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History & Development


Quoin Rock is very fortunate to have the best of both worlds.

Cape Agulhas

This being that it owns a farm in the unique location of the Cape Agulhas wine district, which has become one of the newest and most exciting wine producing areas in the world. The terroir of the area is causing quite a stir in the wine community. Relentless cool winds allow the grapes to ripen gradually, encouraging the vines to produce exceptional wines with an elegant style and the signature cool-climate minerality.

The farm known as Boskloof in the Cape Agulhas Overberg region was one of the original two company vineyards that were bought in 1999. This farm formed the early basis of the new wine enterprise that would become known as Quoin Rock, and holds the honour of having supplied the very first grapes that were pressed in the, then brand new, Stellenbosch wine cellar back in 2001, namely Chardonnay, which has become one of our leading wines.

When this rugged 2888ha property was bought in 1998, it was a sheep, cattle and fruit farm, although there were already some newly established vines. These, however, were not cultivated on rootstock and most had to be removed when vineyard replanting started 1999. To date there are 23ha planted with cultivars of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Pinotage. Quoin Rock, Cape Agulhas has become a sought after wine tasting destination for visitors and tourists to the area. The original farm homestead, more than a century old, was beautifully restored and renovated and became the quaint, rustic 'wine house' where visitors are tempted to linger by the warm log-fire in winter, or on the cool, vine-covered stoep in summer. An untapped resource waiting to be developed at Quoin Rock, Cape Agulhas is a constant supply of pure spring water. From as deep as 175m from within the earth's crust of Quartzite, sandstone and limestone, with no civilization above the source, this nectar of the gods flows from the earth. This water has been tested and found to be some of the purest in South Africa.

Stellenbosch

The Quoin Rock winery is situated on the foothills of the Simonsberg near Stellenbosch. This region is known for producing more complex and full bodied wines, which is partly due to the high red clay content in the soils that are characteristic of the area, and for which reason it was known as the "Clay Hole" long ago.

Although Quoin Rock is a fairly young wine estate, the history of the land on which it is built, and the heritage that goes with it, reaches as far back as the origins of the Cape itself. This land is part of the original Cape wine-growing region. These hills and valleys have borne witness to some of the most fascinating historical events in the history of the Cape – You need only take a look at the histories of our neighbours, Muratie, Delheim and Knorhoek, to realize what a gem this area is in the development of the South African wine culture.

The 198Ha Quoin Rock land was purchased in 1998 from Knorhoek wine estate and construction began on the wine cellar, manor house and farm infrastructure. A replanting program was implemented in 2000 and continued for a two-year period. This involved removing some of the old vineyard and existing pear orchards, in order to establish selected wine grapes that have proven well suited to the soil and climate conditions of the area. Eventually 45Ha of vines were established, consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre and Sauvignon Blanc cultivars.

In 2001 the first grapes from Agulhas were pressed in the wine cellar, with Rodney Easthope in the position of winemaker to the brand new establishment. Rodney remained winemaker until 2002. At his resignation, his then assistant, Carl van der Merwe, took over the reins as winemaker. The pattern repeated itself when Carl resigned in April 2010 and, in her turn; assistant Narina Cloete was promoted and became Quoin Rock's first woman winemaker.

The land itself

Interesting "microclimates" tend to manifest in the vineyards that stretch from the lower part of the farm, where the wine cellar is situated, to the upper reaches where the manor house perches on the hill – in all a 2km distance by road, and 200m rise in altitude. Beyond the manor house the farm dips into a deep valley, then rises again in two steep slopes that are split by a deep and treacherous gorge. When walking these ancient hills, one can certainly drift off in your mind and almost hear the roar of lions and leopards that once roamed the land – The very reason why the land was first named "Knorhoek" by someone's distant ancestor.

Simonsberg Estate


on the foothills of Stellenbosch

The Simonsberg Mountain is made up of layers of sandstone in various stages of geological metamorphosis, forming part of the Table Mountain Sandstone complex. Beneath the sandstone there is a large granitic intrusion that is believed to have formed the many folds and cracks in the sandstone layers. After years of weathering, these "parent materials" have resulted in the rich red soils that cover the foothills of this mountain. High clay, a significant fine sand content, combined with the high levels of rich organic matter, provide a rich medium with a good capacity for water retention, enabling the vine to establish a deep flourishing root system. Vineyard altitudes range from about 150m above sea level on the lower mid-slopes to 600m above sea level for the higher mid-slopes providing a range of different microclimates – all with a general southerly exposition. These microclimates result in vineyards producing fruit with distinct differences lending complexity to the final blends in the cellar.

