Sir David Graaff first planted vines on De Grendel in 1999, almost 200 years after the last vines were destroyed.
Since then De Grendel has become synonymous with exquisite wines, borne of the Graaff’s love of the soil and scientific approach to winemaking.
De Grendel, meaning latch or lock in Dutch, is one of Cape Town’s oldest farms, stretching out over almost 330 hectares on the fynbos-covered slopes of Tygerberg Hill.
The breathtaking view of Table Mountain from the farm, 350 meters above sea level, is arguably the best in the Cape winelands. On a clear day, you can see all the way from Table Bay to False Bay, and sometimes even on to Cape Point.
First awarded to the Danish settler Claas Mayboom by Governor van der Stel all the way back in 1720, De Grendel van de Tijgerberg was bought by the iconic South African businessman and politician Sir David De Villiers Graaff in 1890 to be used as a breeding and resting ground for the prized purebred Arab horses that he bought while travelling in Argentina.
When he returned to his then-home Fernwood, the horses’ health deteriorated in the wet climate of Newlands, and on the advice of his veterinarian, he was told to find more suitable stabling.
As the story goes, he undertook a trip by ox wagon to Muizenburg. Arriving, the South Easter was blowing and the beach was filled with blue bottles and smelly sea grass. He immediately turned north and arrived at the farm, on the slopes of the Tygerberg. He loved the site and bought it to house his horses.
De Grendel Blueberries
The blueberry is a member of the family Ericaceae, which includes woody shrubs such as azaleas that grow well in acidic soils. Blueberries are woody, shallow-rooted perennial shrubs with most cultivars growing 1.2 to 1.8m tall at maturity. In established growing regions in Australia, plants reach full production within 3 to 4 years and can be productive for 12 to 15 years. Fruit is bare on one year old shoots and a full grown plant could start producing from year one if the desired plant size has been reached. Most plants will produce for a length of time and a typical harvest period could last for up to three months.
Site and Soil Selection
The natural habitat of a blueberry plant is well drained sandy soil that is poor in organic matter and has a low ph. When blueberry plants are planted directly in the soil, two factors are critical. The first is a well-drained sandy soil and secondly the ph should be in a range of 4 to 5.5; however the latter could be managed if on the high side. Blueberries are acid-loving plants and as a result, most soils must be treated to lower the pH level to 4.0 to 5.2 and irrigation water acidified to a pH of 5.0. In choosing a site for blueberry planting, soil type, air flow, water drainage, exposure to sunlight, soil pH and access to water for irrigation are the major factors to consider. Blueberries generally do not grow as well on soils which are high in calcium, unless accompanied by high organic matter. It is also best to avoid areas that are extremely high in phosphorus as this can tie up iron. If the organic matter content of the soil is below two percent; organic matter should be added to the soil at planting
While there are references to grapes having been grown on De Grendel in the 1800s, it was only in 2000 that viniculture was established on the estate.
When the late Sir David Graaff inherited the baronetcy in 1999 he retired from the political career he shared with his father and grandfather before him, and returned to the farm.
Until that time the production of wine grapes in South Africa was controlled by the giant KWV co-operative. KWV guaranteed to buy whatever was produced by local farmers on a quota system.
Having studied at the University of Grenoble in France, Sir David had developed a love of fine wine, and on the recommendation of a family friend who recognised Durbanville as a key grape-growing area, the first vineyards were planted in 2000.
Initially, after an exhaustive study of the terroir and climate, Sir David planted 10ha with Cabernet and Merlot. Now, fourteen years later, 110 hectares of De Grendel are under vines.
Situated on the other side of the hill from the rest of the Durbanville wine route, De Grendel is unique amongst Cape vineyards in that it is the only estate with the holy wine triumvirate of sea views, cool ocean breezes and misty nights.
And, because the Durbanville region is well suited to producing some of the country’s best Sauvignon Blanc, this cultivar has become a core focus of the winery.
Winemaking at De Grendel is a careful balance between science and art.
The meticulous care of the vineyards allows the grapes to express the environment in which they are grown and their distinctive varietal character. Careful harvesting and gentle handling in the cellar, combined with the winemaker’s passionate practice of their craft, carry the wines throughout the journey from fruit into wine.
The state of the art winery is respectful of the age-old traditions of winemaking yet firmly and uncompromisingly modern in technological advancements, a perfect marriage of old and new.
Charles Hopkins – Cellar Master
Charles Hopkins has been at De Grendel for 10 years, since the first wines were produced on the Estate. He was lured to De Grendel from Graham Beck Wines in Franschoek when Sir David Graaff offered him the opportunity to not only head up winemaking at the new estate, but also to design and build his own cellar.
Modest and unassuming, Charles studied at Elsenburg, and in 1990 was appointed winemaker for Bellingham Wines.
He is one of South Africa’s most highly regarded winemakers, a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild and Chairman of the South African Wine Show Association.
Charles is passionate about his craft, often going abroad to study winemaking. He has spent harvest seasons in the Sonoma Valley, California, and in Bordeaux, France. Over the last ten years he has also conducted study tours to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and France.
“Quality is not a goal, it’s a journey.”