Striated Skies No. 52 – Nothing to be scared of

52. Nothing to be scared of

The Banghoek (meaning “scary corner”) valley is located over the Hellshoogte pass and an area in which I will own an estate one day. The picture for this striated sky was taken on the Oldenburg wine estate (in the Banghoek Valley) looking up at the Drakenstein Mountain Range. Banghoek Valley, got its name due to the dense forest, leopards, steep ravines and other dangers encountered by settlers.

Hellshoogte is the oldest pass in South Africa. The original Pass was built in 1692, in order to make ones way to Franschoek (where the Huguenots settled after arriving in 1688).  It was the main road to Franschhoek and for many years was regarded as a dangerous route, especially in the dark. The origins of the name is likely from the steep gullies (“hells”) on the ridge. In 1854 the road was greatly improved and used until being replaced by the new/current road in 1972.

A left turn off the R310 onto Zevenrivieren road will put the Mountains in front of you, the road winds and becomes gravel. The road is well sign posted and finding Oldenburg estate is a cinch. On arrival you are greeted by the spectacular new Cellar Door. The building was designed by architect Simon Beerstecher, and the interior design is by Kelly Hoppen.

Oldenburg is owned and run by Adrian and Vanessa Vanderspuy. Adrian was born on the neighbouring farm but his family left South Africa in the 1960’s. He would return to visit Oldenburg yearly for Christmas. Dorothy Vanrenen, Adrians grandmother, lived at Oldenburg with Helmet Holmann. In fact it is Helmet who named the farm Oldenburg in memory of his German roots in the city of Oldenburg. Visit the Oldenburg Vineyards Website for more history.

It was in 2002 that Adrian decided to pursue the possibility of bringing Oldenburg Vineyards back to life given that the farm had fallen into a parlous state. The vineyards were replanted from 2004-2006 and the maiden vintages of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were produced in 2007. In 2010 the first whites were produced, the reds were launched (all were included in the SA Top 100 wines)  and in 2011 the cellar door opened.   In 2014 Philip Costandius joined as General Manager and Winemaker, later that year The Homestead was opened.

Visit the Oldenburg Vineyards Website to find out more about this amazing place and the people who make it happen or go one step better and visit them in person, you will not regret it. The views are amazing, the wine terrific and the atmosphere spectacular.  As I said at the beginning, one day I will own a property in this valley.

oldenburg logoI have to end off this blog by saying Thanks to all the peole who have followed me and my 52 Striated Skies Project. My next big step is going to be figuring out how I can exhibit this in 2016. Here is to an awesome 2016!!!

Striated Skies No. 44 – Butter Heart

44.Butter Heart

Bot River is a small hamlet approximately 100km outside of Cape Town, on the N2, between Grabouw and Caledon. It is home to approximately 4000 people and 14 wineries on the Bot River Wine Route.

Khoi herders called the area home, with the “Couga River” providing pastures that were lush.  Settlers came to the area to Barter for “Botter” (Butter) from the Khoi in the area and this is where the name Bot River comes from.  The hamlet formed in the 18th century as an outpost for the Dutch East India Company and after the battle of Blouberg Daniel de Kock was given ownership of Compagnes Drift the farm which he had rented. In 1912 the first train ran through the hamlet although the hamlet did not grow from its small size.

The picture for this striated sky is taken on the pass towards Villiersdorp. The dirt road winds from the main road of Bot River past farmlands including vineyards, canola and wheat. We had taken a drive out to do some wine tasting and saw this beautiful scene about 1km down the road. After some photography, we stopped at Luddite (5 stars – definitely recommend a trip) and then continued to Goedvertrouw Wine Estate.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 11.53.50 AMThe story of Luddite is one of a couple that love wine and making it in a way that has little intervention. The winery situated a rocky outcrop, on which Niels and Penny planted vines in 2001, is home to ±6Ha of vines.

The story of Goedvertrouw Wine Estate is a story that is both heart warming and sad. The winemaker Elrieda Pillmann continues to live out the dream she shared with her husband to create wine even though she does not drink it.

