The legacy of the Deetlefs Wine Family stretches over 200 years with it being the second oldest family owned wine estate in South Africa under ownership of the same family.
A maiden voyage from Europe on 3 October 1752 was the start of a beautiful journey that set-in motion the story of Deetlefs Wine Estate and the family run business it is today. On 3 October 1752 the HAGEVELD (voyage 3566.1) left on 3 October 1752 from Texel, an island north of Amsterdam and close to Denmark with 143 people onboard and arrived in Cape Town 21 March 1753 on her way to Indonesia (Batavia). During this trip four people died and 14 left the ship in the Cape of Good Hope.
Johannes Deetlefs was a German soldier from the Hennstedt-area in Dittmarchen. He arrived in South Africa in 1753, after being put ashore at Saldanha Bay because he was, reputedly, a bit difficult. Johannes made his way to Tulbagh and settled there with his wife Alette Claasen. He passed four years later, leaving behind a son, Nicolaas Johannes Deetlefs.
Nicolaas Johannes and his wife Maria Elizabeth had five children and their eldest son, Nicolaas Johannes, came to De Grootte Eiland in the Goudini area between 1816 and 1822 and settled on a piece of land, Lebensraum, where Deetlefs Wine Estate is situated today.
After farming the land till 1939, Nicolaas Johannes passed away from measles at the young age of 36; leaving behind his wife Regina Maria Cornelia who farmed Lebensraum on her own for the next 50 years. Nicolaas and Regina was responsible for building the first Deetlefs family homestead in 1822. Their son, Nicolaas Johannes married Anna Louisa in 1850. They build the main homestead that the family still reside in to this day.
A new wine cellar
Nicolaas and his son Philippus Petrus Deetlefs were the first of the family to establish a wine cellar under the oak trees. They bought the first five wine tanks and these original tanks have been epoxy-coated and are still used today. When Philippus Petrus passed in 1943 the Kerkbode wrote the following in an article: “an imposing man: in body and soul; as well as outlook and faith – his word held authority.”
He was known as a dynamic leader, stubborn and individualistic. The story is told that he was warned by a British Commander, who made camp on the farm in 1901 during the Anglo Boer war, not to come closer than 100 yards from the camp as they would shoot on sight. He returned their warning by making it clear that he would shoot on sight if they came close to his sheep-kraal.
In 1920 the cellar was expanded, and 23 more tanks were built. Jacobus de Wet Deetlefs married Anna Aletta Marais in 1934. Koos Deetlefs was known to be soft-spoken, generous and individualistic.
Under his ownership the farm was well-known for its quality wines and raisins. In the late 1940’s a Control Board was established for dried fruits, which he furiously opposed as it was the end of a free market where quality was the determining factor. Jacobus decided that not one raisin would be sold to the Control Board and the cellar was expanded to accommodate the additional grapes.
An invitation to serve on this Board was turned down as he was not prepared to be part of any organization that would lead to the downfall of co-farmers: – prophetic words.
Shortly after that, in 1948, he also turned down an invitation to become part of a co-operative winery as he had already invested in additional capacity. Young and old were involved in the wine making process as the emphasis shifted 100% towards wine and in 1958 a wooden Vaselin-press was imported and installed.
Jacobus had a son Philippus Petrus Deetlefs in 1936. Together with Denise Dreyer, they had four children. In 1957 Phillip Deetlefs graduated from Stellenbosch University (SU) and took over the farm in 1965 after the death of his farther. Philip, who had a special gift to see the bigger picture and give perspective, was known as a humble person with good people skills and an individual approach.
Under the guidance of Phillip, Lebensraum won the prize for Best Specialised Farming Practices in 1966. He had an eye for detail, a scientific approach and firmly believed that quality originates from the grapes.
In 1976, for the first time ever, a fortified Hanepoot wine (Muscat d’ Alexandrie) won the Champion Young Wine Competition and Philip was nominated Winemaker of the Year. In 1979 the Hanepoot received a Superieur seal (only 4% of all wines in South Africa). He did not want to keep records of the accolades of the past as his philosophy was that it is all about the future and that continuous quality will determine success.
Under Philip’s control the farm was registered as a Wine Estate on 4 November 1977, new vines were planted, and the production was doubled over a 19 year period. The cellar was modernised and significantly expanded in the early 1970’s and 1984.
It is a family business, but the family has decided they are not prepared to stagnate in the traditions of their heritage. He was well-known for his special love of oak trees, he said an interview documented in the 80’s.
Jacobus de Wet Deetlefs married Isabella Helena Meyer. They have four children, Elsie Johanna Jacoba, Denise Frances, Philippus Petrus and Willem-Karel (seventh generation). Kobus Deetlefs graduated in 1986 at the SU (B.ScAgricHons wine and viticulture) and took over the responsibility in 1992 after the death of his father. In 1974 he released the 1974 Phillipus Petrus Deetlefs Muscat d’Alexandrie.
The story goes that in 1974, two winemakers from Breedekloof entered into a friendly wager. One claimed it was impossible to mature a Muscat d’Alexandrie for any length of time.
The other winemaker believed otherwise. His name was Philippus Petrus Deetlefs.
To prove his theory, he filled a third of a tank with Hanepoot lees, and the remaining two thirds with Hanepoot wine, and in closing the tank, he began a new chapter in the Deetlefs story.
Fifteen years later, in 1989, the tank was opened. Inside was a unique and sublimely flavoured wine. Today, this Muscat d’Alexandrie is deemed one of the world’s rarest wines, as the small volume of this very special batch is decreasing.
In honour of Philippus Deetlefs’ legacy, only one small batch of Muscat d’Alexandrie will be made every twenty five years.
Passion and innovation
It is this passion for innovation that has defined the Deetlefs Family Wine Estate throughout its 200-year history. And although 46 years may seem like a long time to produce a wine, our Muscat d’Alexandrie 1974 is proof that certain things are well worth the wait.
A sustainable Family Wine Business in the medium and high segment that unlocks opportunities through a bold approach, creating an ultimate service and lifestyle experience.
In 2000 the business was restructured to facilitate the growth and development. Contributing to our success is a focussed multi-disciplinary team. Control your own destiny and don’t follow trends; set them….
“One of the greatest challenges and achievements was turning a family-owned Wine Estate into a dynamic Wine Group, based on the culture and values of the Deetlefs family. A family Business creates the best possible options for sustainable growth if it is well-structured and has clear guidelines/policies in place,” says Kobus Deetlefs.
Kobus Deetlefs is active in his role as CEO of the Deetlefs Wine Group along with two sons & the next generation in the family business, Phillipus Petrus Deetlefs (winemaker) and Willem-Karel Deetlefs (farm and production manager). For more info or to order your favourite Deetlefs wine, go to www.deetlefs.com