Pastures Anew at Rustenberg
Experience 4.0 Stellenbosch Wine 4.0

Pastures Anew at Rustenberg

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Experience: 4/5
Wines: 4/5

Head up Ida’s Valley North-East of Stellenbosch and you will find a lovely road through rural countryside. The road continues for a further 2 kilometres past the entrance gate, passing private homes, green pastures and vines until reaching a magnificent secluded view of Cape Dutch homesteads. This was surely a hidden secret off the beaten track. Rustenberg dates back to 1682. The first wine grower, in 1781, was Roelof Pasman, a German from Meurs near the Rhine. As one might expect from a wine farm with a long history, much has changed.



The estate was divided into 2 properties in the early 1800s – Rustenberg and Schoongezicht – and winemaking peaked at around 1812. The phylloxera disease devastated the vineyards in the late 1880s as it did with so many of South Africa’s wine farms. It was much later, after 1941, that the 2 farms were reunited by owners Peter and Pamela Barlow. Son Simon took over the farm in 1987. The family, with wife Rozanne and after son Murray, restored the gardens and replanted the vineyards with virus free clones and new varieties.



Today, 110 hectares of the 880 hectare property are under vine on the rich slopes of the Simonsberg. All the big name red and white cultivars are grown together with some less common varieties such as Grenache Noir and Blanc, Petit Verdot and Roussanne. Rustenberg was first in South Africa to grow the Northern Rhône grape Roussanne and to make a single variety wine from it. More than 80% of all wines produced are exported to over 30 countries as far afield as North America, Europe, Africa, the Near East and Far East. The remainder is either available only to buy from the Cellar or sold in Makro, Spar and PicknPay. The latter surprised given the quality and price point of the wines.



The Tasting Room is approached by a spiral staircase that leads down to a bright wood lined and floored room. Spittoons unusually are in the form of sinks set into glass counters. There is a small sitting room at one end of the room. Behind, the Tasting Room leads out to a tranquil sitting out area that faces the courtyard and elegant white-painted Cape Dutch buildings.



Elsabie was my cheery and knowledgeable tasting host (R25 tasting fee, waived on bottle purchase). She was insistent that I tasted as many of the wines as possible. Sadly, the Roussanne was sold out, the harvest having suffered smoke damage from bush fires in 2016. The majority wines fall into the Rustenberg Regional Range (easy drinking wines made with grapes from the Stellenbosch area) with the best wines reserved for the Flagship Range (fuller bodied) and Site Specific Range (from blocks at the top of the farm).



I tasted 2 whites and the Petit Verdot Rosé to start. It was interesting to compare the 2 Chardonnay, one unwooded from the Regional Range and the other lightly wooded (12 months in 25% new French oak) from the Flagship Range. Both were decent wines. The unwooded Chardonnay was fresh and bright with little malolactic fermentation to make for a light, clean mouthfeel with flavours of apple, citrus, pear and light apricot. Immediate baked fruity apple and caramel aromas filled the glass, well balanced on the palate, to make the wooded Chardonnay my favourite.



The Rosé was a glorious mid-blush to medium-salmon in colour from the thick skins of the Petit Verdot grape. Made for the 5th year, and requested by the UK, shy ripe strawberries and cranberry aromas gave moderate complexity on the nose. It was pleasant on the palate with a dry to off-dry character that I enjoyed, enough to buy 2 bottles.


Grenache is one of my favourite wines and always a good alternative to Pinot Noir. This was made in the Pinot Noir style, using 12 months in old French barrels, and produced for the 2nd year as a single variety wine. Vibrant, intense forward aromas of cranberry, bitter-sweet cherry and redcurrant promised much in the glass but fell away a little on the palate to give a light mouthfeel with a firm acidity.


Malbec, from the same 2016 vintage and price, is another new wine at Rustenberg. Released a month ago, it was full-bodied and cCbernet Sauvignon in character with ripe fruit flavours of red plum, blackberry, mulberry, blackcurrant and mint. Firm tannins from 15 months’ maturation in 10% new and 2nd/3rd/4th fill oak gave good structure and a decent finish.


The next 3 wines I tasted were from the top 2 rages. The Buzzard Kloof Syrah, so named after the Jackal and Step buzzards that fly in the kloof where the grapes are grown, was full bodied. Spicy rich cassis and dark plum flavours integrated with big tannins on the palate – 20 months in 40% new French oak and 60% 2nd/3rd fill American oak contributing – that left a slight bitterness that will improve with ageing.

