Would you believe that the Overberg is home to one of the most pioneering Wine Estates near Swellendam, Sijnn Wines is making headlines and breathing new life into the South African wine industry with rare and interesting cultivars. So with grape harvest in the Western Cape in full swing we thought it appropriate to share (and brag a bit about) this pioneering Wine Estate near Swellendam.
As you cross the bridge over the Breederiver when driving from Swellendam toward Cape Town a turn-off on the left hand side leads you onto a gravel road. What might seem like a lonely gravel road is really a main route for local farmers and during grain harvest time in the Overberg (October to December) you might be surprised to find quite an overload of harvesters and large trucks carrying grains to Protem and Swellendam. The route takes you through the Napky District toward the small, unscathed town of Malgas on the banks of the Breederiver. Driving through this district in the summer months it is hard to believe that anything will grow here – the Overberg has a way to turn quite dry just to get ready for planting season once Autumn sets in.
However as you pass the turn-off to Malgas and take a left toward Lemoentuin you find a beautiful, lush green landscape on the riverbank – somewhat of an oasis. This landscape is the home of Sijnn Wines the brainchild of David and Rita Trafford and the only winefarm and cellar in the region. The Traffords discovered the land while on holiday in Malgas in 2000, the soil and landscape reminded them of Portugal and they were immediately intrigued. A purchase agreement and more than 200 soil profiles later approximately ten hectares of vines were planted and the name Sijnn Wines was appropriated to the venture – fittingly so as the word sijnn is derived from the Khoisan word meaning riverbank.
What makes Sijnn Wines so unique (and their wines so wonderful) is not only their unique location but also their strong focus on having nature keep the upper hand in the growth and production processes. For this reason and due to the feeble essence of the soil here (it’s really unbelievable that anything grows in this rough terrain) vines are not trellised but rather kept in its natural form as bush vines – yielding lower tonnages but in return providing a grape of much higher quality resulting in a superior wine. Bush vines are harvested by hand, of course, and Sijnn Wines wouldn’t have it any different even though harvesting by hand is fast becoming an unconventional practice in South Africa due to increased trellising and mechanization.
In 2015 David furnished the building that was originally meant to become the cellar with all the necessary equipment for making the wine on site – before grapes were sent off to a different location for the wine making process. Until recently grapes were pressed with a traditional press but from the 2016 harvest onward a mechanical press will be used in order to accommodate the larger harvests, hooray more wine!
Sijnn Wines has become well known for their interesting and bold choices of cultivars and blends – yet another reason we adore their wines so much. They focus on Southern European and Mediterranean varieties that are best suited for the warm and dryer climate of Malgas. Under the expertise of owner and architect-turned-winemaker, David, Sijnn Wines has won numerous accolades and we would certainly give them the Schoone Oordt golden stamp of approval (and appreciation while we’re at it). We love pairing their Sijnn Red, a blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira, with dinner and their lightly wooded Chenin Blanc is perfect with lighter meals or appetizers.
Two new blocks of vines were established in 2016 and we cannot wait to see (and taste) how the new varieties will be incorporated in the already stunning Sijnn Wines collection.
If you find yourself over a weekend in the Overberg, then we can highly recommend booking a tasting at Sijnn Wines, the most pioneering wine estate near Swellendam, the beautiful views, friendly people and great wine won’t disappoint.
As usual, we have Elana van Zyl to thank for the amazing photographs!