Sixth-generation winemaker, Lieza van der Merwe (CWM), has spearheaded the launch of three new wines from Merwida Winery, that highlight the unique natural heritage of the Breede River wetlands between Rawsonville and Worcester.
The Papenkuils range, with wines named Kukumakranka, Vleivygie, and Waterblommetjie, pays homage to the region’s endemic vegetation.
In 1840, Willem Petrus van der Merwe anchored the family’s roots in the fertile soil of the Breede River Valley, and since then, this rich and ancient floodplain has been home to Merwida Wines. The present cellar opened its doors on 1 January 1963.
The family has since the early days developed the farm in a dynamic yet sustainable way, emphasising the conservation of the unique wetlands on and around their land.
The vineyards have evolved in equilibrium with preserving the sensitive hydric soils and all other areas of the farm. Merwida Winery, named a WWF Conservation Champion in 2006 for the more than 600 hectares of marshland preserved on the farm, prides itself on the Papenkuils wetland with its rich vegetation and wildlife.
Extensive cleaning of alien invasive plants has allowed the abundant palmiet and other endemic species to thrive. The palmiet plays a vital role in stabilising the riverbanks, slowing down floodwaters, and acting as a shelter and food source for various faunal species that thrive along the river.
The Papenkuils conservation area is regarded as one of the freshwater jewels of the Western Cape, as it is the largest and best-preserved wetland adjacent to the Breede River system. In addition to the WWF recognition, the area is also regarded by the United Nations’ organisation UNESCO as a priority area with high conservation status.
The endangered ‘Broad Alluvium Fynbos,’ preserved in the area, is considered unique and invaluable ecological value. The biome conserves biodiversity and offers a natural corridor between the farmlands and the Breede River.
Merwida’s vineyards are planted on silt beds up to four metres deep in places and nest on a river stone bedrock. The rich and fertile silt deposits of the centuries-old floodplains are very conducive to robust-growing and flourishing vines. The Papenkuils range of new wines is vinified from selected vineyard blocks and captures the essence of the terroir.
The terroir is especially suited for producing excellently structured wines complemented by the environment’s climate with characteristic hot summers and cold winters, tempered in summer by the ‘Cape Doctor’ and the impact of the snow-covered mountains in winter.
The ‘Cape Doctor,’ a fresh south-easterly wind, blows through the Breedekloof Valley and plays an essential role in cooling the vineyards in the late afternoon. The cooler temperatures reduce disease pressure within the vineyards. In winter, the surrounding high mountains are covered in snow.
The impact of the snow results in lower spring temperatures and, therefore, harvesting starts later than in other areas. The slow ripening maximises the grape flavours, creating aromas that have become synonymous with Merwida’s wines.
The three new wines have been inspired by the colour, aroma, taste, and beauty of Papenskuil’s endemic species:
The Papenkuils Waterblommetjie Pinot Grigio 2021 is reminiscent of waterblommetjies, the traditional Boland culinary delicacy. The Papenkuils Conservation Area at Merwida has one of the largest remaining growth areas of the vulnerable miniature species, Aponogeton Angustifolia, which also appears on the wine label.
This 100% Pinot Grigio has a brilliant light green colour. The wine is reminiscent of soft floral aromas such as those of the Cape Honeysuckle and strong characteristics of orange blossoms on the nose. Soft elements of lemons and lime add sparkle to the palette. A timid acidity supports the flavours but still offers a light yet distinctive taste experience.
The grapes come from vines planted on sandy loam soils. The harvest takes place early in the morning at cool temperatures, with the juice immediately separated from the skins and then settled. The fermentation process takes roughly three weeks in stainless steel tanks to maintain freshness.
The wine is recommended for any alfresco dining occasion.
The Papenkuils Kukumakranka Unwooded Chardonnay 2021 – this wine has been inspired by the distinctive features of the rare wetland plant that the untrained eye will very rarely notice. Merwida’s owners, Schalk, and Pierre van der Merwe have fond memories of accompanying Pierre, their grandfather, to the wetlands searching for Kukumakrankas (Gethyllis afra). The fragrant fruit of the latter can be eaten as a delicacy after the first autumn rains.
The aroma of the Kukumakranka fruit is unique. The plant’s dried flowers and fruits were previously used to give rooms, clothes, and bedding a pleasant aroma. When infused in brandy, the plants can also be used for medicinal purposes.
The wine is 100% Chardonnay, and the grapes are harvested in early March before being left on the lees for a month to extract the maximum flavour.
This wine is excellent with seafood and pasta dishes.
The Papenkuils Vlei Vygie Pinotage rosé 2021 is inspired by a small indigenous plant, the endangered Vlei Vygie (Lampranthus debilis), that grows on the edge of the wetland. The Vlei Vygie bears beautiful purply-pink flowers in spring.
Merwida’s Vlei Vygie rosé has a very light, beautiful pink colour as the skin contact is limited to six hours during the winemaking process. This rosé boasts aromas reminiscent of a fresh bouquet of red fruits, such as strawberries, and a fragrant sweet nose. The Vlei Vygie Rosé is well-balanced and perfect for almost any occasion.
This Papenkuils range complements the existing white and red wines that have made Merwida a household name.