Climate conditions

Winters are generally moderate with 95% of the annual rainfall occurring between April and November. The average annual rainfall is in the region of 750mm per year. Winters are normally cool enough for the vine to move into a desired state of dormancy with snow on the peaks of the surrounding mountains a common occurrence. Summer months can be very hot and dry, with the warmest months being February and March. High wind levels are evident between the months of December and March. The wind, in combination with the heat during February and March, can result in high levels of stress for the vine trying to ripen its crop. With correct viticulture these stress levels can result in thicker grape skins, increasing tannins and flavor – making this region very suitable to producing high quality red wines. The harvest period generally begins towards the end of February and ends towards the end of March.

Vineyard layout

All vines have been established on phylloxera-resistant rootstock. Planting densities range from 2500 to 6000 vines per hectare. Trellising systems incorporate spur pruning and vertical shoot positioning with head pruning being used on certain vineyards. On the Simonsberg estate, we have focused primarily on the establishment of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz with smaller plantings of Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.

Agulhas Estate

In the Overberg

Cape Agulhas is situated at the southernmost tip of Africa, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. As a wine growing area, the Cape Agulhas is distinct from other areas in that it enjoys a cool climate. Quoin Rock Vineyards is located in this cool climate area.

The name "Quoin Rock" is derived from Quoin Rock just off Quoin Point, which is about 30km southwest of Quoin Rock Vineyards. Quoin Point is the outer eastern point of the Danger Point Peninsula area and the second most southern tip of Africa. Between Danger Point to the west and Cape Infanta, about 140 Shipwrecks have been mapped. Most of these shipwrecks are around Cape Agulhas, Arniston and Quoin Point. These date from as early as the "Joanna" in 1682 where salvagers found bottles of wine and brandy and Spanish American silver bullion and cob coins.

The history of Quoin Point and its shipwrecks is closely connected to that of Elim, the Moravian mission village nearby, whose residents provided assistance to victims of shipwrecks. Queen Victoria even granted the right to use the land at Quoin Point to residents after the Elim residents provided assistance at the wrecking of the "Jessie" in 1829 at Quoin Point.

Since 1998, the vineyards have been established on the southern mid-slopes of the Bredasdorp Mountains. Vineyard altitudes range from 135m above sea level on the lower mid-slopes to 210m above sea level on the higher mid-slopes. The soils in this area, which have a pH ranging from 5.0 to 6.1 are derived from sandstone, laterite (koffieklip) and of granitic origin. High contents of coarse sand and 60 - 80% stone provide good drainage. Selective harvesting is done by hand and transported in small-ventilated crates to Quoin Rock Wines in Stellenbosch by means of a refrigerated truck.



Climate conditions

The main climate determinant in this area is the ocean, being only 26km from the farm, and with vineyards nestled in a kloof in the mountain; it has an annual rainfall of over 600mm – favouring conditions for dry land vineyards. It has an entirely different microclimate, governed by the southerly winds into the Agulhas Plain and thus has a completely different flora to that north of the coastal hills.

Wines originating from the Agulhas locality have unique "terroir" characteristics, brought about by the particular climate and soil conditions found in this region. Winter temperatures are always cool enough to ensure a uniform state of dormancy in the vines and summer temperatures are moderate with the vines rarely experiencing high levels of stress. Higher humidity and frequent rainfall during the ripening period of the grapes can pose a risk to viticulture with losses to botrytis being quite common. High wind levels are also very common in this area; wind has both positive and negative effects for viticulture. Strong winds in spring and early summer can injure new growth and young bunches, as well as reduce fruit set. There is however a positive influence; air circulation helps in preventing high relative humidity and therefore assists in reducing the chances of diseases. Wind can also thicken the skins of the grapes, increasing the intensity of flavour.

Additionally, the uniquely cooler ripening conditions preserve flavour and acidity in the grapes with tannins remaining soft and elegant. This makes the area specially suited to producing grapes that benefit from cooler ripening conditions such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. In such areas, there will be variability in wines from year to year. This is a typical characteristic of a cool climate wine growing area.

Vineyard layout

Planting densities range from 3333-4000 vines per hectare. The general trellising system incorporates spur pruning and vertical shoot positioning. In Cape Agulhas, we have focused primarily on the establishment of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with smaller plantings of Merlot and Pinot Noir.

