Overgaauw has been in the ownership of a single family since it was originally settled by the ancestors of Abraham van Velden in 1783. Abraham himself set up as a farmer in 1905 on a portion of this land and named it for Elizabeth Overgaauw who married the first van Velden to arrive in South Africa from Holland. He built his cellar in 1909 and the farm produced bulk wine until 1970.
David Snr, who passed away in 2008, took over the management of the farm from his father in 1945. Shortly after this he planted five Portuguese grape varieties that he harvested and crushed together for his port – a first in South Africa. Overgaauw’s wines are now being made by his great grandson David with father Braam’s hand on the tiller.
Young David – a BComm graduate from Stellenbosch University and with wine making experience at Clos de Jacobins in St Emilion, looks over his shoulder at the generations that preceded him and draws the best from their experiences while adding his own 21st century ideas to the mix. And there is some history there. In 1969 David Snr visited the chateaux Lafite and Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux and the exposure to classical French winemaking techniques inspired him to pioneer the ageing of wine in small French oak barrels at the Cape. Soon after his return a shipment of small wine barrels from Chateau Latour arrived to start a whole new era in winemaking on Overgaauw.
Overgaauw was a founder member of The Stellenbosch Wine Route in 1971 and in 1933 was one of the first producers to register as a Wine Estate. In that year David handed over the reins to his son Braam. Father Braam, trained at Geisenheim, the well-known German Institute of Wine. Braam, whose passion is viticulture, bottled the first Merlot in South Africa in 1982, the only Sylvaner in South Africa and was one of the early champions of a claret style blend, launching his Tria Corda in 1979. And in 1992, they produced the first 100% Touriga Naçional Port. David’s grandmother Jean was one of the stalwarts of the Stellenbosch Fynproewersgilde – a guild of women who were the legendary cooks of Stellenbosch.
With the tsunami of new fruit bomb and loudly trumpeted wines flooding into the market from farms owned by dotcom millionaires or millionaire sportsmen, the older more established names tend to get pushed backstage from the limelight.
And all the while, the van Veldens have quietly got on with what they do best – making superb wines. And they’re looking to the future – Braam and David junior have cleared a 3.5 ha tract of land of alien vegetation that is being restored to its natural habitat and plans are underway to rehabilitate a further 8 ha of wetlands on the farm.
The vineyards are on the hillsides west of Stellenbosch in an area known as Stellenbosch Kloof. 42ha planted to reds and almost 20ha planted to white wine grapes. Protected from the havoc wreaking southeasterly winds, yet available to sea breezes off False Bay – a mere 15kms away. These breezes cool the vineyards, allow for longer ripening times and resulting in greater flavour in the grapes. Soil mapping by Braam since the 1970’s has meant selecting the best sites for specific varietals.
The original 1909 cellar still forms part today’s winery that is state of the art. The gift of high acids from the Overgaauw terroir, early morning harvesting, cold soaking on the skins before pressing of the white wines, presoak for colour extraction for the reds, post fermentation maceration on the skins, all result in wines with greater palate weight, softer mouthfeel, rounder tannins, depth and elegance.
The current oak maturation philosophy continues with the use of the small French Oak barrels introduced by David grandfather all those years ago – imparting some of the vanilla flavours and tannins of the toasted oak. All three generations have bought 4000 and 4500 litre oak vats in which wine spends time after small wood round it out, softening the texture and allowing blends to “marry” prior to bottling. The Overgaauw Chardonnay is partly fermented in 1st, 2nd and 3rd fill barrels. Those for the 2008 vintage were personally chosen by David from his cooper in France.
Hard to choose a favourite from their wines, though I have always loved their Sylvaner with its soft spice and gentle spun sugar on the nose and citrus and cape gooseberry acidity just calling out for fish or a calamari steak from the buttery lemony sauces in a pan. Same for the Sauvignon Blanc – undertow of ripe green melon, yet crisp and hangs about on the palate for a while. The Chardonnay reveals David’s gentle touch with oak, the wood being used to support the apricot and white peach fruit. The Merlot – I tasted an ’82 first which was alive and singing still – is abundant in its fruit [red and raspberry] and there is a savoury element there too which I founded appealing. The Cabernet Sauvignon is a dignified wine with lingering berry fruit, marzipan and nuts brought together by chocolate. The Tria Corda holds the crown – deeply coloured, full bodied with red berries, spices and minerals and cedar and cigar box lingering like a mist in the background. The blend originally contained Cinsaut but for the last 20 vintages has been replaced by Cabernet Franc, creating a true Bordeaux assemblage. The five varietal Overgaauw Port is lovely and dry with dried cherry fruit and hints of fresh prune plums.
There’s a delicious range of entry-level wines named Shepherd’s Cottage, a restored dwelling where various van Velden children of the last two generations have lived while starting out their married lives.
Delicious Pinotage Rosé, a well put together white blend of Chenin Semillon and Chardonnay and a Cab Merlot that has the quality of a R70 bottle sheep, yet is sold for R40.
A warm family welcome is assured at Overgaauw. Suzanne, David’s sister, keeps a benign eye over the Cellar Door from her marketing and sales office there. Second sister Janet and her husband Charl, who is the Overgaauw General manager, live on the farm with their baby son Nicholas. Younger brother Neil, also a commerce graduate is currently working for Bibendum Wines in London gaining experience before coming home to join the family business.
A family affair – producing some of the most excellent wines in a premier appellation.
Winegrowing region Stellenbosch
Owner Braam van Velden
Winemaker David van Velden
Stellenboschkloof Rd – off M12, Vlottenberg, Stellenbosch
P O Box 3, Vlottenburg 7604, Western Cape, South Africa
Tel: +27 21 881 3815
fax +27 21 881 3436
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.overgaauw.co.za