The Bellingham story starts in 1693 when Hollander Gerrit Janz van Vuuren and his French Huguenot wife planted the first 1 000 vines on the estate, then known as Bellinchamp (‘pretty fields’). It then passed from family to family until 1943, when Bernard and Fredagh Podlashuk purchased the somewhat derelict farm, set about restoring the manor house, gardens and vineyards and effectively pioneered the modern renaissance of the Bellingham Estate in Franschhoek.
The Podlashuks replanted the farm to vineyards and travelled to France and Germany to do extensive wine research. Upon return, they buckled down and released the Cape’s first rosé in 1949, followed in quick succession by the Premier Grand Cru in 1951 and the first single varietal Shiraz in 1956.
The 80s and 90s saw vineyard developments, cellar extensions and the beginning of Bellingham’s classic New World winemaking philosophy. Today, while still inspired by its history of innovation, ingenuity and foresight, the brand is firmly set in the 21st century, producing contemporary, structured wines with an unmistakable sense of place and style.
Head winemaker Richard Duckitt has made giant strides in the industry since growing up between the vineyards of his family farm in the Darling region. After his studies, he worked in the cellars of California and later Bordeaux before joining the Bellingham family in 2008.
Away from the cellar he enjoys experimenting in his home kitchen and surprising his wife with inventive dishes. When it comes to his favourite style of food, he loves anything authentic, but also reckons that some of his best culinary creations have been the result of improvising with just the few pantry items at hand.
Winemaker Ricardo Cloete grew up about as far away from the Winelands as one could – in a small village called Steinkop, some 60km from the border of Namibia. Despite the distance, his dreams knew no bounds. After visiting the Western Cape at a young age and admiring the jagged peaks, rolling hills and grand manor houses of the region, Ricardo began his vinous adventure. In 2021, he graduated with the B-Agric degree in Viticulture and Oenology.
From there, he cut his teeth working under some of the most prestigious figureheads in the industry. As a Cape Winemaker’s Guild’s Protégé, he gained a deep appreciation of the core winemaking principles and values of top quality winemaking. Ricardo joined the Bellingham team in 2021 as Winemaker. A passionate, focused and down-to-earth individual, he was drawn to Bellingham’s great reputation, consistency and authentic wine culture.
Their team of viticulturists source the finest grapes from sought-after vineyard sites across the Western Cape of South Africa, a task that they have mastered over many years of research and the use of cutting-edge technological resources. The style of each wine dictates the location of these sites, and long-standing relationships with expert grape grower suppliers ensure that the vineyards are meticulously managed throughout the growth cycle to yield pristine grapes for wine production.
Bellingham is also a proud member of the Old Vine Project, an organization championing the documentation and preservation of Old Vineyard sites across South Africa. Formally established in 2016, the Old Vine Project has grown from strength to strength, along side Bellingham, a proud pioneer of maintaining the significance of old vines and the incredible wines they produce.
Bellingham believes that great wines are made in the vineyard. That is why they source only the finest grapes and nurture them from vine to bottle. In order to preserve the natural fruit characteristics of individual grape cultivars, Bellingham lavish time and attention on each wine throughout the production process.
Bellingham places a high premium on mouthfeel and believe in subtle oak maturation to enhance the structure and complexity of their wines. By following this method of minimal intervention and maximum attention to detail, they are able to produce distinctive, complex wines that are both expressive of their vineyard origin and complementary to a wide range of cuisine.
They have also launched a progressive community upliftment carbon emission offset project that involves the establishment of bamboo plantations in rural regions, which won them the international Drinks Business Green Awards Ethical Environmental Award in 2012.