The Beauty of The Breedekloof

Seven reasons to take a trip to the Breedekloof Wine Route or to treat yourself to a Breedekloof wine

The Breedekloof Wine Route is comprised of 22 wineries, which range from small boutiques, to cellars and estates.

The Breedekloof also attracts cyclists, fly fishing enthusiasts and gin enthusiasts to Tierkop Farm for Monk’s Gin. The Breedekloof draws prospective brides and grooms to its breathtaking venues, which include structural marvel, Bosjes Wedding Venue, designed by architects, Steyn Studio.

Henri Swiegers, Production Manager at Breedekloof winer cellar, Badsberg said: “wine reminds me of all the things around us that we don’t appreciate every day. Stop and smell the flavours.”

Merwida is another of the celebrated wineries in the Breedekloof. Winemakers, Magnus Kriel, Sarel van Staden and Lieza van der Merwe are responsible for the vinification of 800 hectares under vine, with a selection from 32 different cultivars.

Winemaker, Lieza van der Merwe walks us through seven reasons to explore the beauty of the Breedekloof.

Image above: Lieza van der Merwe, courtesy of Merwida Wines

  1. Terroir

The Breedekloof is helmed in by the Slanghoek and Du Toitskloof Mountains on the west and south west, and the Hex River Mountains on the north-eastern side.

Lieza says, “a general, unique feature of this area is the slower ripening that the grapes undergo due to the region being closed off by the various mountain ranges. This allows the cooler night air to be trapped. The longer hang time on the vines allow the grapes to gain an extra dimension and tangible complexity, which allows for superb expression.”

While the rest of the country is harvesting at full speed in February, Lieza says the Breedekloof tends to still lie in wait for their grapes to ripen.

“The diversity in terroir is matched by various approaches the winemakers use in the different wineries,” Lieza says.

  1. Challenges Accepted

Lieza says: “the prevailing drought led to challenging farming and grape-growers had to work ‘smart’ with their water.”

Alongside the drought of 2015-2018, Lieza confirms that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Breedekloof community.

She says, “it has been an incredibly sad time in our valley.”

  1. Valuable Valley

While you’re en-route to Merwida, Lieza recommends five gems to visit in the valley:

  1. Jason’s Hill: Ivy is a treat and a phenomenal winemaker, the views from their farm are breath-taking!
  2. Du Toitskloof: Their new Old Vine Range is great.
  3. Opstal: Great views, great wines and you can have a lovely lunch at their restaurant – and even stay over at their new mountain cottages.
  4. Olifantsberg: Incredible site-specific wines.
  5. La Belle Rebelle: Great diversity of wines and they even make craft gin!
  6. Merwida Views

Merwida opened their brand-new tasting room facility, Huis Te Merwede at the end of 2020. The venue will also be available for intimate functions and gatherings.

“Huis Te Merwede is one of the two original Merwida homesteads, built in the early 1970’s,” Lieza says.

“The newly renovated homestead houses a stylishly atmospheric wine-tasting area where Merwida’s range of terroir-driven wines can be established, a tea room and a tasting facility. The stylish interiors spill out onto the homestead’s lush, verdant gardens, allowing visitors to also enjoy the fresh open-air space, “Lieza says.

  1. Chenin for the Win

According to SAWIS statistics available in 2019, 17,103hectares of Chenin Blanc are under vine in South Africa. 16% of these vines, or 2,805 hectares are in the Breedekloof. In 2019, roughly 19% of South Africa’s vineyards comprised of Chenin Blanc.

Lieza says: “the Breedekloof region was always a region known for producing excellent wine for distilling purposes, so we have always had large plantings of the three work-horses, Chenin Blanc, Cinsault and Colombar.”

“People often forget that only the best quality wine is required for brandy distillation, and a brandy base wine has a long list of requirements – it is not just plonk,” Lieza says.

“The large amount of Chenin planted in the Breedekloof has slowly dwindled as producers started planting more popular varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The Breede Makers, however, have gone out of their way to find old, beautiful blocks of Chenin that are still producing amazing grapes. We are using these single vineyard blocks to produce our special and unique wines,” Lieza affirms.

Image above: Merwida Family Vintners Chenin Blanc, courtesy of Merwida wines

  1. Crushing it

Merwida Family Vintners Chenin Blanc is a refined, structured Chenin Blanc. The wine has the potential to travel from the farm to your table. Lieza describes it as: “a wine that is made from a generational love of winemaking and wine drinking. It pairs beautifully with spicy curry and some fresh, butter naan.

In addition, Merwida Pinotage Rosé is a fine ambassador for the farm and valley. Lieza says: “we have always produced a Rosé under the Merwida brand, but three years ago, we decided to solely use Pinotage grapes for the production of this wine. Pinotage is a cultivar that lends itself beautifully to this style of wine. It bursts with red fruit flavours and produces a wonderful, light-pink colour that is just perfect for a glass of Rosé in summer!”

The Breedekloof climate has also proved to be fortuitous for the Italian red wine grape – Barbera.

“Barbera is an Italian variety that is mainly grown in northern Italy – in the Piedmont area – the climate there is Mediterranean and warm,” Lieza says, “so when we experimented with planting some Barbera in the early 2000’s, we saw that the variety adapted really well to the warm, Mediterranean-style climate in our area. The vines flourished, and produced a beautifully spicy wine with body and grip that is such a delight to drink – and make!”

While Merwida Sauvignon Blanc Cap Classique is a sparkling wine that scintillates, Lieza teases oenophiles to continue to watch out for a special Chardonnay Cap Classique project.

  1. Tuning the Vine

In 2017, the Breede Makers described themselves by way of song.

Annamarie van Niekerk, head winemaker at Botha Cellar selected ‘Eye of the Tiger’ because: “Breedekloof Chenin is bold and beautiful, a conqueror.”

Heinrich Lategan, winemaker and manager at Lateganskop chose ‘It’s a Kind of Magic’ by Queen. Magnus Kriel, general manager and head winemaker at Merwida chose U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’.

In 2021, Lieza considers the global health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and chooses Destiny’s Child’s Survivor, in retrospect. She says: “we have to believe we will get through this.”

- Blog by Tshepang Molisana