Vergelegen Wine Estate have some Exciting News and Updates

Vergelegen Wine Estate

RECENT HIGHLIGHTS

New winemaker at Vergelegen: Luke O’Cuinneagain’s appointment in late 2022 followed a rigorous recruitment process over several months, undertaken by an independent panel of wine experts. Luke holds a B.Sc. Agric.(Hons) (Viticulture and Oenology) from Stellenbosch University. He initially gained experience at Rustenburg Estate for five years, and from international winemakers at Château de Fieuzal  and Château Angelus in Bordeaux, Caves Robert Dietrich in Alsace, and Screaming Eagle in California before joining Glenelly estate.

State-of-the art eLearning Hub: Learners, who live on the estate, have a  new source of support and inspiration with their studies. A cottage at Harmony Village has been freshly refurbished to incorporate 10 learning stations, seven of which have computers. Additional facilities include a printer, stationery, a small kitchen to prepare hot drinks, and a small library. Teacher Kathryn Couzens is on hand every afternoon to offer support and guidance. The Hub was opened in September 2022 and it is currently available to grade eight to 12 learners. Development of the facility has been a team effort by staff members of the estate.

Café Fleur established: Vergelegen launched a new restaurant, Café Fleur, in May 2022. This destination restaurant is inspired by the floral beauty of the estate, as well as  the classic cuisine, elegant ambience, excellent service and wine-making styles of France.

Quagga birth: Vergelegen Wine Estate celebrated the birth of a young ‘Rau’ quagga, a rare zebra sub-species, on 14 December 2022. The arrival of the healthy youngster is a milestone in an ambitious project, initiated by  a dedicated group of conservationists in 1987, to breed an animal resembling as closely as possible the quagga. This animal was hunted to extinction in the second half of the 19th century and the last known mare died in Amsterdam Zoo in 1883.

Hosting 2023 Concours Mondial du Sauvignon:  The largest and most significant international competition dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc wine, which took place for the first time in South Africa in the competition’s 14 year history, culminated in a starlit dinner at Vergelegen on 16 March this year. The dinner was hosted by the cultivar association Sauvignon Blanc South Africa, with national and international partners.

Essence of Vergelegen photography competition: Vergelegen’s  inaugural photography competition attracted over 500 entries from talented amateur and professional photographers, based in South Africa and overseas. Winners were announced on 4 April.

LOOKING FORWARD

WINE

Luke O’Cuinneagain’s first harvest: The 2023 harvest has had its challenges, such as plentiful rain, and has required patience, says Luke. Walking the vineyards and understanding what each site can handle, and the condition of the various vineyard blocks,  has been crucial, followed by planned and precise interventions. “So far, at these early stages, I am very happy the way everything is turning out,” says Luke.

Marketing and  sales: A key opportunity is promoting Vergelegen wine to younger wine drinkers. The estate is also working with Haumann Smal, specialist wine label designers based in Stellenbosch, to tweak the labels and represent the range (currently  21 Vergelegen wines) accurately and in a fresh, appealing manner. The V and GVB labels are near completion and work has started on the Origin range. Winemaker Luke’s first wine, Sauvignon Blanc, should be released in the new branding, possibly as early as July.

V-Club: About two years ago, a number of high-net-worth business people, based in the USA and with strong South African connections, founded the V-Club and began promoting and selling Vergelegen wines. Interest in the label is growing and American sales, via the V-Club, are increasing through peer networking and limited publicity.

ENVIRONMENT               

Bee hives: Vergelegen has sold honey for some time from the farm – the late environmental manager, Gerald Wright, introduced hives in 2008. Many more hives will  shortly be installed, and honeybush, lucerne and lavender planted to supplement the fynbos and garden flowers. The hive site will be included in the environmental tour to raise awareness of the vital role that bees play in ecology.

Spekboom planting: Vergelegen will shortly plant four  hectares of spekboom, which absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, resulting in improved air quality and reduced carbon emissions. This will not only support Vergelegen’s long-term sustainability initiatives, but will be an additional marketing tool for the UK market as the estate will receive carbon credits.

HOSPITALITY         

Café Fleur: An exciting new winter menu is being finalised. Expect hearty favourites like oxtail jardinière with baby vegetables and mash, rib eye steak and parmesan skinny fries, and vegetarian options such as wild mushroom ragu.

Nguni Café: During the pandemic lockdown in 2021, when the estate could again welcome sit-down guests and offer on-site wine consumption, it opened a pop-up  gourmet hot dog café in the scenic surroundings of the Nguni cattle pastures. This was such a success that the Nguni Café will again be opened, possibly as early as May.

Coffee shop: Vergelegen Wine Estate is planning a coffee shop, with 20 interior and 20 outside seats, and ablution facilities, to open near the rose garden this summer.

GARDENS             

Camellia Gardens: Vergelegen is the home of the only International Camellia Garden of Excellence in Africa. There will soon be a focus on labelling plants, and improving signage and walkways to ensure this horticultural asset is maintained optimally.

Tree artist: Visitors to Vergelegen have marvelled at its magnificent trees since the farm was established over 300 years ago. Several of these arboreal treasures have been captured for posterity in a series of oil paintings by one of South Africa’s most talented tree artists. Johannesburg-based Dorothy Clark, who is renowned for her oil on canvas works featuring trees, plants, bushes and succulents, recently completed a month-long residence. The paintings are on display – and for sale – in Café Fleur restaurant.

This initiative complements earlier interventions, working with ceramic artist John Bauer, and now with local Somerset West mosaic artist  Romé Zurnamer. She has completed two works inspired by the colourful birds, plants, butterflies and  insects that are abundant on the estate, and has now started a third Vergelegen art work, with a fourth mosaic also in the pipeline.

Arbor Week: 29 August-September. Vergelegen Wine Estate intends to plant hundreds of trees, in conjunction with Radloff Park and Heart of the Helderberg members.