A Letter from Sir De Villiers Graaff
When we looked back at a successful year for De Grendel at the end of 2019, a year that our cellar master Charles Hopkins considered his best ever in 32 years of winemaking, we were looking forward to building on that success in 2020 in the way that things normally work in the world.
No one could then have imagined the turmoil that 2020 would hold for the entire world; that we would all have to rapidly adjust to a “new normal” that looks nothing like what we expected.
It has been a year of experiences so unusual and so unprecedented, touching every aspect of life no matter where in the world you find yourself, bringing hardship, heartbreak, anxiety, and conflict. At the same time, we have been heartened by remarkable examples of compassion, of humanitarian support, and of creativity and innovation – a spirit of people rising together to meet challenges that we hope will continue as a positive outcome of this “new normal”.
At De Grendel we were looking forward to celebrating the 300-year anniversary and legacy of this wonderful farm of which we are custodians. Those plans were naturally thrown into disarray and mostly completely shelved.
Nonetheless, in the midst of tough times, there has been much to celebrate at De Grendel, and all credit goes to the team who have worked together and found new ways to deliver the De Grendel experience to our loyal patrons, hopefully providing some light through the simple pleasures of good wine and food and the natural beauty of our farm.
Amid the business disruptions of lockdown, restrictions on hospitality and gatherings, and especially the ban on alcohol sales in South Africa, we have found ways together to survive and to keep our operation sustainable, which is critical to our ability to support those who depend on De Grendel for their employment and support to families and our community.
We were fortunate to have the 2020 harvest in the cellar and the grapes pressed just in time before South Africa entered lockdown at the end of March, and we’re confident of the outcomes in the 2020 vintage from a slightly bigger harvest but also an excellent one resulting from good growing conditions.
While lockdown meant the closure of our tasting room and restaurant, we introduced our #TogetherWithWine campaign to bring wine and food inspiration to those isolating at home with weekly online live and interactive tastings on Facebook. Cellar master Charles Hopkins presented a different wine each week, sharing his vast knowledge, while Chef Ian Bergh offered a creative, easy-to-make recipe to pair with each wine (all available on our website here)
We were thrilled with the response to these virtual tastings – with the positive spin-off that it made it possible for wine lovers anywhere in the world to enjoy a virtual visit to De Grendel and a personal tasting experience with Charles.
Have a look at the videos on our Facebook page with tagged #TogetherWithWine, and also see the video made by our team for South Africa’s Heritage Day in September for the global #JerusalemaChallenge which has the added bonus of flying views over De Grendel and our beautiful views of Table Mountain. We are immensely proud that our #JerusalemaChallenge video now has over 100,000 views on Facebook.
Our innovative spirit continued with Dine In with De Grendel launched in May to a great response, offering hearty home-style family meals from the De Grendel Restaurant delivered to the door, and later hot meals for takeaway as well as outdoor picnics on the farm, together with wine orders when restrictions allowed.
A series of lockdown wine sales with special offers and prizes were also well supported with a great influx of orders keeping our customers happy and our wine sales ticking over.
Meanwhile, a limited edition sensory wine box launched in September offered a great opportunity to gather safely at home and taste De Grendel wines along with sensory elements to enhance the experience and a virtual tasting with our winemaking team.
I am immensely proud of our team for these innovative solutions to bringing wine and the De Grendel experience to our patrons in their homes, igniting some new approaches that will continue into the future.
Despite the value of the online and virtual experiences, we were delighted to be able to re-open and welcome guests back to De Grendel in August for wine tasting, with tasting, sales, the restaurant and farm tours re-opening fully in September with all Covid-19 precautions in place.
Meanwhile, the world of wine competitions and ratings continued, albeit with virtual awards ceremonies, and we are extremely proud of De Grendel’s continued momentum in local and international recognition for our wines.
A highlight was the release of the 2021 Platter’s Wine Guide five-star ratings in November – following on achieving our first 5* rating in the 2020 guide, we are extremely proud to have increased that to no less than four 5* rated wines for 2021 and seven 4.5* ratings. De Grendel was one of only 13 wineries, out of some 600 reviewed, to have achieved four or more 5* wines, a significant milestone on our winemaking journey that places us in the top echelon of South African wines.
The Platter’s recognition came not long after five of our wines achieved scores of 90-plus in international critic Tim Atkin’s 2020 South Africa Special Report, including an outstanding 93 points for our flagship Amandelboord Pinotage 2019.
De Grendel wines achieved four Top 10 places in the Winemag.co.za series of blind-tasted varietal Reports through the year, while our Op die Berg Pinot Noir 2017 took the overall Pinot Noir Trophy in the Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits awards, along with Platinum for De Grendel Shiraz 2018 and Gold for Rubaiyat 2016.
The same Pinot Noir earned a Veritas Gold medal along with Gold for the Koetshuis Sauvignon Blanc 2019.
Reflecting our commitment to sustainable farming and conserving the biodiversity of our natural environment, Rubaiyat 2016 won one of 115 Gold medals at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition along with one of only 13 Green medals for sustainably-farmed wines.
Together with Gold medals in the Sakura Japan Women’s Wine Awards for De Grendel Viognier 2019 and Merlot 2017, these awards strengthen our position in the growing and competitive wine markets of the East.
The focus fell on Shiraz in August, with De Grendel Elim Shiraz 2018 named a Top 12 champion in the annual Shiraz SA Challenge while De Grendel Shiraz 2016 was one of eight runners-up, and the Elim Shiraz also claimed a Top 10 place in the winemag.co.za Shiraz Report.
These awards have been achieved for several different wines, rather than being focused on one or two flagships, reflecting our aim of achieving consistent quality and excellence across our range. They also highlight our success in identifying new wine-making areas for particular varietals, with awards for wines from our home farm in Durbanville as well as the newer properties in Elim at the southernmost tip of Africa and Op Die Berg at high altitude 300km inland.
A project a few years in the making, to create a Brut Rosé, came to fruition in early December with the (virtual) launch of Proposal Hill Brut Rosé, a vintage Pinot Noir Cap Classique released to celebrate a love story and the 300-year legacy of De Grendel – an extremely fitting and festive end to the year.
Our deepest gratitude goes to the De Grendel team for their fortitude and spirit of creativity and caring, working together to face the extraordinary challenges of this year, and to all who have continued to support De Grendel in so many ways through this year.
We are strengthened by the heritage of this wonderful property called De Grendel, of which we are proud custodians, and we look forward to building the legacy with you.In this festive season, our heartfelt wishes go out to all friends of De Grendel to stay safe, cherish your loved ones, and celebrate life with great wine, food and company, even if on a smaller scale. We look forward with you to a brighter 2021 and hope to see you at De Grendel soon.