The Romance of Robertson MCC

Johann de Wet, CEO of De Wetshof Estate in Robertson calls Robertson the Chardonnay hub of South Africa.

Johann says: “27% of South Africa’s Chardonnay is planted in Robertson. Each vineyard has its own fingerprint.”

Danie De Wet, Johann’s father, was among the South African winemakers who smuggled Chardonnay into South Africa in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s to circumvent the KWV’s onerous regulations. The Burgundian grape has flourished in various regions, throughout the Cape, despite its cantankerous origin story.

In Robertson, a significant portion of the Burgundian grape goes towards the production of Cap Classique.

In South Africa, the production of Cap Classique refers to the method of making sparkling wine in the traditional method – where the second fermentation occurs in the bottle. The first South African producer to succeed at making Cap Classique was Simonsig in Stellenbosch in 1971. Their Kaapse Vonkel is derived from ‘Cape Sparkle’ – a fitting tribute to the category.

In South Africa, the two most popular grapes for the production of Cap Classique are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, although winemakers have continued to experiment with other grapes. For instance, Swartland producer, Huis van Chevallerie has pioneered a Rosé Cap Classique from uniquely South African Pinotage grapes.

Johann says that the wealth of limestone soils in Robertson add to the success of Chardonnay in this wine region.

Pieter Ferreira, famed cellarmaster at Graham Beck, in Robertson says that much of South Africa’s sparkling wine owes its glimmer to Robertson soil and grapes. The Robertson wine valley is comprised of Langeberg towns: Robertson, Ashton, McGregor and Bonnievale.

Pieter Ferreira describes himself as “always in search of the perfect bubble”. In Robertson, Pieter Ferreira says he is in fine company amongst a group of Cap Classique producers in Robertson who have dubbed themselves ‘the limestone cowboys’.

  1. Viljoensdrift

Famed for its picnic river cruises along the Breede River, Viljoensdrift is also home to Villion Ca Classique.

Aboard a flat-bottomed boat named Uncle Ben 2, as you snack on picnic fare from the deli, you might be tempted to put a bottle of 100% Chardonnay Villion Blanc de Blancs or Villion Rosé Cap Classique made from Robertson Pinot Noir. With a name that sounds like million or billion – there are many reasons to smile at the sparkle that rises from Viljoensdrift.

  1. Bemind Wyne by Ilse Schutte

In 2015, Ilse Van Dijk Schutte founded Bemind Wyne in McGregor. Potchefstroom native, Ilse worked in various cellars after studying towards a BSc in Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Stellenbosch.

The variety of wines that have been produced at Bemind Wyne includes a Chenin Blanc NV Brut Cap Classique. Fermented in stainless steel, then left on the lees for 18 months, the McGregor hewn sparkling wine is a glimmer of the breadth of memorable wines that are made in McGregor.

  1. VRL Van Loveren

In the year 2000, the third generation of Robertson’s Retief’s cousins founded the Four Cousins wine range. Nico’s sons, Bussell and Hennie and Wynand’s sons, Phillip and Neil introduced one of South Africa’s most formidable family-owned wineries.

However, the Van Loveren family’s story and wine background goes back further than that millennium milestone. The Robertson farm was named after the family matriarch, Christina Van Loveren, renamed from Goudmyn F.

There are a variety of ranges that stem from this family’s business ventures, including the Christina single vineyard collection, a tribute to their matriarch. Christina includes a Pinot Noir Cap Classique, Brut Rosé and the Christina Brut Cap Classique, comprised of a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

  1. Weltevrede

Phillip Jonker, Weltevrede’s current custodian jokes that many of Robertson’s winemakers are cousins or related in various ways.

Weltevrede’s ‘The Ring’ Blanc de Blancs Cap Classique is a celebration of the joining of two families. Phillip writes of his barefoot bride, Lindelize, whom he met while he was studying to become a winemaker. Phillip’s debut wine was a Cap Classique, the cork of which he popped at his wedding. The maiden vintage of The Ring was served at Phillip and Lindelize’s wedding.

“The Ring is a constant reminder of this bond of love,” Phillip writes.

Alongside The Ring, Entheos Chardonnay Pinot Noir Cap Classique reflects the joy and ‘life within’ that Cap Classique exudes.


  1. Bon Courage

Bon Courage Jacques Bruere Cap Classique is only released after at least 48 months of lees contact, these are vintage Cap Classiques of distinction. Comprised of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir the Brut Reserve is accompanied by the Blanc de Blancs – a 100% Chardonnay Cap Classique, and Jacques Bruere Cuvee Rosé Brut, a predominantly Pinot Noir Cap Classique, with a dash of Chardonnay.

Bon Courage Estate was founded by Andre Bruwer who was the first winemaker in Robertson to be awarded the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year in 1990 for his Special Late Harvest. Current Cellar Master, Jacques Bruwer has been awarded widely for an array of wines from Shiraz to Cap Classique.

  1. Silverthorn

John Loubser has led a singular winemaking career, which included time at De Wetshof in Robertson as well as at Graham Beck with Pieter Ferreira.

In 2001, John was appointed as the cellarmaster at Steenberg and released Silverthorn Wines’ maiden vintage in 2004, before joining the Cape Winemakers Guild in 2005.

In 2003, John was awarded the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award for Steenberg Semillon. After fifteen sensational years at Steenberg, John stepped back as the General Manager of Steenberg to pursue the Silverthorn dream in Robertson from July 2017.

Using familiar and unusual varieties, Silverthorn continues to rise to every occasion. From Colombar in the River Dragon Cap Classique, to the 100% Chardonnay version, The Green Man, Silverthorn sparkles from Robertson to the light in many a bubbly lover’s eye.

  1. Graham Beck

Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira is synonymous with sparkling wine. Since 1990, Pieter has been part of the globally-renowned Graham Beck team. Graham Beck wines was founded in 1983. Pieter continues to be innovative and is renowned for his sparkling wine sagacity.

In 2016, Graham Beck announced that it would stop the production of still wines – including the Game Reserve, the Chalkboard and other ranges – to focus solely on Cap Classique.

In continued pursuit of ‘the perfect bubble’, Pieter is at the helm of the Graham Beck specialist sparkling wine cellar in Robertson.

Top: Phillip Jonker and Johann De Wet on the banks of the Breede River in Robertson

- Blog by Tšepang Molisana