Vredendal Cellar - South Africa’s Largest Winery - Fast Tracking on a Global Mission.

Vredendal Cellar - South Africa’s Largest Winery - Fast Tracking on a Global Mission.

There is a touch of irony to the fact that South Africa’s largest Winery – and the biggest in the Southern hemisphere – is quite some distance from the traditional Cape winelands. Nevertheless, even at a reach of some 300 kilometers north of Cape Town along the famous West Coast, some 20 kilometers of the Atlantic Coast of South Africa lies the Olifants River Region of Origin. Today WestCorp International 223 farmer members, harvesting around 100 000 tons of grapes.

The state-of-the-art cellar may be immense, but it is also, in a big way, a leader in the innovation of production and marketing of modern South African wine, nationally and internationally. At the same time it has a loyal and wide following in both the local and export markets where it has been acknowledged with accolades such as;

· 1994 General Smuts Trophy - Ruby Cabernet / Cabernet Franc Blend
· 1995 Expovina Zurich Silver - Cabernet Sauvignon / Ruby Cabernet
· 1997 Expovina Zurich - Chardonnay / Sauvignon Blanc
· 1997/1998 Silver Veritas - Cabernet Sauvignon / Ruby Cabernet
· 1998 Silver Veritas - Chardonnay
· 1998 Silver Veritas - Chardonnay / Sauvignon Blanc
· 1998 Silver Veritas - Colombar / Chardonnay
· 1998/1999 Expovina Zurich - Chardonnay / Sauvignon Blanc
· 1998 Silver Veritas - Cabernet Franc / Ruby Cabernet
· 1998 Silver Veritas - Ruby Cabernet/Pinotage/Merlot
· 1998 Silver Veritas - Hanepoot / Jeripico
· 1998 SA Champion Wine Award - Muscat

Presently accounting for a full 15% of all wines imported into the UK from South Africa, it has some well-established brands in that and other overseas markets.

Although previously mostly a white wine producing region, new plantings are showing tremendous potential for red wine. Cellar Master Len Knoetze is extremely enthusiastic about expanding their red wines in the international market.

The winery, originally established in 1947, made a massive paradigm shift in the 1980s when it changed from simply serving local wine farmers as vintner and seller to become an international player. When the global markets opened for South Africa wine producers at the start of the 1990s, Vredendal Winery was ready!

It is now set to fast track as global wine performer, hence their slogan, “ Vredendal wines for the modern wine drinker! Countries of export include UK, Holland, Grenada, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Kenya, Canada, Japan, Israel, Germany and Curacao.

Viticulture and Winemaking
Moving away from the traditional with a full understanding of the demands of world markets, has led to the planting of more premium grape varietals. More attention is given to planting red varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Shiraz, Merlot, Ruby Cabernet and Cabernet Franc.

The grapes are grown in a variety of soils. In an arid land where the annual rainfall is a scant 165mm, controlled micro-irrigation is used to coax the best from the vines.
The climate fortunately means that pest and diseases are at a minimum, reducing the need for chemical treatment. Very strict viticulture practices are implemented, and are scrutinized by the cellar’s own viticulturist and cellar master.

Vineyard plantings match the right varieties to the right soils and microclimates. The more delicate varieties are planted near to the coast to catch the cool afternoon breeze of the icy South Atlantic. Canopy management techniques are used to protect the grapes from the fierce sun and yet achieve optimum ripeness.

Early morning harvesting in tandem with strict vineyard selection has been introduced to preserve freshness in the cool grapes. Despite receiving 2 000 tons of grapes per day during harvesting, all lots are kept separate, as they are cool fermented in one of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest temperature-controlled cellars. And so are the Vredendal Winery’s brands created.

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By Mr Derek Robinson

Namaqua Wines