The Cabernet Sauvignon-led Bordeaux style blend and single variety Cabernet Sauvignon were my favourite wines of the tasting. Named after a previous owner of Schoongezicht who later became Prime Minister of the Cape, the John X Merriman blend showed great complexity of juicy fruit flavours from the 5 Bordeaux varieties. Tannins were firm and slightly rounded on the palate. The site-specific Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon was even better. Full bodied and with a delicious inviting nose of potent plums, berries and currants, the tannins were smooth, lingering and well balanced. This was a big wine (14.5% alcohol content too) and made to last for another 10-15 years.



Straw wines are sweet dessert wines made since the pre-Roman times by drying grapes on straw mats to concentrate the juice. The Rustenberg straw wine was a recent vintage and paler in colour than most I have sampled. Always a pleasure to drink, I enjoyed the layered raisin, apricot, guava and honeysuckles flavours and clean, sweet mouthfeel.



I left historic Rustenberg with a smile on my face. Located to the North East of Stellenbosch and more isolated than many of the surrounding wine farms, it is well worth a visit. The wines with their classic, historic labels, were honest, decently made and offered a good selection of cultivars and styles. They are predominantly red and I could have chosen to taste Sauvignon Blanc too. I did not have time to explore the formal English-styled Schoongezicht Garden, or the rest of the grounds, which is something I now regret. It gives excuse though to Rustenberg visit again – and, hopefully, to taste the Roussanne also.

Wines tasted (bought *):


2016 Rustenberg Unwooded Chardonnay – R80
2016 Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chardonnay – R175


2017 Rustenberg Stellenbosch Petit Verdot Rosé – R80*


2016 Rustenberg Stellenbosch Grenache – R100
2016 Rustenberg Stellenbosch Malbec – R100
2015 Rustenberg Stellenbosch Buzzard Kloof Syrah – R175
2014 Rustenberg Stellenbosch John X Merriman (56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec) – R175
2013 Rustenberg Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon – R400 FAVOURITE WINE


2017 Straw Wine (67% Chenin Blanc, 17% Viognier, 16% Crouchen)(375 ml) – R100


You Might Also Like

Clouds Reign in Stellenbosch

Baby Thrown Out with the Bath Water?

No Black Marks at Raka

Mooi Mooi Mooi Mooiplaas

Oh-MG at Anthonij Rupert

Kosie Wynes at Groenland

PicknPay Pairs it again at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival

Family Fun in Pairs at Four Cousins

Great Value in the Swartland

Sugar and Spice is Twice as Nice

Bracing Brakes on the Red Wines at Remhoogte

Family Fun at the Greek Harvest Festival

Iona Wines Remain Excellent In and At the Vineyard

Big Preparations in the Little Vineyard

A Family Occasion – the Story behind the Bottle

Onderkloof Beats All the Odds Below The Valley

Franschhoek’s Hidden Gem Is Reluctant to Reveal

The Gods Come Home to the Vineyard

It’s High Time Again

Quality with Style in the Vineyard

Au Revoir France!

More-ish Wines at Môreson

The Phoenix Rises from the Terroir at Thelema

Sax ‘n’ Berg at the Vineyard

Blaauwklippen was Good for a Friday

Verticle Tasting on the Ridge in Elgin

Waxing Lyrical about Canto

Seven Reasons To Visit Seven Oaks Wines

Pedigree Stud Grub at Cavalli

Swiss Family Sauvignons at Eikendal

Beyond Expectation

The Terroir is Honoured in the Bottle at Springfield

Around the (Old) World in 18 Hours – starting with the European Cuvée!

Golden Wines at the End of the Rainbow

Dornier Disappoints

It’s all Art and Wine at Almenkerk

British Reserve and Excellence at Sumaridge

Perfection is Attainable at Boschkloof Wines

All is Not Lost in a Safe Port

Neil’s Vines on the Tr-Ellis in Stellenbosch

Classic(al) to Barrique – De Morgenzon Hits all the Right Notes

Class in Glass at Glenelly

iWine rather than IMAX at the Cape Gate Mall

Value for Money from Angel Gabriel in the Vineyard

Boutique de Brendel

Delaire Graff Wines Sparkle

Well Hosted and Enjoyable – Even Though I did not Experience at its Best

In the Garage in the Heart of McGregor

How Do You Grow a Vineyard Like Maria?

