Paul Oliver Sauer made his mark in various ways, perhaps most famously as a politician who served in the South African parliament for forty-one consecutive years (1929–1970). Sixteen of those years were spent as minister for the portfolios of Railways, Land and Irrigation, Public Works and Forestry.
Paul Sauer grew up on a wine farm. He was five years old when his father, JW Sauer, an eminent politician and government minister, bought the splendid Uitkyk farm in 1903, which is still, today, just up the road from Kanonkop.
He spent his formative years here with his parents, JW and Mary, and two older sisters, Dorothy and Magda.
On Uitkyk, he was exposed to the influences on which the foundations of that future great personality would be built. Among the fruit trees and the vines growing on the slopes of Simonsberg, Paul soon developed a love for the land and for farming.
His appreciation of wine and its culture was profoundly influenced by his mother.
Mary was the daughter of Hendrik Cloete, the owner of Groot Constantia, South Africa’s oldest wine farm. This vinous legacy ensured that Mary, as well as her husband and children, embraced the culture of fine wine in their daily lives.
“Since Roman times the wine farmer was recognised as a cultured man of the soil. The other farmers were cattle herders and ploughmen, but the wine farmer … now he was the one that moved among the poets and the philosophers. Let’s face it, which poet ever sang the praises of the potato? Show me the philosopher that extolled the virtues of the humble cabbage?”
– Paul Sauer
Paul bought two large wooden shipping containers that had transported Baron von Carlowitz’s goods to his new farm home on Uitkyk, and brought them down to his empty farm.
One container was used for the farm office and the other container was the ‘residence’ of the farm manager, Danie Rossouw.
Initially, fruit trees were planted to generate a quick cash flow, but both Sauer and Rossouw had their minds set on vineyards and winemaking.
With the declaration of World War II and the demise of the fruit export market, the land was cleared and vines were planted.
A cellar built in 1942 remains the basis of the winery today. Grapes are still fermented in the same open concrete tanks that were used for the original vintages.
By the 1960s, Kanonkop had substantially expanded its area under vines and harvested 1 400 tons of grapes annually from some 110 hectares.
Varieties included Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Shiraz, Chenin Blanc, Riesling and Clairette Blanche.
Every grape vinified in the Kanonkop cellar was sold to Stellenbosch Farmers Winery (SFW), one of the large co-operatives, where it made its way into one of their classic Cape brands like Oude Libertas and Lanzerac.
Paul Sauer discussing wine with Danie Rossouw, the estate’s first farm manager
“Don’t be intimidated by the pretentiousness of those who purport to be wine connoisseurs. Please, do not allow them to get in your way and don’t allow the snobs to terrorise you. Don’t become obsessed with the ‘right’ wine. Decide for yourself what a good wine tastes like. For you, the best wine is the wine that tastes the best, and to hell with the rest.”
– Paul Sauer
The original tasting room was Paul Sauer’s refuge – a place where he could contemplate fine wine
The pater familias of Kanonkop was known for his appreciation of wine. The one thing he wasn’t, though, was a wine snob. His favoured wine was Tassenberg, an everyday red much enjoyed by students of Stellenbosch University