by Fred McMillin
for December 18, 1998

 

Winery of the Week

Fleur Du Cap is on the Map


Prologue

Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, King Louis XVI all were devotees of South African wine.

A more recent fan is the Wine Spectator's James Suckling who wrote, "The fine wines of South Africa were one of our great discoveries in 1995."

With 240 wineries, South Africa is the world's eighth largest wine producer in the world. Let's see how it got that way.


The Rest of the Story

1652—"Hallelujah" cried Capt. Jan van Riebeeck as his three ships and 216 settlers arrived at Table Bay in South Africa. They were to raise fresh fruit and vegetables to supply the passing spice-laden ships of the Dutch East India Company.

1656—At the captain's request, two ships arrive carrying the land's first wine vines, Chenin Blanc and Muscat of Alexandria.

Feb. 2, 1659—"Today, praise the Lord, wine was pressed for the first time from Cape grapes," wrote founder Riebeeck.

1679—A Dutch wine grape grower, Commander Simon van der Stel, replaces Capt. Riebeeck as governor but is not happy with the local wines, which have a "revolting sourness." However, he is much happier with the agricultural potential of the local mountain foothills, known as the "Wilde Bosch." Logically, Governor van der Stel named it "Stellenbosch," which soon became the wine center of South Africa.

1688—Wine quality receives a major boost when 200 French Huguenots flee persecution of Protestants in their homeland and are permitted to settle in South Africa.

1700—A farm is established in the Stellenbosch, which will become known as the Fleur du Cap. It is our Winery of the Week.


Just the Facts

Fleur Du Cap Winery Fleur Du Cap Winery, Stellenbosch (near Cape Town)
Union of South Africa
Vineyards—Includes a nursery of 11,000 rootstocks to furnish vines for their wineries on the marine-cooled coast.

Wines

    Chardonnay—Barrel-fermented in French oak. Critics like the increasing complexity and consumers like the price—$8!

    Cabernet Sauvignon—One of their best wines. $12.

    Pinotage—James Suckling says "South African Pinotage is stylish and should be taken seriously." My panel gave the Fleur du Cap a RECOMMENDED rating. $11.

Contact—If you can't reach Stellenbosch at (02231) 73480, try Michelle Armour, (510) 286-2000, at importer Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA.

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 

 

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