Bot River is part of the Cape country meander and falls within the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. The town itself does not have much going for it but it is definitely worth a visit to have some wine and take in the beauty of the surrounding area.

Striated Skies

Striated Skies No. 33 – Balcony Pondering Perspective

Striated Skies

Back to Stellenbosch we go for this weeks Striated Sky. The building pictured; the Theological Seminary, 171 Dorp Street, Stellenbosch is another of the dozens of heritage buildings that are to be found in the picturesque university town. The current facade of the building was completed in 1905 but this site has a history that is filled with interesting stories and tragedy.

The site on which the Seminary stands was an island in the Eerste River and the spot where Simon van der Stel has camped on the night of 6 November 1679. It is the site of the first building in Stellenbosch, the drosty which was built in 1686/7 and housed the Court and home to the magistrate. It was in fact the magistrate, Samuel Martini de Meurs, who whilst attempting to light his pipe in a howling south-easterly wind, caused the first fire to destroy the building in 1710. The building, which was rebuilt burned down again in 1762 and in 1768 a flood destroyed some of the building.

In 1768 it was converted to an H Shape building and in 1770 due to deepening of the river, the northern branch of the Eerste dried up and was filled in. In 1828, local government was abolished and the building stood empty for 12. In 1853, it was bought by some villagers and ceded to the Church in 1859 with the inauguration of the Theological Seminary. In 1868, Carl Otto Hager added a second storey to the building.

In 1905 additions were added to the Seminary and the façade was changed to the present appearance with a predominantly eclectic approach with strong French influence.

The building is stunning and it would be amazing for someone to build a virtual tour of the changes that have taken place on the land over the years. You must take a look at this building while you walk the streets of Stellenbosch on your next visit. There is so much to learn and I hope that this will wet your appetite.


  2. Stellenbosch Heritage
  3. Stellenbosch University Theology Department
  4. Stellenbosch Connect
  5. Wikipedia list of Heritage Sites in Stellenbosch

Wine of Origin System in South Africa

As in Europe certain areas and farms have become renowned for the wine that they produce, for  a long time this uniqueness was not protected. In 1972 legislation was formulated to introduce the Wine of Origin scheme. This scheme not only protests the origin but the specific cultivar and vintage.  The scheme complies with EU regulations as a large amount of wine is exported to Europe. This scheme was officially instituted in 1973, in accordance with the Wine, Other Fermented Beverages and Spirits Act of 1957.

Two factors  which play the most important  role in determining the character and quality of a wine are nature (soil, climate and location) and the human hand (cultivar choice, viticultural practices and winemaking techniques). Nature is considered to have a greaqter influence as in certain areas vines grow better and soil climate and location affect the taste of grapes produced and thus the wine. If a wine claims origin the law requires that 100% of grapes come from that specific area.

Demarcation of areas of origin

A production unit can be any size from a single vineyard to a geographical unit; these are all defined by law and published in the Government Gazette.An Estate wine has to be produced in adjoining vineyards farmed as single units and all processes up to bottling must occur at the estate, this wine may then be certified as an estate wine and thus labeled and marketed as such.

The largest demarcation is a geographical unit, there are currently 3 geographical units in South Africa, namely Western Cape, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

A region is the next demarcation, these are defined according to the surrounding area name, such as rivers, valleys etc.

Regions are further divided into Districts and the districts into wards

When a ward is defined, soil, climate and ecological factors play a very important role as they have a clear influence on the character of the wine. The proposed area name also has to be the real geographical place name and nature has to dictate that the specific area can actually produce wines with a distinctive character. 

Districts have to meet the same criteria as wards but with a broader definition of the relevant area using macro geographical characteristics such as mountains and rivers. Naturally, a greater variety of soil types are allowed than in the wards.

