With a reputation for producing some of the Cape’s finest red wines, the heralded Kanonkop Estate is often referred to as a South African "First Growth." The fourth generation family farm, presently run by brothers Johann and Paul Krige, has been owned and operated by the Sauer-Krige family since the early 1930s. The name Kanonkop is derived from a "kopje" (small hill) on the property, from which a cannon was fired in the 17th century to announce the arrival of the Dutch East India Company’s trading ships at Table Bay.
Kanonkop boasts some of the Cape’s first commercially planted Pinotage vines, with an average age of over 50 years. Respecting tradition while embracing the future, Kanonkop fuses age-old wine-making techniques with state-of-the art technology. All of the estate’s grapes are handpicked and sorted. The wines are vinified in open concrete fermenters, using manual punchdowns, and are subsequently aged in French Nevers oak barrels.
Kanonkop continues its long history of excellence under Abrie Beeslaar, winemaker at the estate since 2002. In addition to garnering regular 90+ ratings for his bottlings in such publications as Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, Beeslaar was crowned the 2008 International Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, where Kanonkop also received the Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande trophy for the best blended red wine with its Paul Sauer 2003 and the Dave Hughes Trophy for Best South African Producer. In addition, Kanonkop was named "Winery of the Year" and its Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 earned "Wine of the Year" in the 2009 edition of John Platter’s South African Wine Guide – widely recognized as the most authoritative and comprehensive guide on the world of South African wine. Kanonkop Wine Estate was also named the "Most Admired Wine Brand in South Africa" and listed at #32 on the “Most Admired Wine Brands in the World" by #DrinksInternational in 2020.
South Africa’s most famous wine-producing district, Stellenbosch, surrounds the historic town with the same name; fine winemaking here dates back to the late 1600s. Its valleys of granite, sandstone and alluvial loam soils between the towering blue-grey mountains of Stellenbosch, Simonsberg and Helderberg have the capacity to produce beautiful wines from many varieties. The climate is warm Mediterranean, tempered by the cool Atlantic air of nearby False Bay.
Perhaps most well-known for its Pinotage and Bordeaux blends, Stellenbosch also produces noteworthy wines from Syrah, Chenin blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc. The district’s wards—Banghoek, Bottelary, Devon Valley, Jonkershoek Valley, Papegaaiberg, Polkadraai Hills and Simonsberg-Stellenbosch—all produce distinctive wines from vines with relatively low yields.
South Africa’s signature grape, Pinotage is a distinctively earthy and rustic variety. In 1924 viticulturists crossed finicky Pinot Noir and productive, heat-tolerant Cinsault, and created a variety both darker and bolder than either of its parents! Today it is popular in South Africa both as a single varietal wine and in Cape blends. Somm Secret—The name “Pinotage” is a subtle portmanteau. The Pinot part is obvious, but the second half is a bit confusing. In the early 1900s, Cinsault was known in South Africa as “Hermitage”—hence Pinotage.