“Every family has a story that it tells itself, that it passes on to the children and grandchildren. The story grows over the years, mutates, some parts are sharpened, others dropped, and there is often debate about what really happened. But even with these different sides of the same story, there is still agreement that this is the family story. And in the absence of other narratives, it becomes the flagpole that the family hangs its identity from.” (A.M. Homes)
In 1864, the Burger family began its rich family tradition on Rietvallei Estate, nestled in the beautiful Klaasvoogds valley just outside Robertson. It was from a fellow named Klaas Voogd, who got caught unaware and was trampled to death by an elephant, that the Klaasvoogds area derived its name.
The Burger heritage started when Alwyn Burger bought the farm for his son Koos, who settled with his family on the farm and was also the first winemaker to make the Red Muscadel. For many years it was the only wine featured on the Rietvallei portfolio, and in 1908 Koos planted Rietvallei’s famous block of Muscadel vineyard. To this day, this vineyard produces excellent fruit and is the oldest red muscadel vineyard in South Africa. The original Muscadel-making recipe is still used to this day and for many years this hand-written recipe was nailed behind the cellar door.
Today, Kobus Burger represents the 6th generation of Burgers on the estate, operating as CEO and winemaker of Rietvallei. He and wife Elizabeth have two daughters, Esté (13) and Annie (11) and twin boys, Johnny and Austin (7). Elizabeth manages the venue & tasting facilities and is famous for the magic she makes in the kitchen.
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 to study mechanical engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. He achieved his degree and pursued a career in mechanical engineering for 3 years, before feeling the call of his wine-making heritage. In 2002, he decided to enter the family business, joining forces with his father Johnny. Together they decided to break away from Distell, who had managed the Estate’s marketing and distribution for more than 25 years, in favour of Vinimark.
It was also in 2002 when Kobus started gaining his experience in the art of wine making. From January to March he joined the wine making 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. The year ended on a high note when he married Elizabeth in November and they moved back to Rietvallei.
Kobus’ first harvest on Rietvallei was in 2003, with Johnny still at the helm and teaching him the finer skills of wine making. The following year, Johnny stepped back from the wine making and started to focus more on the farming side of business. After his first harvest as winemaker at Rietvallei in 2004, Kobus has slowly developed and broaden the Rietvallei portfolio to the wide variety of ranges and wines it has today.
Our harvest on Rietvallei wine Estate started on the 18th of January with the Sauvignon Blanc and finished with our last Cabernet Sauvignon on the 17th of April.
“What a harvest! With 13 weeks in total, it was the longest I have ever experienced. Despite the drought, frost and fruit lost to sun-burn we have been blessed yet again. Not a big crop, but most definitely one of optimal quality,” says Kobus. Harvest time means working around the clock and little sleep. But the energy and enthusiasm among the teams in the cellar and vineyards are contagious, and really inspires one through each waking hour – of which there are many! There is nothing like watching your grapes come into the winery and seeing, tasting and smelling them on the journey towards becoming wine.
“The small berries is definitely a signature of this vintage, which has resulted in fruit of high concentration in both flavour and colour. I can’t remember when last I saw reds with such intence colour. Allot of exciting 2018 vintage wines to look out for this year and we are excited to share it with you.”