Wine Terroirs

Revolution to Evolution: Charting the Future of Swartland Wines

From wheat farms to groundbreaking wine farms, traditional farmers to rebels with an old vine cause, the Swartland grew from being perceived as a relatively obscure winemaking region to a world phenomenon. To maintain their sustainable evolution and how they do business, the Swartland further evolved into a globally recognized hub for exceptional, terroir-driven wines and business models, adding to its success.

If South African wines intrigue you, then surely, you've been swept up in the buzz surrounding the Swartland region in South Africa over the past couple of decades. This wine-producing area has transformed remarkably, and this metamorphosis can largely be credited to pioneering winemakers like Eben Sadie and the Mullineuxs, whose innovative approaches ignited the Swartland Revolution Movement. The movement celebrated minimal intervention winemaking and embraced the unique characteristics of old bush vines, reshaping perceptions of the Swartland and South African wine and prompting innovative marketing avenues. 


Today, the region has its own wine & olive route woven with heartwarming stories told through wine labels while more individual personalities are drawn to its arid yet hauntingly beautiful terrain.

The combination of terroir, attention and subsequent intention has propelled Swartland wines to critical acclaim, sparking numerous business concepts that ignited consumer interest. This success is rooted in a commitment to honouring traditional methods and embracing innovative winemaking techniques, resulting in diverse wines showcasing the region's history and dynamic future.



Riebeek Valley Wine Co's Transformative Journey

The winery of Riebeek Valley

Kasteelberg represents the top tier wines at Riebeek Valley and Co. and the Shiraz embodies what the Swartland is all about.



Founded in 1941, Riebeek Valley Wine Co. exemplifies the dynamic evolution of the Swartland wine region. Beyond making their own wine ranges, they've emerged as a leading boutique wine services company, offering a comprehensive suite of products and services to the South African and global wine industry.

Leading the charge within Riebeek Valley Wine Co's premium cellar is the fearless Sheree Nothnagel, whose tenure reflects the company's remarkable journey from its cooperative roots to its status as a dynamic entity. Reflecting on this transformation, Sheree remarks on the profound changes in winemaking styles and the transition from a cooperative to a family-owned company in 2018.

“Family remains integral to their ethos,” she affirms, “with 22 families spanning multiple generations still owning the company.”

For Sheree and the team, modernity isn't merely about state-of-the-art equipment but encompasses a forward-thinking approach to winemaking. This ethos culminated in establishing the boutique cellar, filling a market void, and positioning the company as a one-stop destination for premium wines and services.

"While the boutique cellar focuses on premium wines and services, the bigger cellar focuses on larger projects. We also have a logistics department where we can store wine, label, wax, assist with exports, etc. We can provide clients with grapes or bulk wine that they can bottle under their own labels."

The RAAR Shiraz Carbonic Maceration 2023 (90) with its burst of violets, red berry fruit, perfumed nuances and grippy, lengthy finish and the RAAR skin contact Chenin Blanc 2023 (93) with its alluring yellow fruit and pithy, rich aftertaste, intrigued the Gilbert & Gaillard tasting panel. In its youth, the Kasteelberg Syrah 2023 (91) left a profound impression with its spicy character and immense longevity.

Sheree's passion for winemaking extends beyond crafting exceptional wines; she sees herself as a mentor, sharing her expertise with aspiring winemakers during harvests and beyond. Her dedication to nurturing talent underscores the wine community's collaborative spirit.

"In harvest time, we line up samples and encourage assistants and interns to learn and ask questions,” she shares proudly, “so I am a winemaker and a teacher and will never stand back for doing the hard graft either. It comes with the territory!"


the whole team at Riebeek Valley and Co.

  1. Meet the whole team at Riebeek Valley and Co.



The winery of Riebeek Valley

The dynamic environment at Riebeek Valley & Co is what creates future generations and consistent quality.



Leeuwenkuil, a saga of tradition and audacious innovation

The family of Leeuwenkuil.

  1. Leeuwenkuil's journey began seven generations ago, and today, with all their children involved to some extent, the vision of its owners continues to expand.