Table of Demarcated Wine Producing areas
Le Chasseur
WORCESTER Aan-de-Doorns
Hex River Valley
KLEIN KAROO No district Montagu
No district Tradouw
No district Tradouw Highlands
No district Upper Langkloof
No district Outeniqua
No district Constantia
No district Hout Bay
TYGERBERG Durbanville
PAARL Franschhoek Valley
Voor Paardeberg
STELLENBOSCH Jonkershoek Valley
Devon Valley
Polkadraai Hills
DARLING Groenekloof
SWARTLAND Riebeekberg
No district Spruitdrift
No district Vredendal
No district Bamboes Bay
No region OVERBERG Elgin
Klein River
No region CAPE AGULHAS Elim
No region WALKER BAY Hemel-en-Aarde Valley
Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley
Sunday’s Glen
Bot River
Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge
No region PLETTENBERG BAY No ward
No region No district Prince Albert Valley
No region No district Lamberts Bay
No region No district Swartberg
No region No district Cederberg
No region No district Ceres
No region No district Herbertsdale
NORTHERN CAPE No region No district Rietrivier FS
No region No district Hartswater
No region No district Lower Orange
No region DOUGLAS No ward
KWAZULU NATAL No region No district No ward

Cultivar in the wine of origin Scheme

All the cultivars used in South Africa belong to the Vitis vinifera species which was originally imported from Europe. Most cultivars are imported but there are a those that are unique to South Africa created by crossing varietals. The best known is the red variety Pinotage, which is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. Also attracting attention is the white variety Nouvelle, a crossing of Semillon and Crouchen Blanc (better known as Cape Riesling). There are approximately 75 cultivars approved for the production of wines of origin. The name of the culivar may be placed on the label if 85% of the content orininates from that cultivar

Grape cultivars to which the Wine of Origin Scheme applies :
  • Alicante Bouschet (Henri Bouschet)
  • Auxerrois, Barbera
  • *Bastardo do Castello
  • *Bastardo do Menudo
  • Bukettraube
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Carignan
  • Chardonnay
  • Chenel
  • Chenin Blanc (Steen)
  • Cinsaut (Cinsault)
  • Clairette Blanche
  • Colombar (Colombard)
  • Cornifesto
  • Crouchen (Riesling**;Cape Riesling; Kaapse Riesling)
  • *Donzellinho do Castello
  • *Donzellinho do Gallego
  • Durif
  • Emerald Riesling
  • *Erlihane
  • Fernão Pires
  • Furmint
  • Gamay Noir
  • Gewürtztraminer
  • Grachen
  • Grenache (Red/Rooi)
  • Grenache Blanc (White/Wit)
  • Harslevelü
  • Kerner
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Meunier (Pinot Meunier)
  • Morio Muscat
  • *Mourisco Tinto
  • Mourvèdre (Mataro)
  • Müller-Thurgau
  • Muscat d’Alexandrie (Hanepoot)
  • Muscat de Frontignan (Muscadel)
  • Muscat de Hambourg
  • Muscat Ottonel, Nebbiolo
  • Nouvelle
  • *Olasz, Palomino (White French)
  • Petit Verdot (Verdot)
  • Pinotage
  • Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder)
  • Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)
  • Pinot Noir
  • Pontak (Teinturier male)
  • Riesling*** (Rhine Riesling; Weisser Riesling)
  • Roobernet
  • Rousanne,
  • Ruby Cabernet
  • Sangiovese
  • Sauvignon Blanc (Blanc Fumé)
  • Schönburger
  • Sémillon (Groendruif)
  • Shiraz (Syrah)
  • Souzào
  • Sultana (Sultanina; Thompson’s Seedless),
  • Sylvaner
  • Tannat
  • Tempranillo (Tinta Roriz)
  • Therona
  • *Tinta Amarella (Tinta Amarela; Trincadeira; Trincandeira Preta)
  • Tinta Barocca
  • Tinta Francisca
  • Touriga Franca
  • Touriga Nacional
  • Ugni blanc (Trebbiano)
  • Verdelho
  • Viognier
  • Weisser Riesling (Rhine Riesling)
  • Zinfandel (Primitivo)

* This Scheme is applicable to this cultivar only until 31 December 2010.

**This name (Riesling) may only be used for wine produced from the Crouchen grape cultivar until, and inclusive of, the 2009 grape harvest.

