Celebrating a varietal character and passing on the baton-nage
Vergelegen wine estate calls for applications for the post of winemaker
The Western Cape’s magnificent wine estates are frequently associated with winemakers who stamp their larger-than-life personalities on the vintages they nurture into maturity.
Vergelegen, the venerable 322-year-old wine farm in Somerset West, is no exception. It is not only renowned for its landmarks such as the “big five” camphor trees and elegant homestead, but also its maverick winemaker André van Rensburg. This summer, André will bring in his 25th – and final –Vergelegen harvest, and expectations are that it will once again produce outstanding wines that reflect the climate and soils of this quintessential South African wine estate.
André, who is retiring this year from winemaking at Vergelegen, grew up in Durbanville, in a home where wine was part of the family’s everyday life. His maternal grandfather was employed in wine- and brandy- making at KWV. André himself worked at the old Bottelary Co-op in Stellenbosch for a year and studied oenology at Stellenbosch University, graduating B.Sc. Hons Agric (Oenology), cum laude, in 1987. He built up experience at Saxenburg, Warwick and Stellenzicht, but his talent truly flowered at Vergelegen.
The year 1998 marked the start of an ideal partnership for the 35-year-old winemaker and the renowned estate that was evolving into a showcase of the best of South African history, culture, biodiversity and wine. Here there was ongoing investment in both the vineyards and a magnificent new gravity-fed cellar.
Recognition came fast from both local and international institutions, including two Pichon trophies at the International Wine and Spirit Competition for the best red blend in the world. André also won the Jan Smuts Trophy for the wine of the vintage in 1999, with the Vergelegen Sauvignon Reserve, the first time in more than 50 years that a white wine took this accolade. There were four consecutive Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show awards for best overall performance, two Best of Nation awards at the San Francisco International Wine Awards, and numerous Platter five star awards.
More recently, Winemag.co.za announced the Top 20 Wines South Africa 2021 and Vergelegen took top honours. The wines also received two Best of Category placements: Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc 2021 (95 points) in the unwooded Sauvignon Blanc, and Vergelegen Reserve Semillon 2019 (93 points) in the Niche White category.
André says one of his greatest achievements has been the eradication of leaf roll virus from the estate. Leaf roll virus diminishes the quality and volume of the harvest, and eventually the vines become uneconomical and must be uprooted. This ambitious project was initiated in 1999, working closely with Professor Gerhard Pietersen of the Agricultural Research Council – Plant Protection Research Institute at the University of Pretoria. Quality wines are made in the vineyards, not only in the cellar, and wine produced from these virus-free vines will continue to improve year after year.
This long-term strategy has, like many cycles in nature, prepared the ground for the next generation of winemakers who will take the baton from this industry giant. New perspectives and approaches are integral to continuing the evolution of Vergelegen wine.
There is now the proverbial once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a winemaker to pursue the production of outstanding wines and become a brand ambassador for this remarkable estate.
To find out more about the post of Vergelegen winemaker, and to submit credentials, kindly contact the Vergelegen HR Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline for submissions: Tuesday 22 March 2022, 18h00.