300 years of winemaking history

The history of Franschhoek and L’Ormarins in particular, is fascinating.


In 1688 a number of French Huguenots, persecuted in France for religious reasons, arrived in the Cape.  In 1692 land was granted to them by the Dutch East India Company, in what is now known as the Drakenstein Valley.  Amongst these Huguenots was one Jean Roi, who hailed from Lourmarin in Provence, France.  About 60 morgen were granted to him.  He named his farm L’Ormarins, after his hometown.  He immediately started fruit farming and also planted 4000 vines in 1694.  He built on the excellent foundation laid by Simon van der Stel, who produced his first wine in 1659 – the enormous quantity of 15 litres of Muscadel.  Prior to van der Stel, Jan van Riebeeck paved the way for the Huguenots by planting 1000 vines on his farm Bosheuvel (now the suburb Bishopscourt).


The Old Historic Cellar was built in 1799 and the Manor House in 1811.  During all these years the estate maintained a rich history of viticulture and winemaking.  Over the centuries L’Ormarins changed hands on many occasions. Between 1727 and 1856 it was occupied by the Haarhoffs, Jouberts, de Villiers’, Marais’, Morkels.  Up to 1957 the owners were the Lategans, Silberbauers and Hamiltons. 


In 1969 a new chapter in the colourful history of L’Ormarins began when the Rupert family bought the estate.  In addition to restoring the gracious homestead to its Huguenot splendor, the estate was completely redeveloped using new and noble varieties.  L’Ormarins now also has one of the most modern state-of-the-art wine cellars in the Cape, described by experts as “a winemakers’ dream”.


When Anthonij Rupert passed away tragically in 2001, his elder brother, Johann, took over ownership of the farm.  Anthonij had a particular interest in Italian varietals and introduced a range called “Terra del Capo” (Soils of the Cape).  This range has since been expanded.


A search for South African vines older than 40 years was begun by Johann in 2006.  This is known as the Cape of Good Hope Project.  It aims to encourage farmers to keep these vineyards, or pieces of history, in the ground by offering them a premium for their fruit.  This search led to the acquisition of three more farms:  Rooderust (Darling), Riebeeksrivier (Kasteelberg) and Altima in Villiersdorp. One of the main aims was to establish biodiversity in these regions.


In 2011 a property which belonged to Graham Beck, situated to the east of L’Ormarins, was bought and now forms part of the L’Ormarins vineyards.  Most of the vineyards were uprooted and only the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blocks were left as these grapes will be used for our Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wine.  In 2009 the first vintage from the Anthonij Rupert range was released and some 2005 varietals scored 90+ in the Wine Spectator.  It should be mentioned that the Anthonij Rupert Cabernet Franc 2005 scored 93 points, joint highest Cabernet Franc in the world.  Another remarkable  achievement was when the Anthonij Rupert 2007 scored 95 points, the highest rated South African Bordeaux blend to date.


Anthonij Rupert concentrated on those varieties which produce the top quality wines in the world – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rhine Riesling, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz. Because the quality of the grape was seen as important, the vines were being severely pruned to concentrate the characteristic flavours of the variety in the grape. 


Since 1983, selected white wines from L’Ormarins carry a special “Vin de Nuit” label – your guarantee: that the grapes have been hand-picked in the fresh hours of the night and early morning, to be crushed while still cool and crisp.  Preserving the taste and aroma, this enhances the quality of the wine.  In recognition of excellence under Anthonij Rupert, L’Ormarins is setting new standards in the production of wines of outstanding quality.  Anthonij Rupert was also the first to use small 225l oak barrels in South Africa. 


L’Ormarins has been awarded more than 70 trophies and 450 medals for its quality wines.  In 1989 a total of 47 gold medals had been won by L’Ormarins – quite a remarkable feat!


It is deeply satisfying to savour the success and recognition that has come our way.  We hope to build on the foundation laid the past 300 years and to make a worthy contribution to viticulture in this beautiful part of the world.



Author: Gerhard Olivier


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