The candle flickered and fizzed, and for one long minute every eye in the room nervously watched as the flame responded to some unknown disturbance. Weltevrede’s general manager, Steyn Fullard, halted mid-sentence and the full silence and stillness of the underground cellar descended upon the present company of four ladies. Imaginations took flight. When all the other candles were still, flames elegantly stretching towards the ceiling, this one jigged, danced, and crackled. Could it be the work of a lonely spirit partaking in the storytelling?
In the cool darkness of Weltevrede’s underground cellar, where candles are your only source of light and the company your only source of courage, superstitions and fantasies are aroused, making for a thrilling experience. Ghost or errant draft, we’ll never know and perhaps it’s better that way; it makes for an excellent story, which is what this magical wine estate is all about.
Weltevrede is a 160-hectare wine farm situated in Bonnievale, along the Robertson Wine Valley route. Here, a collection of self-catering cottages offers gorgeous vistas over the vineyards, which are bordered by the Breerivier (“wide river”) and are also home to thriving birdlife. Since 1912, the Jonker family – five generations thereof – have been the keepers, managers, winemakers, and unquenchable source of passion behind Weltevrede Wine Estate. Those very same vineyards that were planted more than a century ago and in the decades since have remained the progenitors of the beautiful repertoire of wines produced here, from the elegant “Place of Rocks” Chardonnay to the intense and sultry “Bedrock Black Syrah”, named for the soils from which the vines grow.
My vision for the wines of Weltevrede is to be a pure expression of the terroir in which it is rooted. Our wines should have personality dictated by the soil. It should have a sense of place. – Philip Jonker, owner and winemaker.
During our weekend visit to the Robertson valley, we spent a night at Weltevrede’s guest cottages with ample wine and an expansive cheese, charcuterie, and fruit platter for sustenance. Early morning was kicked off with a coffee overlooking the magnificent view, followed by a walk around the periphery of the vineyards and along the banks of the Breerivier, accompanied by a cacophony of weaver, hoopoe, canary, and whydah birdcalls. Mid-morning, we sat down to a hearty farm breakfast and a delicious bubbly glass of the Philip Jonker “The Ring” brut at Weltevrede’s restaurant. With stomachs appropriately lined, Steyn Fullard, the estate’s general manager (and, as it turned out, talented story-teller), led us into the underground cellar for our tasting.
In addition to the aforementioned “Place of Rocks” Chardonnay and “Bedrock Black Syrah”, we sipped our way through the award-winning Vanilla Chardonnay from Weltevrede’s Simplicity Collection, the Philip Jonker “Entheos” Chardonnay Pinot Noir MCC, the smoky and peppery 1912 Cabernet Sauvignon (2016), and the decadently fruity and creamy 2016 Chardonnay of the same name. All the while, we listened to stories of Weltevrede’s quirky fourth generation owner and cellar master Philip Jonker, whose idiosyncratic approach to philanthropy and entrepreneurship makes for the most delightful anecdotes.
Bursting at the seams with the enchantment of our experience and a little giddy from all the wine despite our hearty farm breakfast, we emerged into the blinding light of day. The cherry on the cake was a tasting of Weltevrede’s Heritage wines: “Oupa Se Wyn” and “Ouma Se Wyn”, two sweet dessert wines that bear the countenances of the estate’s founding father, Klaas Jonker, and Philip’s grandmother, Lisbeth Jonker respectively.
“My great-grandfather was the first to plant vineyards in this area. Today, these vines are still anchored deeply in the heart of Weltevrede Estate. One of his vineyards is more than 80 years old and five generations of Jonkers have already tasted the fruit from these same vines.” – Philip Jonker
Sweeping history, quirky anecdotes, a unique and enchanting candlelit cellar tasting experience, gorgeous wines, accommodation with spectacular views, and delicious fare: Weltevrede Estate truly offers it all, making this an idyllic destination for anyone, local or foreign, looking to experience the Cape winelands at its very best.
Phone: 023 616 2141