New owners are rejuvenating one of the oldest wine estates in Stellenbosch. With a history stretching back to 1696, Vergenoegd is one of the most venerable estates in the Stellenbosch winelands, but don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard much of it lately.
Since 1820, over six generations, the farm has been in the hands of the Faure family, and in recent years it has been looking a little tired. Now, new owners are pouring investment into the property, with a rejuvenated manor house and a host of good reasons to visit.
Many of those reasons are thanks to talented chef Ryan Shell. Formerly of Franschhoek’s Haute Cabriere, Shell has revamped the food offering on the estate. Gourmet picnics see baskets piled high with artisan breads, delicious salads, cold meats, charcuterie and cheeses, while the Vergenoegd Harvest Experience is on offer until the end of this month. The experience begins with the winemaker leading a tour of the cellar, before a three-course lunch of hearty country fare served alfresco beneath the oak trees.
Gourmet picnics and harvest tables aren’t unique in the winelands, but the Vergenoegd blending experiences certainly are. Olive oil-, tea-, coffee- and wine-blending workshops are all on offer in the charming manor house, with enthusiastic staff leading guests through the fine art of tasting, analysing and blending. Guests also get to take home a sample of their final blend. The wine blending, held in the grand dining room of the manor house, is perhaps the highlight.
Unless you’re a child, or young at heart, that is. In which case the twice-daily duck parade is a fine reason to visit. Vergenoegd’s 700-strong flock of Indian Runner ducks keep the vineyards free of snails and pests, but their daily commute to and from the vineyards has become a highlight for many visitors to the estate. The ducks don’t stick around for long, waddling by at high speed, but kids and parents can also book a brief “duck tour” taking in the incubators and duck pens.
The flocks of ducks are immortalised on the label of Vergenoegd’s entry-level red and white wines, and, if nothing else, the farm is worth a visit for the relaxed wine tasting enjoyed under the oaks or in the historic manor house. With a focus on rich, robust red wines, the wines here have a lineage as long and proud as the estate itself.
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Words: Richard Holmes