Rietvallei Wine Estate counts among South Africa’s oldest family-owned wine estates and was one of the first wine farms established in the picturesque Robertson Wine Valley some 160km north east of Cape Town. Rietvallei lies in the Klaas Voogds ward, a region with unique soil structures and climatic influences ideal for wine grape cultivation, situated some eight kilometers east of Robertson town on the way to the Little Karoo.
In 2014 Rietvallei reached a major milestone by becoming one of only a handful of South African wine estates to celebrate 150 years of ownership under one family. This heritage of a pioneering Robertson-based wine culture under the guidance of six generations of the Burger family has contributed to Rietvallei’s reputation of excellence in viticulture and winemaking. Intimate knowledge of the soils and an understanding of the interaction between nature and vine, along with visionary winemaking practices, lie at the heart of Rietvallei’s status for premier winemaking over generations.
The farm was bought in 1864 by Alewyn Burger for his son Jacobus Francois. Koos Burger, pioneering wine farmer in many ways, farmed the estate and was 70 years old when he planted a Muscadel vineyard on the farm in 1908, today the oldest of its kind in South Africa.
Kobus is the 6th generation Burger on the Estate and current CEO and winemaker. He and his wife Elizabeth have four beautiful children; two daughters (11 & 14) and twin boys, aged eight. Elizabeth is actively involved in the business and manages the Manor house and venue facilities. She is also the chef when special guests or international agents gets entertained on the farm, spoiling them with her famous, mouth-watering dishes.
Kobus matriculated in 1993 from Paarl Boys High School. Straight out of high school he joined the South African Navy and completed a one-year Officers course at the SA Naval College in Gordons Bay. After that, in 1995 he enrolled for Mechanical Engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Four years later he acquired his degree in Mechanical Engineering and pursued a career in the field for three years. He then decided to join the family business and at the start of 2002 became involved with the marketing of Rietvallei Estate wines. With him and his dad Johnny joining forces, they decided to break away from Distell, who managed the Estate’s marketing and distribution for more than 25 years and in 2002 Vinimark became Rietvallei Estate’s national distributor.
It was also in 2002 when Kobus started gaining his experience in the art of wine making. January to March he joined the winemaking team at the Bergkelder (Stellenbosch) for their harvest and in September he went to France, where he worked in Sancerre at the Henri Bourgeois Family Wine Cellar for their harvest season. This year ended on a high note for him when he married Elizabeth in November and they moved to the Estate in Robertson.
Kobus’ first harvest on Rietvallei was in 2003, with Johnny still at the steer and teaching him the finer skills. The following year, Johnny stepped back from the wine making side and started to focus more on the farming side of business. In 2004 Kobus had his first harvest at Rietvallei as the winemaker and from then onwards he slowly developed Rietvallei’s portfolio to the wide variety of ranges and wines it has today
Rietvallei Estate is 215 hectares in total size of which 119 hectares are planted with vineyard. Plans are to expand the vineyards to 150 hectares during the next couple of years.
At the moment the estate is still planted with predominantly white noble cultivars covering 75%, with red being only 25%. Apart from the traditional Red Muscadel, Rietvallei is also planted with classic noble cultivars like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Weisser Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Tinta Barocca and Cinsaut. Rietvallei’s famous 1908 Red Muscadel vineyard is in the form of bush vines and is approximately one quarter of a hectare in size.
Away from the pollution of the city, these vines thrive in the crisp clean Karoo air. Often, in the early morning, the vines are shrouded in mist and from the distant Indian Ocean comes a breeze to further cool the grapes, thus allowing them to ripen slowly and develop their summer sugars.
The soils on the estate are well drained and rich in lime, with a high pH, ideal for wine growing. The soil types vary from red calcareous clay-loam, to deep calcareous loam, to rocky and even also to sandy alluvial soil.