Wellington is something of an overlooked, even forgotten, area of the South African winelands. It’s all too easy to be seduced by the glitz and glamour of architectural masterpieces or historic Cape Dutch manor houses in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl when driving through wine country.
Yet Wellington has much to offer in the way of authentic charm, not to mention great value, and nowhere is this more obvious than in this year’s winner of top honours in the Best Value competition, Imbuko Wines.
Many wine lovers might well be scratching their heads and going ‘Who?!’ Imbuko – which in Xhosa means ‘admiration for’ – has steadily built up an admirable track record since its first bottling in 2004.
Winemaker and innovator-in-chief Theunis van Zyl admits he did things back to front when he started out: ‘I had R1 200 in my bank account, a cellphone and a computer…’
And, obviously, a whole lot of energy and belief in himself and his wines.
Imbuko now exports to 47 international markets – and although it has only had a presence in the local market for the past four years, it is already making established players sit up and take notice. ‘I took all the lessons I learned establishing Imbuko internationally – listening to the Dutch, the Russians, the Americans and the Chinese – before bringing it all back home,’ says Theunis.
He attributes much of his success to the lively young team he now heads up – they have helped him establish four successful brands: Imbuko, Du Plevaux, Shortwood and Van Zijl Family Vintners.
What set Imbuko apart from the rest of the pack in this year’s Best Value competition was its broad range: from its 4 Star-rated Van Zijl Bushvine Chenin Blanc 2016 and 3½ Star-rated Van Zijl Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 to the Van Zijl Coffee Pinotage 2015 and Shortwood Entry Red which, at just R25, was the highest-rated value wine overall! And there were other wines which performed well, too.
‘From day one I wanted my approach to be different. It’s important that wines must be food friendly because you enjoy them when you kuier with mates around the braai or the dinner table.’
Imbuko’s ‘different’ approach sees it offering quirky food pairings at its cellar door – delicious pies, for example, or even flavoured cookies to accompany its low-alcohol, slightly sweet Pumula spritzer range.
Visitors to the farm can also stock up on farm produce – relishes and jams, olives and olive oil – or take a stroll through the vineyards, part of the popular Wellington Wine Walk.
This is an operation that not only grows and vinifies its own grapes on the farm, located between Paarl and Wellington, but also grows rootstock (essential to the South African wine industry) as well as sourcing parcels of grapes and wine from the length and breadth of the winelands for its different ranges.
View their different wine ranges below:
Imbuko Chenin Blanc
Imbuko Sauvignon Blanc
Van Zijl Coffee Pinotage
Imbuko Cabernet Sauvignon