Wine Growing Philosophy


Quoin Rock strives to produce wines that are unique to Quoin Rock and that hopefully maintain a level of similarity throughout the different vintages. Although this topic is hotly debated, we believe that “terroir” – or a sense of place and authenticity – is very important. It is for this reason that Quoin Rock goes to great lengths to employ viticulture practices that encourage the expression of these nuances.

Manual Labour

Vineyard workers are very important as it’s their hands that form and create the vines and the resultant fruit. Our workers are trained in a production philosophy unique to Quoin Rock and a mentorship program ensures the continuity of this philosophy, where “apprentices” are trained by more experienced workers.

Herbicides and Pesticides

Herbicides and pesticides are kept to an absolute minimum. Should a treatment be required, it is limited to localised manual spraying on a vine per vine basis with a manually operated back pack spray machine. Organically certified products are always favoured over non-certified as they are generally more forgiving on the environment. Mechanical options are used to control ground cover in the vineyards in place of chemical herbicides which tend to denude the soil and destroy the natural balance.

Fertilising and disease prevention

Composts, mulch and cover crops are favored over chemical fertilizers and where soil chemistry correction is required, a minimalist approach is preferred. Fungal disease prevention is kept to a minimum with our spray volumes constituting 20-25% of the industry average. Contact products are preferred to systemic products and organic certified products are favored over non-certified products. Vine canopy management which allows air movement through the leaves is key to preventing disease and allows for much lower spray volumes.

Irrigation

We try to exclude intensive irrigation during the growing season, limiting it to a post-harvest use. Crops are controlled to minimise stress on the vine although water is available as a lifeline to rescue a vineyard that is in decline.

Biodiversity

We encourage biodiversity in the vineyards with indigenous fynbos vegetation finding its way back into the actual vineyard blocks. The fynbos is pruned on an annual basis to prevent growth into the vine canopy. Anyone is welcome to visit our vineyards to witness our production practices. Please arrange for an appointment should you wish to visit.

Social Responsibility


Our Staff

At Quoin Rock we value people and recognize that each individual is a contributing factor to the success of the business. In line with this, we have a policy of mentoring on a group- as well as on an individual level, and we strive to assist staff members with attaining a high level of mental and physical health. Quoin Rock aims at assisting workers to attain a dignified, meaningful life through honest, hard work. For this reason our vineyard staff are paid well in excess of the minimum prescribed South African wage, and individual hard work, loyalty and effort is rightly rewarded. Motivational, inspirational and educational projects for our staff as a whole are presented on an ongoing basis, whilst individual training in aspects relevant to the work situation is encouraged and frequently funded by the business.

Our Vineyards

In view of the fact that our vineyards form part of our natural environment, we believe that we have a responsibility to care for them in a way that takes into consideration the impact on the wider surroundings. For this reason, though not following any specific certification, we strive to exclude environmentally harmful chemicals as far as possible in our general viticultural practices.

Fertilising and disease prevention

Composts, mulch and cover crops are favored over chemical fertilizers and where soil chemistry correction is required, a minimalist approach is preferred. Fungal disease prevention is kept to a minimum with our spray volumes constituting 20-25% of the industry average. Contact products are preferred to systemic products and organic certified products are favored over non-certified products. Vine canopy management which allows air movement through the leaves is key to preventing disease and allows for much lower spray volumes.

Alien Clearing Project

The Cape is home to the world's most diverse plant kingdom. This plant kingdom, locally known as fynbos, is under threat from alien species that are invading their natural habitat. Since 2008 we have partnered with local government, who have contributed to the funding of these activities, in eradicating these ferociously invasive alien species.

Compost Production

Harvested alien plant vegetation is put through a chipper and the resultant wood chippings are used in compost production, together with grape stems and skins collected after the annual harvest. Cow manure is added to this material and the whole mix is enriched with Zeolite, Basalt and Kelp. The natural compost is prepared over a period of a year before being used in the vineyards.

Recycling

Plastic, metal, paper and glass is separated and taken to recycling depots in Stellenbosch. Organic kitchen waste as well as garden waste is composted at our farm nursery for use in domestic gardens on the farm.

Various Homegrown Produce

Quoin Rock has a vegetable garden, which produces healthy homegrown veggies for the benefit of the staff who work on the farm. Farmyard chickens produce eggs that are also made available to the staff. In our farm nursery indigenous plants are reproduced for planting in the estate gardens.