The historic Vergelegen estate, located in Somerset West, Western Cape, has recently been named the top winery in Africa, and number 34 in the top 50 list of wineries worldwide.
Argentina’s Zuccardi Valle de Uco came first in the prestigious World’s Best Vineyards 2019 competition, where a global voting panel analyses 1 500 wineries from 17 countries.
According to the website of World’s Best Vineyards, the top 50 list is “based on the votes cast by the World’s Best Vineyards Academy, which is made up of nearly 500 leading wine aficionados, sommeliers and luxury travel correspondents from across the globe”.
The aim of the list is to raise the profile of wine tourism and give greater global recognition to deserving wineries.
Don Tooth, Managing Director of Vergelegen, says they are delighted by the accomplishment.
In the prestigious World’s Best Vineyards 2019 competition, Vergelegen was named the best winery in Africa, and number 34 overall. What does this award mean for Vergelegen?
We are absolutely delighted by this award. The Vergelegen team is committed to building South Africa’s reputation as a producer of world-class wines, and this win is an acknowledgement of that passion. Tourism is a vital part of South Africa’s economy, so this is not only a proud moment for Vergelegen, but for the South African wine and tourism sectors overall.
This is not the first award Vergelegen has won. What other awards has Vergelegen received over the last few years?
Over the past decade, Vergelegen has won numerous accolades and awards, both internationally and locally, including the Great Wine Capitals International Best of Wine Tourism, Cape Winelands, awarded in 2016 for an unprecedented fifth time.
The estate was also the first Biodiversity and Wine Initiative Champion in 2005.
Tell us more about Vergelegen’s wine. What makes it stand out?
Vergelegen’s vision is to compete with the top 100 wines of the world.
Vergelegen produces classical wine varietals, and their product portfolio comprises four distinctive tiers: Flagship Range (3 wines), Vineyard Range (3 wines), Reserve Range (9 wines) and Premium Range (4 wines). The Vergelegen “V” heads up the Flagship Range, and is the validation of Vergelegen’s striving to produce a wine that can stand on an equal footing with the most prestigious wines in the world.
It is also a contribution towards the realisation of the estate’s founder, Willem Adriaan van der Stel’s, pioneering vision for Vergelegen as a world-ranking model estate, way back at the beginning of the 18th century.
Finally, it marks the attainment of the objective of gaining global recognition for South Africa as a producer of great wines.
Please elaborate on the significance of Vergelegen.
Vergelegen, with a history spanning over 300 years, bears testament to South Africa’s rich winemaking history, as well as Cape cultural heritage.
Tell us a bit about Vergelegen’s history.
Vergelegen was originally a military outpost, established in 1685, and then granted to the governor of the Cape, Willem Adriaan van der Stel, in February 1700.
Van der Stel’s questionable use of the resources of his employer, the Dutch East India Company, to improve the estate, as well as a dispute with the local burghers, led to his recall to the Netherlands in 1706, and much of the estate was sold off.
In 1798, it was bought by the Theunissen family, who began cultivating vines, until phylloxera broke out in the late 19th century, wiping out many of its grapes.
It was later purchased by millionaire mine magnate Sir Lionel Phillips in 1917, after whose death it was sold at auction to the Barlow Family in 1941, and since 1987 it has been owned by Anglo American.
When Anglo American purchased the property in 1987, extensive investments were made in viticulture and in restoring the estate’s historic core, with a view to sharing the estate with visitors worldwide.
Among the many projects undertaken on the estate by Anglo American was an extensive programme of clearing invasive alien vegetation, land rehabilitation and land restoration.
The vineyards were re-established, following intensive climatic and soil tests. A detailed master plan was drawn up for the development of the farm, and, in 1992, an impressive, multilevel, sunken hilltop winery was built.
Today, Vergelegen competes with the top 100 wines of the world and positions itself among the leading conservers of Cape cultural heritage.
What are some interesting or lesser known facts about Vergelegen?
In 1990, the first meeting of the caucus of the ANC took place in the seclusion of Vergelegen before it was opened to the public, with, among others, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki attending.
Over the years, Vergelegen has hosted some significant people, such as world leaders, royal families, etc.
Please mention some of the significant people who have visited Vergelegen.
Vergelegen is first and foremost a South African heritage asset, and has played host to many of Europe’s royal families, including Queen Elizabeth II in March 1995, as well as numerous local and international state leaders, and it was the location chosen by President Mandela to host the first visit of a USA president, Bill Clinton, to South Africa, in March 1998.
What makes Vergelegen worth a visit?
Vergelegen is a destination: with its world-renowned handcrafted wines, history spanning over 300 years, heritage, exquisite gardens and refined cuisine, Vergelegen continues to be the choice of the discerning visitor seeking a total sensory experience.
Think of Vergelegen for spending quality time on your own, with your family and friends or with your business associates – the wine-tasting centre and cellar tours, Camphors at Vergelegen (signature restaurant), Stables at Vergelegen (bistro restaurant) and the seasonal Picnic at Vergelegen are only a few of a myriad of enjoyable activities at Vergelegen.
Visit Vergelegen's website for more information.
- Photos: provided