The Garagiste in the Garage at Sonklip!

Purring at the Wines in Tyger Valley

Wines Out of the Barrel at Kanonkop

At the Bend in the Road in Bot River

Shiraz Purrs at Manley Wine Lodge

Heaven Meets Earth at Bouchard Finlayson

Maiden Visit to Lord’s Bowled Me Over

On the Left, but then on the Right …

Altitudes with Wine!

The Vineyard Hotel a Classic Vehicle to Showcase L’Ormarins Wines

Mixed Spice at the Pinotage Festival

Dreaming of a Wine Christmas

Magical Wines Star at Dragonridge

Grand Wines at the Big Top!

Elegant Wines Kiss the Lips in the Vineyard

Barrels of Fun at My First Stellenbosch Street Soirée

The Big Easy Tee’s Off in the Vineyard

Simonsig Excellence Today with a Traditional Legacy

Wines That Don’t Cost The Earth

Tasting Vines at the Vineyard

One Day, Three Tastings, Five Wines and Seven Sisters

The Bestbier Family produces Best Wines at Goede Hoop

Taint, Mould, Sweet-Sour, Elastoplast, Stale Honey, Bee Wax and Potato Skin With the Wine Prof

Masses of Fun and a little Chaos at the Ambeloui Harvest Festival



Wine Passions Mounted at Cavalli

Malverne Dis-Clos-ed

Mutual Attraction

Englishman Meets Mrs English at Classic Lanzerac

Saxenburg Puts Heart, Mind and Soul into Its Wines

Warwick Wines Win their Colours

Cabsolutely Frankulous at the Carnival

Wines Merely to Lust After

Wine on the Slopes at Chamonix

Groot Phesantekraal an Unexpected Surprise!

Kept Alone at Kaapzicht

Lithos Wines Soar above Mountain and Forest

From Palette to Palate to Muratie

Straw Berry Yields for e-Ver-gelegen

The Darling from Darling Steps into the Vineyard

Mulderbosch didn’t quite Meet the Yardstick

More than Just a Destination

Serenity without Worry or Preoccupation in the Chapel

Rijk Tulbagh Gives Name to Cellar and Town

Late at Lateganskop

A Warm Welcome in the Cool Climate at South Hill

Beau-tiful Beau-tique Beau-Constantia

Multi-Faceted Wines on Display at the Vineyard

Four Partners (not Cousins) at the Vineyard Hotel

Bon Courage and Bon Voyage

Excelsior Blends Quality with Price

Posh Spice in Franschhoek!

Exciting, Excellent Keermont

Wagons to the Cellar at Waboomsrivier

Peace but No Rest at Rust en Vrede

King Chenin Kens (Knows) the Wood from the Trees

Of Female Rugby Players and Ballet Dancers! Let’s Continuously Study Very Seriously: Wines of the Loire and Northern Rhône

Honest, Affordable Family Wines at Landskroon

On Yonder Hill There Stands a Vineyard!

Grape Fun – Stomping Well Worth the Journey!

Satisfaction in Getting My Ducks (and Wines) in a Row

Rustic Charm at the Altydgedacht Wine Farm

Speed Tasting with Sommelier ‘Royalty’ at my First SASA Meeting

Trading Wines in the City Bowl

Wines to Love on Love Street

Nala Wines are Well Engineered in the Vineyard

Better than a Fair View Where the Goats do Roam!

Lust-ful Reds in the Vineyard

Bellville to Bellevue to Belle Wines

Taking the Garage into the Classroom

Eq-wine – Fine Wines and Fast Horses!

Cabernet Franc – Well Worth a Gamble!

Fun(ny) Times at Lourensford

Red Chair in the Morning

Iconic Steenberg

Syrah Pillars of Excellence at Haskell

Wine Notes Composed at D’Aria

In the Vineyard with Beyerskloof

Linga-ring in a Winery in Malawi

Grape Expectations are Met at Zevenwacht

Vista to Verdot at Glen Carlou

Water into Wine at Uitkyk

Summer Whites …… and Rosés

Wacky – not Tacky – in Robertson


K-eynote W-ines at the V-ineyard

Quality Abounds on the Mound at La Motte

A Kleine Experience at Zalze

Sweet and Safe Times Pair Well with the Whales

In the Highlands in the Lowlands of Elgin

Wonderful Grapes at the Vineyard Hotel

More Still at Tanagra

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *