Savour the plum and berry in a well-crafted Shiraz, or smile at the smoothness of a Sauvignon Blanc bouquet. This joyfully fleeting experience has been millions of years in the making. More than 550 million years, it seems, at the start of a fortunate nexus of history and geography.
“We do our utmost to let nature do the talking. Unpretentious quality is the result.” – Nico Vermeulen, Winemaker
The soil on the Wedderwill farm can be traced back to a time when the earth was young, and the single continent of Gondwanaland was experiencing its growing pains. Mountain ranges folded and heaved; temperatures rose and fell; and glaciers exfoliated the rock surface below. As Gondwana shattered, the continents that were to become South America, Australia, and Antarctica rolled away with the planet’s tectonic plates. The centre – the African Surface – remained; a geographical time marker, the oldest in all the world.
On the slopes of the Schapenberg, the resulting soil is known as the Malmsebury Group. A weathered survivor of the Precambrian age, its crumbling clay retains water as jealously as it does the secrets of millennia.
In that time, the climate of the Cape has ebbed and shifted, too – from Ice Age to temperate Mediterranean. The cleansing Cape Doctor calms the baking hectares, and inhibits diseases on the vine. The cooling Bengeula current carries with it the icy tendrils of the south. The sun yields to the once-named Cape of Storms. Seasons dictate when it’s time to prune or plant, water or harvest. It’s the weather that gives wine its personality, they say. Terroir builds character, and man creates quality – but it’s the weather that charms.
A vigneron’s task, then, must be to work with his environment – not against it. The Persians already knew this when they corked those early bottles in 6000BC. Their lessons soon spread to Egypt and Phoenicia, then later to the Greeks – who had no fewer than 18 adjectives for wine. By 1000 BC, civilized Italians and North Africans were planting vineyards, and idling over goblets in the late afternoon sun. As the Dark Ages receded and the 1500s approached, Europeans entrenched the traditions of red and white. A century later, they would ferry their skills to the Cape.
Wedderwill’s Prussian forebears began working the earth some 350 years ago. Today, the family continues to celebrate its love affair with Mother Nature. From the Old German for ‘the will of the weather’, the estate takes its name. Wind, rain, microbes, heat, worms, fungi, air, plants, oakleaf soil – all play their part in an ancient and precious ritual. Which is why those who work at Wedderwill believe they have a responsibility to the land in their care. The happy result is wines of character and quality – with a distinctively generous personality. Just take a sip.