Stellenbosch’s unique Town Vineyard feels the first stomp of harvest feet

One of South Africa’s most unique vineyards, the Absa Perold Town Vineyard in Stellenbosch, was harvested for the first time this past weekend.This exceptional vineyard, which was planted in the heart of Stellenbosch three years ago to honour the town’s wine heritage, encompasses 800 Pinotage vines within 0,25ha. More than half of the vines are “owned” by individuals who wwere given the chance to acquire a few of the plants, thereby becoming part of this unique initiative to establish a Pinotage vineyard in the heart of Stellenbosch.

Top caption: Beyers Truter harvesting the Absa Perold Town Vineyard in Stellenbosch

According to Beyers Truter, chairman of the SA Pinotage Association and owner of a few of the vines, the aim of the Absa Perold Town Vineyard is to honour Stellenbosch’s wine heritage. “From the outset it was taken for granted that it would be a Pinotage vineyard,” says Truter.

“Pinotage is South Africa’s most famous grape variety. And the father of Pinotage, legendary viticulturalist Abraham Izak Perold, lived literally across the road from the vineyard,” recounts Truter.

Perold made the Pinotage breakthrough in 1925 by crossing two cultivars, Pinot Noir and Hermitage.

During the vineyard’s first official harvest on the weekend, proud vine owners cut and stomped their grapes under the watchful eye of representatives from Stellenbosch University’s faculty of Viticulture and Oenology. The University together with the Pinotage Association keep an eye on the vineyard, which also has a research purpose.

According to Dr Albert Strever of the Department of Viticulture and Oenology, the Absa Perold Village Vineyard represents a considerable level of vinous innovation.

“Each row is planted at a different angle to the sun, which gives us an idea of the influence of different angles to the direction of the sun during the season,” says Dr Strever. “In addition, the vineyard is not sprayed with any chemical substance. It therefore serves as a very interesting research vineyard for our students, from the vines themselves to the final bottled product.”

Prof. Bernard Lategan, founding director of Stellenbosch University’s Institute for Advanced Studies (Stias) upon whose property the vineyard stands, considers it important that the town vineyard represent innovation.

“It was initially the idea of the Stellenbosch Municipality to establish a town vineyard, and together with Absa and the SA Pinotage Association, Stias supports the project considering the definite research value contained within the unique row directionality,” says Prof. Lategan. “In addition, the establishment of this vineyard also offers a visible and tangible portion of marketing material for the University through which it is able to illustrate its link to the wine industry and the development of a wine culture to current and prospective students, as well as to South Africans and international visitors to Stellenbosch.”

With regards the first load of grapes, the wine will be made by the University in co-operation with the SA Pinotage Association.

“The vineyard is currently only three years old, so we don’t have a whole truckload of grapes,” says Truter. “There will however, be enough for at least a few bottles for each of the vineyard’s ‘owners’.

But as the vineyard ages and we get more grapes, this exceptional wine will be made available to the public.”

Anyone interested in acquiring a portion of the Absa Perold Town Vineyard in Stellenbosch may contact the Pinotage Association at [email protected]