At Leeuwenkuil, a spirit of innovation and commitment to tradition converge to drive the vineyard towards trailblazing projects.

Yes, lions did roam freely back in the 1700s when Leeuwenkuil (Lion's Lair) before its subdivision was still known as Schinderkuijl (a German name referring to the tradition of gathering materials from demolished buildings or shipwrecks to create something new), which was what they did on the farm. In 1851, the Dreyer family became the new owners, with Willie and Emma Dreyer at the helm of Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards today comprising more than 1,250 hectares.

The Leeuwenkuil Reserve Chenin Blanc 2022 (92) has an alluring intensity of stone fruit and pineapple with a creamy full palate adding to the richness. The Reserve Red (92), a blend of Shiraz, Cinsault, Grenache and Mourvèdre, also delivered with a balance of smokiness and tart fruit forwardness.

Kara van Zyl, the marketing manager, has a firm understanding of the Swartland offering. She reflects on their journey:

"Their success is 15 years in the making, and everything is starting to come together. The best word I can use for their actions is audacious - a family that is resilient and forward-thinking.” 

She adds that these bold initiatives are embodied by their "gregarious" winemaker, Pieter Carstens, who embraces this dynamic era wholeheartedly. 

Situated in the southernmost part of the Swartland, the vineyard's shale soils imbue their wines with a distinct saline character, particularly evident in their Chenin and Shiraz.

"While Shiraz and Chenin remain at the centre, Leeuwenkuil's repertoire includes Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and bush vine Pinotage."

According to Kara, the Leeuwenkuil Reserve Range consistently excels, the white earning five stars in the Diner's Club Platter's Wine Guide 2024.

Reflecting on the Swartland Revolution, Kara notes a shift towards a cohesive Swartland where innovation and passion to stay true to the character of the Swartland region, propels the whole region forward.

"Today, there is cross-pollination, and it helps consumers understand the Swartland better. We are now in the best and strongest position ever," she remarks.

Tailor-made equipment, including AI technology, ensures precision and consistent quality throughout winemaking. So, in weaving together tradition and innovation, Leeuwenkuil continues to push boundaries and tell their story of bravery and excellence.


Willie Dreyer, Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards’ owner, and Willie Dreyer Jnr.

  1. Willie Dreyer, Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards’ owner, and Willie Dreyer Jnr.



Org de Rac: Pioneering Organic Excellence

Alec Vincent, viticulturist at Org de Rac.

Alec Vincent, viticulturist at Org de Rac.



While Org de Rac may boast a shorter history than some, having been established in 2000, owner Nico Bacon, hailing from the fish industry, was a true pioneer of organic farming, explains Johan Gerber, one of the directors for Org de Rac.

"He was an absolute visionary to start farming organically, and this was the best site to do so, surrounded by wheatlands."

Situated on the northern border of the Swartland, Org de Rac capitalizes on its unique location, benefiting from cooler south-facing slopes and oceanic influences from the nearby coast, 45 kilometres away. This favourable environment allows for organic farming with minimal disease pressure, resulting in healthy vineyards and exceptional grape quality.

"We pride ourselves on consistent quality, maintaining organic and Fairtrade accreditation. Our ethos is to care for the environment as much as we care for our people, doing so sustainably," adds Johan.

Reflecting on their journey, the team at Org de Rac acknowledges the importance of learning from past experiences. 

"We learned how to do things and not to do things," and this iterative approach has led to innovative wines consistent with market curiosity. Their commitment to organic farming is evident in ongoing projects like their earthworm farm and improved composting practices to overcome challenges while preserving character and quality.

"Organic farming will always come with challenges, but we continue to learn and adapt, prioritising sustainability without compromising on quality," concludes Johan. 


Johan Gerber, managing director at Org de Rac.

Johan Gerber, managing director at Org de Rac.



Lizelle Gerber, cellarmaster at Org de Rac.

Lizelle Gerber, cellarmaster at Org de Rac.



