Tuesday, 28 May, 2019
Wines of South Africa, Malu Lambert
“My grandmother was a Cloete,” says Carel Nel, owner and patriarch of Boplaas Family Vineyards. He tells me this fact as a reference to our surroundings, the famed and historic Groot Constantia (the estate was home to the Cloetes for five generations).

We’re outside the Jonkershuis Restaurant, sitting at a table, positioned on rough cobblestones. The air around us is practically tactile with history. It’s almost a living thing. It’s this connection, which prompted Nel to hold an event showcasing the estate’s wares to the wine media today. “Keeping the family ties alive,” he says with a smile. A nod to this history is Boplaas’s Ouma Cloete Straw Wine—made in the same style as Groot Constantia’s Grand Constance.

Nel tells me he’s “62 and a half”, broad-shouldered and white-haired, he’s engaging, with an ever-present humour simmering beneath the surface. I can’t help but picture him around a braai, a glass of red wine in hand, surrounded by family in friends.

He continues: “After the phylloxera epidemic destroyed these vineyards in the late 19th century, our family moved inland and settled in Calitzdorp.” Groot Constantia is not the only famous farm in this family’s lineage, in 1690 ancestor Guillaume Nel was the proprietor of Blaauwklippen in Stellenbosch.

But the Calitzdorp Nels have gone on to make their own history—from producing internationally acclaimed port-style wines and wines to award-winning brandy, gin and whisky from their distillery.

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Carel Nel
Carel Nel

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