One of the grand old estates in the Cape and one of its most beautiful, Rustenberg is still family owned and one of the leading producers in the prime Simonsberg-Stellenbosch ward.
The Barlow family have been at Rustenberg, which lies just outside the university town of Stellenbosch itself, since the 1940s, reuniting two old estates (Schoongezicht and Rustenberg) which had been divided in 1810. The ebullient Simon Barlow is the current owner and head of the family, and his son Murray took over as cellarmaster in 2011.
A wide range of wines is produced, roughly half white and half red, from its c.110 hectares of vineyard which take up just a small proportion of this spectacular 880ha property, regularly booked as a film set and also home to a herd of free-range cattle.
The estate was first established in 1682, wine first bottled in 1892, but it is now right up to date with BWI and IPW accreditation. The original house dates back to the 1700s and features on the now-iconic Estate wine label, the design of which has remained unchanged since 1955. Or perhaps virtually unchanged, as sometimes the house is shown with its front door open, and sometimes with its front door closed, prompted by a major event in the life of the family.
On such a large property it is no surprise that myriad grape varieties are planted. There is a fantastic range of aspects, soils and elevations for the viticulturists to work with, providing Murray and his team with a wide and complex range of building blocks with which to put together their blends, and in particular the flagship Estate wines. The well-known 'Bordeaux' blend John X Merriman is made from 18-20 different parcels. A number of single-vineyard wines are made, notably Five Soldiers Chardonnay which is named after five pine trees which stand proud, with a fabulous view out towards False Bay, and Buzzard Kloof Syrah which is named after the Russian Steppe Buzzards which pass through during summer.
The whole property is a National Heritage site. Its high-tech winery is hidden in beautiful historic buildings, the land farmed sustainably, its workforce managed with respect. Murray Barlow is to marry on the property later this year and all bodes well for this unique family-owned estate in the hands of future generations.