There’s good reason to celebrate when an iconic estate like Boschendal turns around its fortunes to regain its position as one of South Africa’s premier wine estates for all to enjoy. Anglo American Corporation sold it many years ago to a local investment company which was primarily interested in the development potential of the real estate, ignoring the farming assets and everything else that made it a special. Today you’ll discover a complete turnaround is underway. The new owner is focused on farming and sharing the rich heritage and natural beauty of Boschendal to create memorable guest experiences… and even the cows have happy lines!
I was taken on a quick tour around the estate by Andre Lambrechts, the farm manager. His enthusiasm and passion is tangible. After years in the doldrums — he’s been on the farm for 28 years — he is achieving things at last! And one of his passions is Boschendal’s Black Angus herd.
The herd came to be after the winery was sold to Douglas Green-Bellingham and the farm became just a supplier of grapes. So they started looking at which varietals were profitable, and those vineyards that were not, were cleared. That created the problem of having to keep the grass which grew in their place cut, to keep the farm looking neat. And Andre pointed out that farming cattle would be cheaper than mowing.
And you will be able to buy their special beef from the Estate butchery which will open soon. It’s already being served at the restaurants — “streaked with healthy yellow; not unhealthy white fat,” says Andre.
But that’s just the start of the story, because the innovation that followed — for the Black Angus herd, the vines, the fruit and the visitor amenities — is what made my visit to Boschendal memorable. They avoid using fertilizer and insecticides, using fungicides only when really necessary. Bird life has flourished on the farm — there are four groups of Blue Cranes, as well as Storks and Secretary birds. And guinea fowl of course!
Dining options on the Estate, which now has five kitchens, are being expanded and — a notable achievement — is the way in which old farm labourers’ cottages have been converted into guest accommodation. So if you’re looking for a getaway…
And the old Rhodes Cottage has been refurbished, if you’re looking for something special. That’s a fitting reminder of an important step in South Africa’s architectural history. Cecil John Rhodes was one of the first to appreciate the value of Cape Dutch architecture and, just over 100 years ago, commissioned HEV Pickstone (of Lekkerwijn just across the railway line) to acquire farms in the Franschhoek valley. Pickstone bought 19 farms for Rhodes, and was the foundation of the old Rhodes Fruit Farms. Rhodes saved many of the historic buildings on these farms, for which we must be thankful!
Boschendal does impress, and we will be writing much more about it soon.