Swartland wine has a proud new ambassador. Hailing from the vineyards of Du Toit Family Wines, Knolfontein is a boutique range that reflects heritage, excellence and unique expression of the place where the vineyards thrive.
The farm lies in the Riebeek Valley, in the foothills of the famous Kasteelberg, and is now open for wine tasting appointments on Saturdays. Here, the soils and climate have proven over generations their suitability for producing outstanding fruit. They are the reason some of the country’s premier wineries may be found in the region.
The realisation of Du Toit Family Wines and Knolfontein was a dream long held by owner
Pieter du Toit, a fourth-generation wine grower. “My family has always farmed grapes here,” he says. “In fact, there were vineyards on the farm when my Great Grandfather bought the land in 1907.
“Even back then, the fruit was sought-after, and I became accustomed to that status as
we sold our grapes over the years. The time has come to give them their own identity
Knolfontein is the name of the farm that has been adopted for the range, also highlighting a legacy of excellence that has always existed on the property. This is wine that tells a rich story of knowledge, skill and passion passed on from one ancestor to another, and the legacy still being built today.
One year in the late 1990s, South Africa claimed three gold medals at the Chardonnay du Monde competition, says Pieter. One of them went to a wine made from Knolfontein fruit.
“In 1998, my father won the prize for the region’s best vineyard block. A decade later, I did the same. To me, this affirms how a high standard of viticulture over many years continues to lead to outstanding quality in grapes.”
For his launch, Pieter has focused on three single cultivar wines dedicated to those for which the Swartland is most renowned – Shiraz, Chenin blanc and Cinsaut.
Each wine is a mirror of its environment and history. The vineyards from which the Chenin blanc is made, for example, are 30-year-old bushvines. Like the entire 480ha farm of which 140ha comprise vineyards, they benefit from the slightly higher winter rainfall that comes with being closer to the mountain.
The labels of the wines help to tell this story through classic, timeless design. The Du Toit family envisioned a label that would mirror the quality and pedigree of the wine inside the bottle. It would represent elements of the Swartland region, but also family heritage. Among the details are three birds that are part of the Du Toit family crest – a feature that connects generations past, present and future to the legacy at Knolfontein.
Other vineyards present on the farm are Pinotage, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Touriga Nacional, Chardonnay and Marsanne.
The soils here are predominantly Oakleaf-type – a mix of sandy clay and nutrient-rich loam, which is excellent for agriculture.
Diverse activities on the land support healthy biodiversity too. In addition to the vineyards, Knolfontein also farms wheat, sheep and cattle. Some 25ha still comprises indigenous renosterveld, which Pieter says may be one of the two sources of Knolfontein’s name.
A knol is Afrikaans for plant bulb, which are plentiful and visible at certain times of the year when their shoots break the surface. The name may also have something to do with an early refreshment station for passing travellers and their animals, knol being
occasionally used to refer to a workhorse.
Beyond the name, the history is in the walls of the farm buildings themselves. The tasting room is built in what used to be the farm’s wine cellar – a building estimated to have been built in the mid-1800s.
Visitors can experience it first-hand by booking for tastings hosted by Pieter himself. Available by appointment, Pieter hosts groups of up to 10 people on Saturdays. Along with the wines, the experience sees Pieter grill and serve a generous plankie steak snack-platter (with secret dipping sauce!), served up inside the historic building or out in the courtyard.
The experience took shape over the years since Pieter joined his father, Danie, on the farm in 2006. He was raised in the area and studied viticulture and oenology at Elsenburg Agricultural College before taking a sabbatical to play rugby in France.
Plotting his future, Pieter undertook a study visit to Australia in 2019 in search of viticultural insight.
He and his father still farm together. In fact, this year marked Danie’s 50th harvest.
It’s a proud tradition that Pieter and his wife, Corné, have embraced. “Who knows, hopefully one day our six-year-old son, also Danie, might become the fifth generation at Knolfontein!”
The Knolfontein range of wines is available from the farm, via its online store and at selected local retailers.
Knolfontein Chenin blanc sells for R120/bottle and pairs well with West Coast Rock Lobster, waterblommetjie stew and roasted pork belly. The Cinsaut sells for R180/bottle and is perfect with dishes such as duck paté, Springbok loin and creamy blue cheese. The Knolftontein Shiraz retails for R270/bottle and is a good partner to osso bucco or roast meats.
For more information, visit knolfonteinwines.co.za, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 076 834 3017.