Rustenberg has a wine-growing history dating back to 1682, when Roelof Pasman from Meurs, near the Rhine, recognised its wine-growing potential. By 1781 some 3000 cases of wine were produced on the farm. Production doubled by the end of the century and a new cellar was built. Wine has been bottled at this cellar for an unbroken period since 1892.
In the early 1800s Rustenberg was divided by owner Jacob Eksteen and a section was given to his son-in-law, who named it Schoongezicht and sold it soon after. Rustenberg and Schoongezicht were at their peak around 1812, with beautiful homesteads and flourishing vineyards. But by mid-century, recession coupled with disease in the vines, brought bankruptcy and dispossession.
Schoongezicht was rescued in 1892 by John X Merriman (who was to become Prime Minister of the Cape), and Rustenberg by his brother-in-law Sir Jacob Barry. Together they revitalised the farms. Fruit was sent to Covent Garden; new vines were grafted onto disease-resistant American rootstock; wines were exported to England and the Continent – and even found in Siberia.
In 1941 Peter and Pamela Barlow bought Rustenberg, later acquiring Schoongezicht and reuniting the properties. Their son Simon took over the running of the farm in 1987. Simon’s son, Murray, joined in the running of the farm with his father in 2012. The Barlows have been at Rustenberg for over 75 years: the longest period any one family has owned the farm.
The vineyards producing the grapes for Rustenberg’s wines climb the rich red slopes of the Simonsberg. A range of slopes and aspects allow site-specific plantings that enhance varietal characteristics. Visitors to the farm may wonder where all the vineyards are!? All they need to is look up towards the mountain to see the rolling hectares of vines sitting well above the valley floor.
The dedicated vineyard team have been working hard to rejuvenate our vineyards by planting virus-free vines imported from France. A small-scale nursery has been started for propagation, providing available rootstock for upgrading, replanting and experimentation. Historic sites which were planted in the 1800s and 1900s are being replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, the champion grape varieties of the farm.
Rustenberg farm is well situated in the foothills of the Simonsberg Mountain, granting the farm beautiful freshwater sources directly from the mountain. These sources are collected in our dams and controlled irrigation is used when necessary to alleviate stressed vines and maximise the quality of the grapes. They utilise a drip-irrigation method which allows us to make the most of our water and direct it straight to the vine root, with minimal wastage.
All the grapes are hand-harvested in the early mornings and all vineyard blocks vinified separately, then blended for added complexity. There is no set formula – the blend depends on the vintage. Even sections within a vineyard are monitored according to the acid/pH levels, natural sugar levels and flavour of the grapes, which are often picked over a two-week period to optimise ripeness and quality.
The vineyard team comprises an array of knowledgeable, experienced and passionate people, led by owner, Simon Barlow, who work together to begin our wines’ journey with quality and excellence right from the first bud on the vine until it reaches the cellar.