A New Day for Anthonij Rupert Wyne

rupert-logoNew developments at the home of Anthonij Rupert Wyne, one of South Africa’s renowned wine producers, have invigorated this destination for wine lovers near Franschhoek. The owner of renowned L’Ormarins and Anthonij Rupert labels, Anthonij Rupert Wyne is also the brainchild behind the South Africa’s Old Vines initiative to preserve wine industry heritage. 

The acquisition in February 2011 of land adjoining L’Ormarins heralded a new phase in the long history of Anthonij Rupert Wyne. Following the addition of 452ha of land, including 72ha of vineyards, cellars, a manor house and other facilities, a luxurious, multi-level tasting room, antipasto bar and gourmet emporium to showcase Anthonij Rupert Wyne’s Terra del Capo range was completed at the end of last year. 

On its heels, the new Anthonij Rupert tasting room has just opened its doors, welcoming visitors to one of the Drakenstein valley’s most splendorous wine farms. “The public has had very limited access to the farms up to now. The work done since the incorporation of the neighbouring property and ensuing developments, have made facilities truly ready for display,” says Anthonij Rupert Wyne MD Gary Baumgarten. 

There are five ranges in the Anthonij Rupert Wyne portfolio, of which Anthonij Rupert is the flagship. L’Ormarins is the home its MCC wine; Terra Del Capo houses its Italian varietals; Protea, designed for earlier enjoyment; and, Cape of Good Hope, an exciting range made from some of the oldest South African vines. 

Cape of Good Hope comprises terroir-specific wines created in recognition of the South Africa’s 350-year-old vinous heritage. Their first vintage was launched in 2011, the result of the Old Vines Initiative. This initiative was launched seven years ago by Johann Rupert, who took on the wine mantle of the Rupert family following the untimely death of his brother and renowned winemaker Anthonij, in 2001. 

The Old Vines Initiative is regarded has a valuable contribution to the protection of South African heritage and mirrors the Rupert family’s contributions in the preservation in other fields such as iconic art and architecture. 

It was in 2006 that Johann Rupert initiated the search for all vineyards in South Africa older than 40 years. The objective of the project is to encourage farmers to keep these vineyards, or pieces of history, in the ground by offering the farmers a premium for their fruit. Although the yield per hectare becomes lower with age, the quality of the fruit increases drastically and the wines offer more complexity and structure. In the past, grapes from surviving old vines were simply added to a blend without distinction. The Cape of Good Hope range strives to vinify these old blocks separately and attempts to express the terroir of the vineyard through the vine. 

The greatest portion of old vines was tracked down through VinPro and SAWIS archives by viticulturist, Rosa Kruger, who was at L’Ormarins when this project was conceived. Chris Loubser and Johan Nel, farm managers at L’Ormarins and Riebeeksrivier respectively, also sourced some of these vineyards. 

Over 100 vineyards older than 40 years have been tracked down over the years. 

It is thanks to this effort that the initiative has seen wines produced from bushvine Semillon planted in the Citrusdal mountain in 1950 on the farm now owned by Henk Laing; bushvine Pinotage planted on top of the Paardeberg Mountain in 1956 on the farm now owned by Stefan Basson; bushvine Chenin blanc planted in the Citrusdal mountain in 1964 on farms now owned by Bassie van Lill of Arbeidsend and Jozua Visser of Oudam; and, Hanepoot planted in Breedekloof in 1882 on a farm owned today by Neels Boonzaaier. 

The tale of how each vine was located is fascinating in itself considering the very limited written historical record. Johan Nel tells for example of one small vine block flourishing in a remote wasteland thanks to roots that burrowed over decades deep into the earth; bush vines the size of trees; and tell-tale vine arrangements planted in the higgledy-piggledy fashion of early farmers. 

These vines, the oldest of which date back to 1882, survived the tempestuous and most exciting years that created South Africa’s wine industry today. Among them, there was Phylloxera in 1886, and the birth of the powerful KWV in 1918; the development of Pinotage in the late 1920s and emergence of Wine of Origin in legislation in 1970s. 

