Madeleine and I first met Frans Malan and his kind, gentle wife Liza when she started working for them in their tasting room on Simonsig Estate in 1977. This was the year that they would walk away with a variety of medals from the Stellenbosch Young Wine Show and introduce South Africa to its first home grown Gewurztraminer.
To call Frans a pioneer does him no service; he was just so much more. A character of the winelands and firm in his beliefs and belief in himself.
Having traveled in France he, with Spatz Sperling from Delheim and Neil Joubert of Spier, started the Stellenbosch Wine Route in 1971, progenitor of all the wine routes of the Cape. Frans and David van Velden of Overgaauw Wine Estate imported the first small oak barrels used at the Cape from Chateau Latour in Bordeaux, France.
He made the first Champagne style wine – Kaapse Vonkel – now known as Methode Cap Classique, using Chenin Blanc and some second hand imported racks on which to riddle the bottles. He used to do the cellar tours himself on Saturday mornings and show people how it was done. Today there are computer operated auto riddlers that do the job in a much shorter time to keep up with the demand for their various sparklers.
He fought a pitched battle with the authorities to be allowed to put 100% Pinotage on his Pinotage Wines at a time when others were selling blended wines as straight Pinotage. He won and they changed the law! Always leading, always on the cutting edge.
Today both Frans and Liza have passed on, their legacy so much more than the wines named after them in the current Simonsig range. Their sons Francois and Johan run the estate.
Francois is managing director and doing a fantastic job in re-aligning the Simonsig vineyards to remain world-class and consumer relevant in an ever-competitive industry. Johan is in charge of the winemaking, ably assisted by Debbie Thompson on red wines and Hannes Meyer on whites.
Innovation continues and more recently the launch of their pink bubbly, Simonsig Brut Rosé and a Verdelho, shows there is still much excitement in the cellar. Francois tends the vineyards using the latest canopy management methods to ensure that the finest grapes are delivered to the cellar.
The Estate continues to win awards, both local and international and personal awards for Johan and Debbie – former Woman Winemaker of the Year.
A visit to Simonsig, tasting in their Tasting Room and eating Oysters with their Bubblies or Cheese Platters with their sensational reds is such a special winelands experience. The Cuvée Restaurant offers a fine dining experience as one of the leading restaurants in the winelands.
While the noisy new kids on the block tend to get all the attention, the course steered at Simonsig is clear “to provide excellent products, a continuous service and value for money for our customers.”
Success never comes easy; at Simonsig it’s come with dedication to its vision to be a world-class winery.
Stellenbosch Winegrowing Region
Johan Malan – winemaker and Francois Malan – the viticulturist.
Johan is a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild.
Bottelary Road [M23], off the R44 at Koelenhof, Stellenbosch
P O Box 6 Koelenhof, 7605, Western Cape, South Africa
Telephone 021-888-4900; Fax 021-888-4909