***This name (Riesling) may only be used for wine produced from the Weisser Riesling/ Rhine Riesling grape cultivar as from the 2010 grape harvest.


With time, changes take place in a wine and therefore the age of a wine, with specific reference to vintage, can serve as a guide to another aspect of its character. 

The vintage which appears on the label of a wine confirms that at least 85% of the content of that bottle is from that specific claimed year. Vintage may only be indicated on a label if the wine is certified by the Wine and Spirit Board.

Certification as a guarantee to the public

A certification seal is a guarantee to the public that the claims made on the label are true and the wine was of good quality when cerfitied. A wine can only be certified when when all requirements of the wine of origin scheme are met i.e.  origin (eg Paarl), cultivar (eg Riesling) and vintage (eg 1997), the wine is also evaluated by one of the tasting panels of the Board and samples of all wines are also scientifically analysed to determine whether all the legal requirements have been met.

If a claim is to be made on origin, cultivar or vintage, a wine has to be certified. A certification seal is put on the packaging of such wine, confirming that while being evaluated by the Board the wine was of good quality and that any claims made on the label were checked and are truthful. 

Strict control is administered when a producer wants to certify a particular wine. Through an identification number on each certification seal, all information, from the pressing of the grapes, through the wine making process, to the certification of the final product, can be established. Control is exercised at the following stages: when an application is made to press grapes, during pressing, blending and bottling, and also when the preliminary and final approval is given.

During censorial evaluation to have the wines certified, the judges look for the following possible unacceptable quality characteristics:


Wine is not brilliant as it contains suspended particles or sediment, or excessive crusting has taken place and it can be described as slightly turbid.


With regard to age, cultivar and type of wine, it has:

· Too much colour

· Faulty colour

· Insufficient colour


With regard to age, cultivar or type of wine:

· Has no or insufficient recognisable wine flavour.

· Reveals so much wood character that it dominates the wine flavour.

· Has an insufficient or faulty cultivar character.

· Has an undesirable flavour (eg sulphuric compounds, oxidised, phenolic,

geranium, volatile acidity, ethyl acetate, sulphur dioxide, cork, filtering material,

oil, paint, mould, etc).

· Has the character of an over-matured wine.

· Has an excessively sharp spirit or brandy flavour.

· Does not display the required distinctive flavour.

Taste With regard to age, cultivar or type, the wine:

· Has no or insufficient recognisable taste, it can be described as watery

· Reveals so much wood character that it dominates its recognisable taste.

· It is too astringent: press must, stalk or husk character dominate its taste.

· Has an insufficient or faulty cultivar character.

· Has an undesirable taste (eg too acidic, too harsh, too bitter, or that of sulphuric compounds, oxidised, phenolic, geranium, volatile acidity, ethyl acetate, sulphur dioxide, cork, filtering material, ethyl acetate,

oil, paint, mould, etc).

· Has the character of an over-matured wine.

· Does not display the required distinctive taste.

Label Requirements

The label committee has to approve all labels before they can be used on certified wines as prescribed by regulations.

All compulsory particulars such as the class name, alcohol content, name and address or code number of the responsible seller, the origin appellation or the name of the geographical unit has to appear in the same visual field on one or more labels of a bottle of wine. Click HERE to see details of information which must appear on the label.  

Compulsory information must be clearly distinguished from other information on the label. The following information may only be used with regard to the selling of wine if the Wine of Origin Scheme authorises it:

· The name of the area which is defined as a unit for the production of estate 
  wine, ward, district, region or geographical unit.

· Names of grape cultivars.

· The indication of vintage.

· The words ‘estate’, ‘vineyard’, ‘origin’ and ‘vintage’.

· The term ‘Wine of Origin’.


A brief history of Wine Production in South Africa

Almost all wine produced in South Africa comes from grapes grown in the Western Cape Province although vineyards and wineries are spreading from the Cape to the rest of South Africa. It is thus important to start at the very beginning, the “discovery” of the Cape.