Emile Gentis: The Winemaker-Jeweller of Swartland Blends

The winery of Thor Vintners

Under the auspices of Thor Vintners, the PHOENIX, BADLANDS & WIND SONG brands celebrate Wine of Origin Swartland.



Emile Gentis, driven by a firm belief in the power of tenacity, founded Thor Vintners with a focus on crafting small-batch artisanal wines through the art of blending. 

The Gentis Badlands Shiraz 2022 (93) and the Gentis The Phoenix Petite Sirah (92) excelled in Gilbert & Gaillard's tasting of Swartland wines, following the brand's inclusion in the Swartland wine route since January 2024.

"My expertise lies in blending, a skill honed over years of sourcing and combining components from across the winelands to create unique blends tailored to buyers and overseas markets. Blending is an art form, a means to strike the perfect balance, even with vintages that require a creative touch."

Under the Gentis family name, all wines are crafted from Swartland grapes. The Phoenix, sourced from bush vines near Malmesbury, offers a bold and complex flavour profile, while the rebellious Badlands challenges convention.

While Emile acknowledges the importance of terroir, his focus remains on customer satisfaction, leveraging the Swartland's diverse and high-quality grapes to craft exceptional blends.

"Just call me the jeweller," he laughs, "as the Swartland offers a treasure trove of possibilities, where every grape variety is a gem waiting to be discovered and polished into a crown-worthy blend."


Emile Gentis, the winemaker of Thor Vintners

Thor Vintners focus on small-batch artisanal wines inspired by ultra-premium Rhône blends, only bringing them home to this unique corner of the world.



Nativo Wines: Loyal to place, not style

The winery of Nativo Wines

After learning from local winemakers, Billy and Kiki are now spearheading the winemaking at Nativo Wines.



There's a solidity like no other when a father and daughter share a mutual interest, and Argentinian-born Billy Hughes and his daughter Kiki embody this bond. They embarked on their farming journey in 2000, unaware of the groundswell of energy rallying to save old vines from imminent destruction.

"We were among the pioneers to obtain formal organic certification, striving to elevate it to the highest standards," recalls Billy. "We soon realised that the winemakers here were incredibly passionate, well-travelled, and unafraid to innovate."

To Kiki, the Swartland hasn't changed much; instead, consumer perception has evolved. 

"South Africa was once conservative, but the Swartland broke the mould."

Billy beams as he discusses their wines submitted for tasting. "We took Tempranillo harvested on the same day but made one from destemmed fruit and another using 50% whole bunch — curious to see the outcomes. Both received gold medals."

According to Kiki, the main distinctions lie in the tannin structure of each wine and how they are perceived on the palate. "Oak only plays a subtle role; we want the fruit to take centre stage."

After learning from seasoned winemakers, last year marked the first time father and daughter worked alone in the cellar. "We're eager to showcase the malleable character of Tempranillo," says Billy. "It's drought-resistant and can yield a big, tannic wine or a fruitier, elegant one. Ultimately, vintage variation will always be a factor in this Mediterranean climate, where grapes thrive with minimal water.

And then we stumbled upon a happy accident that became our first orange wine," laughs Kiki, "which has now become one of our signature offerings."

For them, loyalty lies more with the land than any specific variety or winemaking style. "The consistent message is one of honesty—a small family business committed to crafting unique Swartland wines."


Kiki Hughes manages sales and marketing at Nativo.

Kiki Hughes is doing her master's in wildlife forensic genetics while managing the sales a,d marketing of Nativo. 



Knolfontein: Cultivating Tradition, Nurturing Terroir

The vineyards of Knolfontein

  1. Du Toit Family vineyards are home to 25 hectares of indigenous Renosterveld. The name for the wines, Knolfontein, is derived from the Afrikaans word knol, meaning plant bulb, a phenomenon creating a seasonal spectacle as the shoots emerge.



The Du Toit Family Vineyards is a 480-ha farm at the foothills of the Kasteelberg in Riebeek West. Knolfontein is the name adopted for their boutique range of wines they believe reflect generations in the making. 

Pieter, aka Knol du Toit, is a fourth-generation wine grower whose family has always farmed grapes in the Swartland, and after studying viticulture and oenology, returned to the farm with his father, Danie.

