Yngvild Steytler of Kaapzicht told me some wonderful stories at a dinner recently. I won’t steal her thunder (or potential material) because she’s thinking of starting her own blog – and after hearing a few of the tales I think she should.
The event was a dinner for 20 or so folks at Mooiplaas. The family-run farm’s marketer, Dirk Roos, is a keen cook and has gained a reputation for his Langtafel (long table) lunches. The whole thrust of what Yngvild was saying is that Bottelary wine farmers and grape growers are a rather special group of people. “They are always willing to help – no matter what. When I go overseas on a marketing trip they feed my husband. If Oom Kosie’s (Steenkamp) lorry breaks down in the middle of harvest, one of the neighbours will be there within an hour or two to make sure the grapes get to the cellar… and if someone’s wife is in hospital, the kids will be picked up at school and taken care of without a problem.”
Steytler son and heir, 29-year-old Danie jnr chipped in with a few stories of his own. He’s worked harvests in America, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Greece, Germany and after all that experience, there’s nowhere he’d rather be than in the Bottelary hills of Stellenbosch. That might have something to do with his heritage but then there’s also a two hectare vineyard of the second oldest block of bushvine Chenin Blanc on the farm too. “And it’s got a SAWIS certificate proving its age,” Danie said. Together with lanky Bottelary wine centre manager Donovan Rall (he of the inaugural 5 Star Platter rating for his Rall Wines Swartland white blend fame…) Danie’s hatching a few plans for this special parcel of old Chenin Blanc.
Not only are Bottelary producers Mooiplaas, Kaapzicht, Groenland, Hazendal, Bellevue, Goede Hoop, Sterhuis, Fort Simon, Koopmanskloof and Hartenberg making good wines, but these selfsame producers were in the forefront of biodiversity efforts too. This group of farmers banded together to proclaim a conservancy in the Bottelary Hills long before it became fashionable to do so. Listening to Mooiplaas viticulturist Tielman Roos talk about the fauna and flora you realise how close to nature they all are.
“Where else in the winelands will you find a group of wine farmers who are prepared to help each other out rather than compete – and then still go on holiday together, canoeing on the Orange River?” was Yngvild’s parting shot. I find that sort of old-fashioned neighbourliness reminiscent of bygone times and while it’s a characteristic that’s in short supply nowadays, it doesn’t make them dinosaurs. It makes them special.