The first recorded discovery of the Cape of Good Hope was by Portugal ‘s Bartholomew Diaz in 1488. Antonio de Saldanha, a Castelinian-Portugese Captain, was the first European to land in Table Bay in 1503 and named Table Mountiain. In 1580, Sir Francis Drake, an English captain who lead the first English circumnavigation of the world, from 1577 to 1580, sailed around the Cape in The Golden Hind and recorded in his journal “This Cape is a most stately thing, and the fairest Cape in the whole circumference of the earth”.

In 1652 the Dutch East India Company established a post at Table Bay to provide vegetables, livestock and medical facilities for ships. This was to ward off scurvy for sailors continuing their voyage along the spice route Jan van Riebeeck, the first Governor acquired the Bishopscourt Estate in 1658 and established the first vineyard in South Africa. In 1659 the first South African wine made from French Muscadel grapes was successfully produced. As the market for Cape wine grew, the East India Company brought in a winemaker from Alsace, France, along with winemaking equipment and a cooper to make oak wine barrels.

In 1679 Simon van der Stel was appointed to succeed van Riebeeck as governor of the Cape Colony. Against Dutch East India Company regulations he orchestrated a deal to buy a 1,850 acre (750 hectare) estate near Table Mountain – a grant 15 times larger than the Company’s normal provision. He named this estate Constantia. Between 1688 and 1690s the Cape Colony experienced an influx of French Huguenots. Simon van der Stel, eventually gave the settlers land near Boschendal in what is now Franschoek, known as the “French corner”. The Huguenots brought with them their viticulture and winemaking experience from their homeland. The descendants of these settlers still play a vital role in the South African wine industry, marrying an Old World winemaking philosophy to the technological advances of New World wine.

In the 19th century, South Africa fell under British rule, which proved lucrative for the wine industry as South African wine flowed into the British market. Following the devastation from the phylloxera epidemic in the late 19th century, many vineyards were replanted with high yielding grape varieties such as Cinsaut. By the early 1900s there was a large excess of wine, creating a wine lake effect which led some producers to pour their unsalable wine into local rivers and streams. The depressed prices caused by this out-of-balance supply and demand dynamic prompted the South African government to fund the formation of the Koöperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika Bpkt (KWV) in 1918. Initially started as a co-operative, the KWV soon grew in power and reputation, setting policies and prices for the entire South African wine industry. To deal with the wine glut the KWV restricted yields and set minimum prices, encouraging the production of brandy and fortified wines.

In 1925 Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University bred the Pinotage grape a viticultural cross of two varieties of Vitis vinifera, Pinot noir and Cinsaut (also known as Hermitage in South Africa) combining the best qualities of the robust Hermitage with Pinot Noir, a grape that makes great wine but can be difficult to grow.

For much of the 20th century, the wine industry of South Africa received very little attention on the worldwide stage. Its isolation was further deepened by boycotts of South African products in protest at the country’s system of Apartheid. It wasn’t until the late 1980s and 1990s when Apartheid was ended and the world’s export market opened up that South African wines began to experience a renaissance. Many producers in South Africa quickly adopted new viticultural and winemaking technologies. The presence of flying winemakers from abroad brought international influences and focus on well known varieties such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The reorganization of the powerful KWV co-operative into a private business further sparked innovation and improvement in quality. Vineyard owners had previously relied on KWV’s price-fixing structure, that bought their excess grapes for distillation.

In 1990, less than 30% of all the grapes harvested were used for wine aimed at the consumer market, with the remaining 70% being discarded, distilled into brandy or sold as table grapes and juice. By 2003 these proportions had reversed, with more than 70% of the grapes harvested that year reaching the consumer market as wine.

During the 21st century the growing influence of black Africans in the wine industry has brought a significant change in the South African wine industry. Through various Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programs, black ownership and involvement in vineyards and wineries has been steadily increasing. In 1997, the first winery with significant black involvement, New Beginnings was founded in Paarl and was followed by Thandi in Elgin. In 2001 Mont Rochelle Mountain Winery in the Franschhoek Valley became the first wholly black-owned winery in South Africa when it was purchased by Miko Rwayitare, a businessman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.