The Cederberg lies about 250 km north of Cape Town. This vast region encompasses approximately 162 000 ha of rugged mountainous terrain, stretching from the Pakhuis Pass behind Clanwilliam in the north, to Grootrivier in the south, towards Ceres. Forty six kilometres inland from the N7, between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam – with two mountain ranges separating the farm from the Olifants River – lies Cederberg Private Cellar on the farm Dwarsrivier. It is the highest wine farm above sea level in the Western Cape. In terms of the SA Wine of Origin (WO) Scheme, the Cederberg ward was proclaimed on 24 February 1978. There are 51 wards in the winelands of South Africa. Take note that Cederberg is one of a few that do not fall under any of the 18 districts or five regions. Why? Simply put, it all boils down to the terroir.
Cederberg Private Cellar is the only wine farm in the Cederberg ward. And do not confuse the commercial wine route system with the Wine of Origin classification system. A wine route is a commercial venture and has nothing to do with the Wine of Origin Scheme. Cederberg Private Cellar does not belong to a wine route and by law resorts under the Cederberg ward.
Cederberg Private Cellar is situated at the foot of Sneeuberg Mountain, and has the highest vineyards in the Western Cape, at between 950 and 1 100 m above sea level.
Situated in a cool Mediterranean climate, the area receives 450 – 800 mm rainfall per annum. Day temperatures vary between 12 – 18 °C (winter), rising to 29,3 °C in January and 39,9 °C in February.
31 Campsites Lawn under shady trees on the riverbank 2 Ablution blocks (incl. hot water and toilet rolls) Braai facilities and electricity at every site Maximum 8 persons per site
Well-drained soils on weathered shale/slate on the hillsides and high mountain slopes, with a higher clay content well suited to red cultivars. Lightly structured soil with sandstone, well suited to white cultivars, abounds.
The terroir of the Cederberg
The West Coast of South Africa is one of the regions with the lowest rainfall in the country. From Graafwater to Clanwilliam, the maximum average rainfall is 400 mm per annum, declining to 300 mm per annum in the Trawal/Koekenaap area. The Cederberg’s rainfall varies between 450 and 800 mm per annum. Cederberg Wines is situated in a unique climatic zone: it can be described as a cool Mediterranean climate, rather than a maritime or coastal climate. The average temperature during the day varies between 12 and 18 °C in winter, rising to 29,3 °C in January and 39,9 °C in February. The farm Dwarsrivier, where most of the grapes for Cederberg Wines are cultivated, is situated at the foot of Sneeuberg Mountain, one of the highest peaks in the Western Cape. Sneeuberg is 2 026 m above sea level. Cederberg Private Cellar claims to have the highest vineyards in the Western Cape, at between 950 and 1 100 m above sea level. The soil types are well-drained on weathered shale/slate on the hillsides and high mountain slopes, with a higher clay content well suited to red cultivars. Yellow-brown soil of granitic origin with a high acid content needs to be manipulated before planting. Lightly structured soil with sandstone, well suited to white cultivars, abounds. There are also duplex soils with coarse sand on clay. The soil types belong to the Bokkeveld and Witteberg groups During harvest time only small amounts of grapes are harvested every day, never more than five tons at a time. In the morning harvesting starts at 05:30 while it is still cool, and continues until 09:00, before the heat of the day sets in. During the last 15 years the harvest has shifted from mid-February to the last days of January. Harvest nowadays lasts until the last week in April. When speaking of terroir, we often ignore the significance of the natural vegetation. Were we to examine different areas in terms of the similarities of the natural vegetation and soil types, we might be able to form a better understanding of what to plant where. The Western Cape has six biomes and 18 veld types. Two biomes are found in the Cederberg, namely Fynbos and Succulent Karoo, with three veld types: Central Mountain Renosterveld, Mountain Fynbos and Lowland Succulent Karoo.
The Cederberg has a cool Mediterranean climate with winter rainfall and no coastal influences.
Spring and summer
Wind: Moderate north-west during the day; north-easterly winds at night Rain: Very little, a thunderstorm here and there Night temperatures: Late frost is often a problem during spring; average below 10 °C Day temperatures: 28–33 °C
Autumn and winter
Wind: North-westerly Rain: June to August: ±650 mm Night temperatures: Below 0 °C Day temperatures: 10–20 °C
The Wine of Origin Scheme
Forty six kilometres inland from the N7, between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam – with two mountain ranges separating the farm from the Olifants River – lies Cederberg Private Cellar on the farm Dwarsrivier, at 1 036 m above sea level. The farm produces red and white wines from its high-altitude vineyards.
The words ‘Wine of Origin’ or the abbreviation ‘W.O.’, together with the name of a production unit, confirms that 100% of the grapes from which the wine was made come from that specific area. A production unit can range from a single vineyard (maximum 6 ha), an estate (one or more bordering farms that are farmed as a unit), or a ward. The borders of all production units, small and large, are defined by law.
In terms of the South African Wine of Origin scheme, the Cederberg ward was proclaimed on 24 February 1978. A ‘ward’ is a small demarcated viticultural area which includes farms and is usually part of a district or a region. There are 63 wards in the winelands of the Western Cape. Take note that Cederberg is one of a few that do not fall under any of the 24 districts or five regions in the Western Cape geographical unit. Why? Simply put, it all boils down to terroir. Cederberg Private Cellar is the only wine farm in the Cederberg ward.
