraz, which is planted on a slightly cooler south-eastern slope.
Wind direction: The biggest cooling factor in the Cederberg is wind, mainly the north-westerly wind that blows from the Uitkyk Pass – the first pass facing the coast. From mid-December this wind starts at about 09:00 or 10:00 in the morning and continues throughout the day until about 18:00 or 19:00. Being a gentle wind, it is beneficial to the vines because it creates a cooler microclimate within the rows. Wind direction is therefore an important factor to consider when determining row direction. The wind allows the vines to remain cool and dry, preventing the development of fungal diseases. This is a big advantage for viticulture in the Cederberg.
Sun: As we know, the morning sun is cooler than the afternoon sun. Taking this into consideration, the early-ripening varieties such as Sauvignon blanc and Chenin blanc, whose flavour compounds are sensitive to direct sunlight, are planted in an east-west row direction – which is fortunately also the dominant wind direction. Thus the grapes are not exposed to direct sunlight. We try to plant the late-ripening cultivars, such as Cabernet sauvignon, in a north-south direction, although this is not a requirement. This row direction allows the grapes greater exposure to the sun, which is important for colour development and phenolic ripeness. Thanks to the isolated location and the extremely low winter temperatures, the vines are virus- and disease-free, which is a rare benefit in grape-growing areas.

FAQ: Although a controversial topic, we have to ask again – what is your stance on the concept ‘organic’? And also, how much copper and sulphur do you use?
Winemaker David Nieuwoudt answers as follows: Okay, let me keep it short and simple.
One: Be careful, the concept ‘organic’ is often (a) a marketing tool and (b) a money-making scheme.
Two: I do not use any copper – we stopped this practice many years ago.
Three: We do use ’dusting sulphur’. But much, much less than on other wine farms because, thanks to the extreme winter conditions and isolation, we have no downy mildew here in the Cederberg. We’re very fortunate, actually, because we don’t need to use any systemic compounds in our vineyards.

FAQ: Have you ever had problems with insects? If yes, then with which species?
Snout beetles have been present in the past. The farm now has guinea fowl that roam the vineyards, and they help to control insects that could harm the vines.

FAQ: Where does your water come from and have you ever needed to drill for water?
In the period 2003–2006, the Cederberg area experienced a semi-drought situation. The average rainfall has always been about 680 mm per year, but then it declined to 450 mm per year. We are lucky to be in an area of the Western Cape where there has always been sufficient groundwater. We can see that there is less water, but as yet there has been no need to drill. All our water, except the water used for the holiday resort’s irrigation system, runs freely from a natural mountain spring.

Cederberg Cellar