Welbedacht is situated in one of the Cape’s most picturesque wine regions, Wellington. Wellington is ideally suited to the cultivation of world class wines. This breathtakingly beautiful farm is the jewel in the Wellington crown nestled into the northwest side of Groenberg and offers expansive views, a serene farm-style ambience and a range of extraordinarily good wines.
Welbedacht is home to the Burger family, surely one of the country’s most recognised sporting names. Schalk Senior was a formidable Springbok rugby player back in his day. His son Schalk Junior has followed in his dad’s size 14 footsteps representing his country and being selected as the 2004 International Rugby Player of the Year. Second son, Tiaan, has hung up his provincial rugby boots and now heads up the cellar’s marketing operations. Daughter Rene is herself a chip off the old block, having gained representative colours for netball. And mom, Myra, is the glue that holds everyone together.
In 1995, Schalk bought his first farm, Af-en-Toe, and started farming with 40 hectares of Cinsaut and Chenin Blanc. This was followed by the purchase of Welbedacht in 1997. Dating back to the 1830’s it was a bit run down, but water and the established old trees led to the decision to buy it. Welbedacht means “well thought out” in Dutch, and this is precisely how the Burger family approached the extensive restoration of this gracious property to its previous glory.
Welbedacht was originally part of the farm Driefontein. In 1801 the owner of Driefontein gave the farm to his son, Petrus Francois de Villiers. In 1810 Petrus sold a portion of Driefontein to Christiaan Pieter Brand. Brand struggled to make ends meet and it was eventually Petrus de Villiers’ son, Pieter, to whom the farm was granted. He divided it into three parts: Philipsdal, Driefontein and Welbedacht. Welbedacht was sold to Andries Petrus Zeeman who in turn sold it in 1842 to Jan Hendrik Malan. Thereafter, it stayed in the Malan family until Pierre Blake bought the farm from Francois Daniel Malan in 1984, and Schalk Burger bought it in 1997 from Blake.
The two farms cover 180 hectares and are planted with Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Viognier as far as white varieties are concerned.
The red varieties consist of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Merlot, Pinotage, Cinsaut, Petit Verdot, Grenache and Mouvedre. Many of the older varieties and clones are old – the Chenin Blanc no less than 30 years!
The planting of new vineyards was started in 1998 and is continuing, every step carefully planned around terroir. Current production is 1400 tons of grapes, of which 75% is of red cultivars and 25% from white cultivars.
In 2000, Schalk Senior decided to pursue his dream of producing his very own range of wines. Four years passed before permission was granted for the building of the cellar and tasting room. The unique cellar has been carefully designed to meet the winemaking team’s exacting standards. The new cellar, which has capacity for 600 tons, was first used for the 2005 harvest. Of the two farms’ production, 1200 tons was vinified by themselves during the last season. Among their first releases were a 2003 Merlot, 2005 barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc, 2005 barrel-fermented Chardonnay, 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2003 Bordeaux blend, Cricket Pitch.
The grapes are specially selected and hand-harvested with plenty of hands-on devotion during the vinification process. The property boasts some impressively senescent vines – the intensity and multi-faceted character evident in the Pinotage and barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc are testimony to the maturity of these 30-year old bush vines.
The 2005 barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc was selected by Neil Pendock as one of Africa’s top 10 wines and also won its class at the International Wine and Spirit competition. The 2003 Cricket Pitch won the prestigious 2007 Juliet Cullinan Bordeaux class against all in South Africa as well as its class at the International Wine and Spirit Competition held in London and four stars in The John Platter SA Wine Guide. The 2005 Welbedacht Pinotage won the heavily contested 2007 Juliet Cullinan Pinotage class. With plenty more gold medals and international category-winning awards in its inventory, Welbedacht has become, viniculturally, a leader in South Africa.
One would think the Burgers’ rugby mania would automatically dictate a label dedicated to the game. Not so! They chose to call their flagship Bordeaux blend Cricket Pitch in honour of Schalk Senior’s beloved cricket grounds situated on the property. Perhaps a touch of eccentricity on his part, but this whimsy has become an attractive drawcard to amateurs and professionals alike. Complete with clubhouse and cricket library, this is one unique Cape Winelands feature sure to bowl you for a six.
When visiting the farm, you will find all the family members involved in the operations and will also be able to bump into Big Schalk, as he is known. When talking to him, you will find that within this huge man beats a gentle heart and his voice is even gentler. And above all, he is passionate about nature, Wellington and wine.