Bordeaux wine makers and indeed, France, have a lot in common with South African vineyards. Not only have several Bordeaux chateaux owners bought estates in South Africa but historically South Africa has a cultural heritage of French wine making which was brought over by the Huguenots. The Huguenot refugees fleeing from France in 1688 settled there and brought with them their wine making skills. The number of vines increased from 100 in 1655 to 1,5 million in 1700!
These immigrants were mainly settled in the Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl areas and a number of estates still have French names to this day as a reminder of their important contribution to this industry in the Western Cape. In fact Franschhoek translates as ‘French Corner’.
Some of the original wine estates established by the Huguenots that exist today are Simonsig (established by Jacques Malan in 1688), Fairview (1699), Boschendal (established in 1685), La Motte (established in 1709 by Pierre Joubert), Haute Cabrière (established by Pierre Jourdan in 1694), L’Ormarins (established by Jean Roi in 1694), Plaisir de Merle (established by Charles Marais in 1688) and Cape Chamonix (part of the original 1688 La Cotte estate).
Bordelaise wine makers have also settled in South Africa in more recent times: Bruno Prats, former owner and manager of Chateau Cos d’Estournel (Saint Estephe) and Hubert Boüard of Chateau Angelus (Saint Emilion) are shareholders in the Klein Constantia estate (in June 2012 Prats and de Boüard, merged their Stellenbosch based farm Anwilka with Klein Constantia). Klein Constantia dates back to the late 17th century and its sweet ‘Vin de Constance’ is world famous.
Napoleon Bonaparte had 1,126 litres (297 gallons) of Constantia wine shipped in wooden casks each year to Longwood House, his home in exile on St Helena from 1815 until his death in 1821. Apparently, on his deathbed, Napoleon refused everything offered to him but a glass of Constantia wine. It was enjoyed by European and Russian royalty and Jane Austen recommended it for a broken heart.
What’s more Dominique Hebrard, former owner of Chateaux Cheval Blanc and Bellefont Belcier (both in Saint Emilion) is consulting oenologist for Constantia Glen. Alain Mouiex, the proprietor of Chateau Fonroque (Saint Emilion) and Chateau Mazeyres (Pomerol), is part-owner of Ingwe in Stellenbosch. Pierre Lurton, director Chateau Cheval Blanc and CEO of Chateau d’Yquem is consultant for the Morgenster estate. Madame de Lencquesaing, former owner of Chateau Pichon Lalande (Pauillac) bought the Glenelly Estate in 2003, in the Idas Valley, located in Stellenbosch.
The Rothschilds also have a presence in South Africa. The branch of the family that own Chateau Clarke (Listrac and Moulis) are part-owners of the Fredericksburg Vineyards at the foot of the Simonberg Mountains, in South Africa (in 1997 the Rupert and Rothschild Vignerons was formed to encompass the estate). The Fredericksburg Vineyards date back to 1690 when two French Huguenot brothers – Jean and Samuel Nortier – settled there as farmers!
If you know of any more examples please get in touch!