How Kanonkop became one of South Africa’s leading wine estates – Club Oenologique

South African winery Kanonkop has been making wine under its own label for less than 50 years, but in that time, it has gone from a workhorse of South Africa’s wine scene to a leading light.

 

As in life, so in wine. That age-old mystery – nature or nurture – is among the many existential quandaries that the grape throws up. Take Bordeaux. The 1855 classification has remained all but unchanged since its inception, suggesting that the natural lie of the land trumps any impact by human hand. Yet winemakers such as Denis Dubourdieu and Stéphane Derenoncourt are feted for their work in the region – so which of the qualities is the more integral?

 

In the case of South Africa, the question is particularly thorny. It is, after all, one of wine’s many anomalies that South Africa is categorised as part of the New World when, in reality, it is very old wine country indeed. (Jan van Riebeeck, the Cape’s first commander under the Dutch East India Company, pressed the first wine grapes on the Cape in 1659.) Yet despite such an impressive history, only a handful of South African estates have produced wine for three or more generations.

 

Kanonkop, in the Simonsberg region of Stellenbosch, stands as a beacon among them. The estate was founded in 1929 – although the first wine bearing the iconic label did not debut until 1973. In the near half-century since, it has become internationally renowned. And the reason for its pre-eminence sits firmly with its people, notably the founder, Paul Sauer. Here at least, nurture trumps nature, it seems.

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