The Wine of Origin classification system should not be confused with the commercial wine route system. A wine route is a commercial venture and has nothing to do with the Wine of Origin Scheme. Cederberg Private Cellar does not belong to a wine route and by law resorts under the Cederberg ward.
Read more at www.wosa.co.za
Frequently Asked Questions
DO YOU NOTICE ANY SIGNS OF CLIMATE CHANGE?
For many years, Cederberg wines started picking grapes only during mid-February, but in recent years the farm has often starting picking during the last week of January. On the one hand this is in line with the global warming trends evident throughout the international wine industry; on the other hand it is a result of virus-free plant material that ripens earlier.
Frequently Asked Questions
HOW DOES YOUR TERROIR DIFFER FROM OTHER AREAS AND WHAT MAKES YOURS SO SIGNIFICANT?
Aspect: If one talks about terroir, there are four important factors: soil type, slope (topography), climate and geology. Grape varieties are largely influenced by the soil type and the slope on which they are planted. Every variety requires its own specific site.
Soil types: We do not have homogenous soils. The soil types differ radically within a small geographical area, for example sandy soil to loam and sandstone to slate. The main soil types are sandstone, red and grey slate, decomposed granite, sandy loam, Hutton and Glenrosa. Planting a single variety on different soil types brings out multidimensional characteristics, which create complexity and identity in the wine.
Slope: As a result of the mountainous terrain, we have many different slopes with a variety of soil types. This allows us to match different varieties to their optimum soil type and aspect for quality grape production.
For example, Cabernet sauvignon is planted on a slightly warmer south-western slope compared to Shiraz, which is planted on a slightly cooler south-eastern slope.
Wind direction: The biggest cooling factor in the Cederberg is wind, mainly the north-westerly wind that blows from the Uitkyk Pass – the first pass facing the coast. From mid-December this wind starts at about 09:00 or 10:00 in the morning and continues throughout the day until about 18:00 or 19:00. Being a gentle wind, it is beneficial to the vines because it creates a cooler microclimate within the rows.
Wind direction is therefore an important factor to consider when determining row direction. The wind allows the vines to remain cool and dry, preventing the development of fungal diseases. This is a big advantage for viticulture in the Cederberg.
Sun: As we know, the morning sun is cooler than the afternoon sun.
Taking this into consideration, the early-ripening varieties such as Sauvignon blanc and Chenin blanc, whose flavour compounds are sensitive to direct sunlight, are planted in an east-west row direction – which is fortunately also the dominant wind direction. Thus the grapes are not exposed to direct sunlight. We try to plant the late-ripening cultivars, such as Cabernet sauvignon, in a north-south direction, although this is not a requirement. This row direction allows the grapes greater exposure to the sun, which is important for colour development and phenolic ripeness. Thanks to the isolated location and the extremely low winter temperatures, the vines are virus and disease free, which is a rare benefit in grape-growing areas.
DOES IT EVER GET AS HOT IN THE CEDERBERG AS IT DOES IN CLANWILLIAM AND CITRUSDAL?
The Cederberg is not as warm as Clanwilliam or Citrusdal. These towns are known for their high day and night temperatures. A person travelling to us in an air-conditioned car doesn’t realise that the temperature has dropped a fair amount from the N7 (and Clanwilliam or Citrusdal) up into the Cederberg Mountains to where we are at an average of 1 000 m above sea level. From the N7 to the farm there is an average temperature difference of between 7 and 12 °C on any given day, due to the cold Mediterranean climate. The dry climate with little or no humidity makes even higher temperatures bearable. In the Cederberg, the average temperature difference between day and night can be between 20 and 25 °C.
ALTHOUGH A CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC, WE HAVE TO ASK AGAIN – WHAT IS YOUR STANCE ON THE CONCEPT ‘ORGANIC’? AND ALSO, HOW MUCH COPPER AND SULPHUR DO YOU USE?
Winemaker David Nieuwoudt answers as follows: Okay, let me keep it short and simple.
One: Be careful, the concept ‘organic’ is often (a) a marketing tool and (b) a money-making scheme.
Two: I do not use any copper – we stopped this practice many years ago.
Three: We do use ‘dusting sulphur’. But much, much less than on other wine farms because, thanks to the extreme winter conditions and isolation, we have no downy mildew here in the Cederberg. We’re very fortunate, actually, because we don’t need to use any systemic compounds in our vineyards.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD PROBLEMS WITH INSECTS? IF YES, THEN WITH WHICH SPECIES?
Snout beetles have been present in the past. The farm now has guinea fowl that roam the vineyards, and they help to control insects that could harm the vines.
WHERE DOES YOUR WATER COME FROM AND HAVE YOU EVER NEEDED TO DRILL FOR WATER?
In the period 2003–2006, and again in 2015–2016, the Cederberg area experienced a drought. During these periods the average rainfall of 680 mm per year declined to about 450 mm per year. We are lucky to be in an area of the Western Cape where there has always been sufficient groundwater. We can see that there is less water, but as yet there has been no need to drill. All our water, except the water used for the holiday resort’s irrigation system, runs freely from a natural mountain spring.