Intimately linked to this historical procession was the arrival in 1694 of Jean Roi in the Drakenstein. As the first owner of L’Ormarins – the modern-day home of Anthonij Rupert Wyne – he planted 4 000 vines. In 1799 a cellar was built on the farm followed by a manor house in 1811 – both were restored in 1984. 

The late Dr Anton Rupert acquired L’Ormarins in 1969. He is remembered as an industrialist, but he was a formidable contributor to the South African wine and liquor industry through among others ownership of L’Ormarins and La Motte; and, business interests in Stellenbosch Farmers Winery and Distillers Corporation, the forerunners of South African wine and liquor giant Distell. 

L’Ormarins has always been the home of Anthonij Rupert Wyne, but gives its name to the L’Ormarins Méthode Cap Classique wine too.  This is a premium Brut MCC NV, the brainchild of the late Anthonij Rupert who dedicated much of his time in creating the perfect MCC for L’Ormarins. After his untimely passing, Johann Rupert took up the pursuit of this vision. 

The Anthonij Rupert Wyne flagship range is bottled under the name Anthonij Rupert and its first vintage was released in 2009 with the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah of the 2005 vintage all scoring 90+ in Wine Spectator. The state-of-the-art cellar, with revolving ceiling and underground barrel cellar, in which they are made was completed in 2005 and erected in memory of Anthonij Rupert. 

The range of Italian varietal wines, Terra del Capo, was conceived by Anthonij Rupert in 1997. A year later Terra Del Capo wines were produced in at Rupert and Rothschild, moving to L’Ormarins at the turn of the millennium. 

The Anthonij Rupert Wyne portfolio is completed with Protea, a collection of wines dedicated to the diversity of varietal character. 

Along with the recently enlarged L’Ormarins estate, Anthonij Rupert Wyne includes the Altima, Riebeeksrivier and Rooderust farms. 

Altima, situated near Villiersdorp, was bought in 2008. Altima lies in the Elandskloof, an isolated valley surrounded by a steep mountain range. 

During winter these mountains are typically covered with snow and the highest vineyards occasionally too. The climate is continental due to the huge difference in temperature between day and night, and is ideal for grape vine development. 

Riebeeksrivier on the slopes of the Kasteelberg overlooks the Swartland. The farm’s history dates back to the early 1700s although it first vineyards were only planted in 1972. Old Chenin blanc vines planted in the late 1980s and Cinsaut planted in the early to mid 1990s still produce a good quality crop. The Rupert family acquired the farm in 2007, specifically for the production of high quality Rhône cultivars. 

Rooderust farm has approximately 120ha under vines on even land and is situated in the Darling area, 13km from the Atlantic Ocean. It was bought in 1998 and produces a consistently high quality crop thanks to the low rainfall and sea breezes during summer. 

As for L’Ormarins, the farm has a combination of both low-lying land as well as moderate to steep slopes. The vineyards are mainly planted on the slopes of the Groot Drakenstein Mountains where the granite soils produce robust, expressive wines. Some of the vineyards have also been planted more densely to give true expression to the terroir, using vertical pruning systems and the typical échalas style of the Rhône region in France. 

The neighbouring property that formerly belonged to Graham Beck Wines has been integrated. Most of the vineyards were uprooted and only the Chardonnay and Pinot noir blocks were left as these grapes will be used for MCC production. 

Also situated at L’Ormarins is the Drakenstein Stud, home of champions including Trippi and Horse Chestnut; and, the renowned Franschhoek Motor Museum, which remains a prominent destination for motoring enthusiasts.  

• Terra del Capo Tasting Room is open Tuesdays to Sundays 10h00 to 16h30. Anthonij Rupert Tasting Room is open Mondays to Saturdays 10h00 to 16h30. Both are closed on Good Friday and Christmas day. For further information, call 021 874 9004 or email tasting@rupertwines.com

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