Theuniskraal gets a new look

Monday, 15 October, 2012
Cape Legends
Theuniskraal, one of Tulbagh’s best-known wine farms and South Africa's first white-wine estate, has given its range a more elegant look and at the same time switched from traditional cork closures to screwcap.
“We are very excited about the change in the packaging of our wines,” says winemaker Andries Jordaan, the third generation at Theuniskraal. “We wanted our wines to resonate more with a younger set of wine drinkers without losing its appeal to our more mature and established consumer base.”

The new-look range comprises three wines from the 2012 vintage – the acclaimed Theuniskraal Cape Riesling; the Theuniskraal Bouquet Blanc, a sweet white blend of Gewürztraminer and Muscat de Frontignan; and the Theuniskraal Moscato Rosé, a semi-sweet blend of Muscat Ottonel, Muscat de Frontignan and Shiraz.  It also includes the 2011 Theuniskraal Semillon Chardonnay, an unwooded blend of these two cultivars; and the 2011 Theuniskraal Prestige, a dry red blend of Ruby Cabernet, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. 

Theuniskraal has a history as interesting and old as the town of Tulbagh itself. Situated some 120km from Cape Town, Tulbagh is the centre of one of South Africa’s oldest agricultural regions. 

According to tradition, three families settled in the picturesque valley in 1699. One of the families had a son named Theunis who was granted land to the north of the village. His property was originally named Theuniskuyl, but by 1785, when vines had already been planted there, the name was changed to Theuniskraal. In 1927 the widow Jordaan from De Doorns bought the farm for her two sons. The elder, Andries, farmed on Theuniskraal, while the younger, Harry, did so on Agenda, a portion of the original farm.

The private wine industry at that time was almost non-existent, but Andries was determined to make high-quality wine. By the 1940s he was shipping respectable quantities of wine in bulk to London. Great wooden vats were sent out to the Cape from Europe by sea and then on to Tulbagh by rail where they were filled with wine and sent back the same way.

In 1948, the estate launched a Riesling (Cape Riesling) which two years later was awarded a gold medal at the Commonwealth Wine Show in London. Theuniskraal Cape Riesling has had a great following ever since. 

Nowadays the whole family works on Theuniskraal. Rennie, the eldest son of Andries Jordaan and now semi-retired, still provides very valuable input for the new generation of Jordaans who is continuing the family tradition, with Andries Junior as principle winemaker and cousins Wagner and Flippie assisting him. 

Theuniskraal is situated about 7km to the north of Tulbagh, tucked away in the Winterhoek valley. A haven with a temperate climate, the valley is girdled by the lofty peaks of the Obiqua, Winterhoek and Witzenberg mountains, offering perfect slopes, protection and superb conditions for vines of a wide range of cultivars. 

The mountains form an important watershed. From them spring the three most important rivers of the Western Cape, the Berg, the Breede and the Olifants. With their peaks more than 2 000m above sea level, these mountains are regularly snow-clad in winter, giving the vines the opportunity to go into proper dormancy, essential for late-budding varietals such as Cape Riesling, Shiraz and Chardonnay. Intense cold leads to more even budding in spring, which impacts beneficially on the quality of the grapes.

The soils provide excellent growing conditions, especially for Riesling. Moveable trellising wires, careful canopy management and modern viticultural practices, plus the cooling shadows cast by the mountains, ensure the slow ripening of the grapes.

At Theuniskraal, natural farming methods combine happily with the latest technology to bring out the best in each vintage. A sophisticated drip irrigation system, with probes that measure soil moisture, supplements natural rainfall during the dry and warmer summer months. Three weather stations on the farm helps to forecast possible outbreaks of disease in the vineyards and to ensure that spraying is carried out only at the right times, and with the right chemicals. Fertilisation is computer-controlled and a patrol of vigilant ducks, rather than pesticides, decimates snails.

Currently, there are 130ha under vine, planted to thirteen varietals. All vineyards are trellised and receive supplementary drip irrigation owing to the very rocky, sandy-loam soils found on the farm. The most significant varietals are Cape Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Without good grapes there can be no fine wine. At Theuniskraal, grapes harvested in the cool of the morning are ripe, crisp and flavour-filled when they reach the cellar. Gentle handling and minimum manipulation preserve that flavour through all stages of wine-making.

Andries’ winemaking philosophy is one of simplicity. “I try to keep the process as uncomplicated as possible by doing the basics right, for as we all know, a great wine is made in the vineyard.” By putting a great emphasis on gentle handling and minimum manipulation, Andries does everything he possibly can to preserve the precious flavours and enhance the natural quality of the grapes. 

Theuniskraal wines represent consistently good quality and value.  It’s widely available from leading liquor outlets at around R34 to R45 a bottle.  

For further information:
Contact the estate on +2723 230 0687 or go to www.theuniskraal.co.za.    

Theuniskraal vineyards.
Theuniskraal vineyards.

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