"There were vineyards on the farm when my great-grandfather bought the land in 1907. Yet, after selling our grapes for so long, in 2020, it was time for our own label and identity," shares Pieter.

"I am just a farmer who loves his land" he adds, and five generations in the making, they still follow their heart and not consumer trends.

In the late 1990s, South Africa claimed three gold medals at the Chardonnay du Monde competition; one of them went to a wine made from Knolfontein fruit. And in 1998, Pieter's father won the prize for the region's best vineyard block. A decade later, he did the same.

The Kolfontein Chenin Blanc 2021 (91) and the Knolfontein Cinsaut 2021 (90) shined in the tasting.

"We embrace a philosophy that goes beyond farming - nurturing the soil and the vines, ensuring they thrive in harmony with nature. We limit tractor traffic to preserve the soil's integrity of plant cover crops to shield it from erosion. It's a labour of love, driven by a deep-seated passion for our terroir and a commitment to preserving it for generations to come. Our journey has been one of learning, asking for help when needed, and staying true to ourselves amidst the challenges."


Pieter du Toit, fourth-generation wine grower at Du Toit Family Vineyards.

  1. They work with the rhythm of the land, says Pieter du Toit, fourth-generation wine grower at Du Toit Family Vineyards.



Allesverloren: A Legacy of Resilience and Innovation

Danie Malan with Wilhelm de Vries.

  1. Danie Malan, 5th generation winemaker (right) at Allesverloren with Wilhelm de Vries (left), who joined the oldest cellar in the Swartland in 2016.



The name originates from a devastating moment in 1704 when the family returned from an arduous wagon journey to discover their house and farm burned to the ground. "All is lost," they believed. Hence, the name "Allesverloren" remained, serving as a poignant reminder and a source of inspiration. Over 150 years ago, the Malan family bought the farm.

"The legacy runs deep," says Danielle Malan, daughter of owner Danie. "The first Malan purchased Allesverloren in 1872 when it was primarily a wheat farm. Although our cellar is a heritage site, we continue to innovate, finding ways to expand while remaining true to our roots."

The family has been pivotal in shaping the Swartland wine region. While wine was already produced here for personal use in the 1800s, the brand was established in 1972 and the Malans were the first to import and plant the first Portuguese varietals. Wet winters and warm, dry summers facilitate ripening for these robust varieties, with prevailing westerly winds and mountain shadows providing relief and subsequent elegance in the wines.

"My grandfather, the 3rd generation Malan, played a significant role in this transformation," adds Danielle. "He developed a profound love and respect for Port during visits to Portugal, and under his guidance, our brand expanded to include Portuguese varieties, a breakthrough moment for the Swartland."

Their efforts to showcase high-quality wines made from French and Portuguese cultivars underscored the region's significance. 

"We've been fortunate always to have a family member ready to carry forward the legacy," says Danielle, highlighting the importance of continuity and renewal.

Today, whether it's co-ops, family farms, or independent winemakers, they support each other's events to promote the region collectively.

Danielle tells how her father adapted to changing palates by adjusting ageing techniques. So, although the Swartland remains sought after for Chenin Blanc and Shiraz, their Allesverloren Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 stole the show with 93 points, affirming that collective initiatives and pioneering business models have re-founded the Swartland as a nucleus of possibilities.


Danielle, Head of Marketing at Allesverloren.

  1. Danie Malan’s daughter, Danielle, takes charge of marketing at Allesverloren.



Danielle and her father Danie Malan.

  1. Danie Malan’s daughter, Danielle, takes charge of marketing at Allesverloren.



A sense of camaraderie among wine businesses that includes larger cellars, family farms and the Swartland Independent Producers pivoted the region to transition from its revolutionary fervour to a period of evolution and refinement. So, while the core principles of terroir-driven winemaking and collaboration remain pivotal, the growing emphasis on sustainability, innovation, and the relentless pursuit of quality remains unequivocal. This adaptability will ensure the Swartland's continuation of garnering international acclaim, making the region's future appear as promising as its storied past.