The historical building housing the oval casks and carvings at present, was built in 1799. It was meticulously restored in 1985. At the same time 24 oval shaped French oak barrels (2500 l) were installed with the aim of the ageing of wines, mostly red varietals.
These barrels in question were manufactured by a French cooperage, Radoux. An interesting feature was the engravings of the names of the first French Huguenots who settled in Franschhoek in the Drakenstein Valley.
The barrels are now arranged to tell the story of L’Ormarins. Firstly there are two barrels facing each other, bearing the crests of the families Roi and Le Febre. (maiden name of Roi’s wife). Facing the main door, engraved with their respective names, are these barrels once owned by the Jouberts, Du Toits and the family Marais. These three families owned the farm after Roi had left. The next owners were the Ruperts.
In the front part of the historical cellar we can view the complete list of Huguenot families who were the original settlers in this beautiful valley. Alphabetically these names are: Cordier, de Villiers, Du Plessis, Du Pre, Durand, Foucher, Hugot, Jourdan, Lombard, Malan, Malherbe, Meyer, Mouton, Nel, Pinard, Retif, Rossouw, Roux, Therond.
The next phase of this story enfolded when Anthonij Rupert visited France from 1979 onwards. On these visits he made a point of seeing Christian Radoux. Radoux also always returned the favour.
In 1983 Anthonij requested Christian to organize a visit to the Louis Roederer Champagne House. He would be accompanied by Dr. Julius Laszlo, at that time the cellar master at the Bergkelder. Anthonij, while visiting this champagne house, became intrigued by the qualities of wood and the manner in which wood was sourced. With this in mind, he explored some forests and so it happened that the possibility of a cooperage in South Africa was entertained.
During a trip to Jonzac in 1984, Anthonij shared with Christian the idea of manufacturing oval casks adorned by carved designs on the front. These would then be placed in the cellar he had in mind. Christian was enthused by the idea and reminded Anthonij of the casks he himself made and supplied to Roederer. Quite convinced that Christian could make these casks, Anthonij then produced a 10cm thick book from his bookcase. This book listed all the names as well as the history of the Huguenot families who had emigrated to South Africa in 1688 and onwards. Dates as well as family crests of these 24 families were indicated.
Anthonij decided to have these casks made and have crests carved on the front. He requested a meeting with the sculptor in order to obtain an idea of the logistics involved. Christian then introduced him to his father who subsequently examined the book. Designs were clarified to Robert and he seemed extremely excited by this venture.
When Anthonij asked Robert if he would be able to get involved in this project, the answer was, “Of course I can do it! I shall be delighted to be involved!” He, however, maintained that he did not work according to deadlines, but endeavoured to work with perfection in mind.
Anthonij gave quite a cryptic answer, “Christian, get down to work – you have one year to deliver these casks!”
And the result of this? Eighteen months later the casks were completed and were delivered in 1985.