Kanonkop Estate is recognised as a South African equivalent of a Premier Cru or First Growth. International awards accumulated over more than three decades have gone a long way to substantiate these claims. Kanonkop is a 4th generation family-owned estate which was originally purchased by JW Sauer, a cabinet minister in the parliament of the Union of South Africa. His son, Paul Oliver Sauer, also a cabinet minister, took over the reins from his father and in 1968 he was joined by Springbok rugby great Jan ‘Boland’ Coetzee. Mary Sauer, daughter of Paul Sauer, inherited the estate in 1976. She married Jannie Krige, a rugby administrator at the University of Stellenbosch, who took early retirement and, together with Coetzee, made the first estate-bottled wines in 1973. Beyers Truter joined the estate in 1980 following the departure of Coetzee, and together with Krige’s two sons, Johann and Paul, continued the traditions developed on this highly prized estate. The cellar is currently lead by Abrie Beeslaar, who joined the team in 2002, and took over the reins from Beyers Truter in 2004.
Name & Location
The name Kanonkop is derived from a kopje (hillock), from which a kanon (cannon) was fired in the 17th century to alert farmers in outlying areas that sailing ships, plying the waters between Europe and the Far East, had entered Table Bay (the area known today as Cape Town) for a stopover. They would then load their ox wagons and set off to Table Bay harbour to barter their produce, mainly fresh fruit and vegetables. Kanonkop Estate is situated on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, between the towns of Stellenbosch and Paarl in the Western Cape. It falls within the Wine of Origin demarcation Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, more commonly known as the ‘red wine bowl’ of South Africa. This area has earned a reputation, both at home and abroad, for producing the best red wines in the country. The estate is situated on 125 hectares, of which 100 are planted to vines. Besides the solid foundation on which the estate’s winemaking principles are based, it is also blessed with the ideal soils, terrain and climate, creating perfect conditions for growing quality grapes.
The people of Kanonkop make it what it is. They are not just workers or employees – they are the Estate! For the majority of the 60 men and women employed on the Estate, Kanonkop is also home. All amenities are provided for this community, such as modern housing, a day-care centre for young children, and sporting facilities for cricket, soccer, netball and jukskei. At the helm of Kanonkop is Johann Krige, who graduated from Stellenbosch University with a BA LLB and MBA. He spent a brief spell in the legal profession, then another at KWV as an export marketing manager, before joining the team in 1990. The hands-on man on the estate is Paul Krige who, after spending a short spell at Elsenburg Agricultural College down the road from Kanonkop, took on quality control.