French Wines in South Africa

New partnership between French vignerons and Klein Constantia Estate owner.

The late 17th century saw French protestants flee their homeland in the wake of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had guaranteed them religious tolerance.  Many came to South Africa where they helped to establish the Cape wine industry.

Today, another wave of French vignerons are descending on the Cape but for very different reasons. Mainly from Bordeaux, they represent some of the top names in that region who have recognized the potential for producing quality wine in these Southern Hemisphere vineyards without the restrictions imposed by their own laws.

Recently, Bruno Prats, previous owner of St. Estèphe Second Growth, Château Cos d'Estournel and Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, co-proprietor of St. Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, Château Angélus have arrived in the region. Anwilka is a joint venture between them and Lowell Jooste whose family owns Klein Constantia Estate, producer of Vin de Constance, the famed replica of the 18th Century Constantia dessert wine.

Jooste purchased  Anwilka, at the foot of the Helderberg mountain in the Stellenbosch area, in 1997. After extensive replanting of the 40 hectares of vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah (Shiraz), the first vintage of this wine was harvested in 2005.

The partners' aim is to set a new benchmark of quality South African red wine. Prats explains their vision: "We're not interested in squandering resources on lavish gateways and buildings, but we will spend whatever it takes to enhance the quality of the wine."

The first release, a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend, was launched in South Africa in March. The majority of the production was released to the Bordeaux trade at the end of March, the balance being offered on the local market.

Other well-known names in French wine who have invested in Cape vineyards include Anne Cointreau-Huchon, whose family has interests in Cognac and Champagne, Alain Moueix of Château Mazeyres, Pomerol and Madame May-Eliane de Lencquesaing of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande.

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