Thursday, October 28, 2010

What is an Estate Wine actually???

In recent times I have come across so many people talking about wine brands as "Estate Wine" and basically referring to any wine as an Estate product...which it is NOT.

So what classifies a wine to be bottled as an Estate Wine?

“All the vineyards have to be on the same land that the wine cellar is built, bordering the cellar and other vineyards with no separation. Only the grapes from these vineyards can be used to be bottled under an Estate Wine Label i.e if you own a property 1km away that does not border the vineyards and cellar on your Estate then these grapes can not be used as Estate Wine. ALL THE PROCESSES OF WINEMAKING needs to take place ON the Estate and in your Cellar. You are not allowed to move the wine from the Estate and then bring it back onto the property at any time. This means that the growing, making, maturing and bottling of an Estate Wine needs to take place on the Wine Estate property”  

It might sound very confusing, but it is actually very simple and the Wine and Spirits Board is very strict with this legislation. When you buy a bottle of wine again, please have a look at the “Wine of Origin”, if it states “Wine of Origin Western Cape or Coastal Region” then you know that some of these grapes or wine was brought in from outside of the wine region. It can still be “Wine of Origin Robertson” if I bring in grapes or wine from within my wine region, but it cannot be Estate Wine then.

There is a lot of old wineries that used to be Estate’s but after being bought up by bigger companies and conglomerates it has only become Wine Brands like any other because they source their wines and grapes from elsewhere and don’t grow all of it themselves. South Africa does have some strict laws when it comes to how we grow, make and bottle wine but this is one term that has become extremely generalised. Hopefully this will also make you realise that an Estate producer is limited by each vintage in terms of what the vintage gives them. If the quality or volume is down then they have to make work with what they got. They cannot suddenly buy in wine or grapes from elsewhere to make the vintage a bit better. Therefore the Estate producers are under more pressure to compete on a global stage with brands that are sourcing their wines from all over the Cape Winelands,
This definitely differentiates an Estate Wine from a normal wine brand and shows the uniqueness and efforts that has been put in to make each vintage consistent and of Top Quality. The other reality the industry face is that some brands are very strong no matter if they are an Estate or not and the consumer doesn’t always understand the dynamics of what I just mentioned and quite frankly i think a lot of people in the industry doesn't either. But what does Estate Owners do to communicate that to the consumers?? I can only hope that at each opportunity they get they inform them of what it actually took to produce the bottle of wine that they just tasted.

Having Estate Wines are probably the closest that South Africa will get to the French Appelations, Left and Right Banks and whatever else. To me as an Estate Wine producer it does make a huge difference in the market place because not only am I competing with huge wine companies but this is also our only bread and butter!!! So next time you shop around…have a look at what the label says.

The Leg...


  1. Hello Colyn

    There is also a Single Vineyard wine. This means that the grapes may come from one vineyard and the vineyard is not aloud to be bigger than 3 ha or have any paths going threw it.

    But one can still call it Single Vineyard if you bought in grapes from such a vineyard if its been registered ass single vineyard threw Sawis. Again the same rules will apply for example if you make a Single vineyard Estate wine, Single vineyard, Coastal region ext.

    Lourens van der Westhuizen, Arendsig

  2. thanks Lourens that a piece of info that i didnt know...interesting though to see how many single vineyard wine are actually the way you explained.

    thanks for the comment

  3. From this post it seems as if you claim that only estate wineries can produce unique wines.

    What about blending? That is an art in itself? Is it not? To be able to blend three or four different areas/regions together is an art if you want to create a balanced wine.

    People must be very careful to make claims. There are different places in different markets for single vineyard/estate wines and also blended wines.