A stunning, picturesque estate in the heart of Paarl Valley, South Africa, with a holistic approach to crafting their organically made, premium wines
The property and operation known as Avondale Farm came into existence in 1997, when John and Ginny Grieve purchased a picturesque 395-acre property in the Paarl Wine Region of South Africa. The property had been under cultivation for more than 300 years and offered the couple an opportunity to enhance their existing businesses.
The Grieves were owners of Vital Health Foods, the leader in that country’s health food industry. Their idea was to make the property, Avondale Farm, their family farm and give their youngest son, Johnathan Grieve, an opportunity to live his personal dream. Johnathan had shown a propensity for farming at an early age and ultimately decided his future lay in developing his family’s acreage into world-class vineyards.
“At first, we started conventional farming with fertilizers and chemicals,” informed Johnathan Grieve. “But soon we realized there were far better methods of farming and maintaining a balanced ecosystem that basically gives back to the land. We constantly strive to create conditions that are conducive to Life.”
To that end, Avondale Farm practices sustainable and natural viticulture. The end product of these practices is fruit that is both organic and bio-dynamic, practices that greatly enhance his family farm. Vineyards are actually 2 ½-acre blocks and are farmed and irrigated on the basis of specific varietal needs. Each block yields around 4 – 8 tons of quality fruit that varies with each varietal.
The fruit is certified as both USDA NOP (United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program) and EU (European Union Organic Regulation) and Avondale Farm is a principle in numerous biodiversity, sustainability and wine initiative programs and activities both in South Africa and abroad.
Avondale Wines' first releases came in 1999 and a new state-of-the-art gravity-flow winery was built. The holistic, systems-based approach and attention to detail has made Avondale Farm a world-class production facility. A huge 500-ton cellar was dug out of the mountain that contains Avondale’s barrel-ageing room and houses both a tasting facility as well as an art venue for visitors.
Amphora winemaking is also alive and well at Avondale. Clay from the farm is fired between 1100 and 100 degrees to make clay pot vessels whose heritage stretches back to both Ancient Greece and Rome. Avondale’s premium wines are made in this manner that allows for unique micro-oxygenation and a fruit-driven end product. Other wineries are developing this form of wine aging with excellent results.
On the lighter but equally important side, Avondale Farm is home to a band of white Pekin ducks who range through green vineyards on snail patrol. Now a famous fixture on the farm, the ducks are trained to mount a custom-made ‘duck-mobile’ that takes them out to a section of the vineyards to begin their workday. These ducks, known locally as the Duck Posse, happily waddle between the vines and forage in the cover crops for snails. The Anatidae are considered highly effective and cost-efficient, not to mention the delight they provide visitors to the winery and vineyards. If more wineries could employ similar ducks, that would provide wonderful experiences in the vineyards.
Even the logo that is used on Avondale Wines’ releases enforces the theme of the company’s approach to farming and life itself. The logo is an Armillary Sphere, an ancient astronomical instrument used to show the position of stars around the Earth. The Armillary sphere represents Avondale’s holistic approach to life on its farm, from the minerals in the soil to the stars in the skies. According to Johnathan Grieve and Avondale Farm, all is combined in an energized, living system.
To be sure, this unique selection of wines from South Africa’s Avondale Farm are steeped in both modern and historical traditions and should be considered in a class by themselves. Our International Wine Club is proud to introduce you to these magnificent wines of Avondale Farm and to the reasons that make them so special.
Map of the area
Paarl, South Africa
The Paarl Wine Region is arguably South Africa’s finest wine producing region and has been the most honored for the past five decades or more. It is located on the coastal area of South Africa’s Western Cape, about 35+ miles northwest of Cape Town and is home to many of South Africa’s most celebrated wineries. The entire area is often called the Cape Winelands.
The key to Paarl’s extended success is the huge variation of terroir that can be found within the boundaries of the Paarl wine region. This difference in soils allows the wine farms (as they are called in South Africa) the ability and opportunity to experiment with practically every wine varietal imaginable - and to produce blended wines that are much sought after by national and international wine aficionados.
Paarl comes from the Dutch word for pearl and refers to the huge Paarl Mountain, a shiny granite massif that actually glosses immediately after rain falls in the area. The Paarl wine region was originally farmed by French Huguenots around 1689 and grapes have been cultivated within its boundaries since that time. It is part of the fertile Berg River Valley and was granted ‘Wine of Origin’ status in 1972.
Today, more than 40 thousand acres are under vine within the Paarl wine region and contain practically all known varietals. Foremost are the Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Many South African wines are blends of multi-varietals and the finest varietals are picked from the area’s elevated vineyards.
The mostly granite-based soils, along with sandstone and shale, afford excellent drainage and the Mediterranean climate (very similar to that of France’s Rhône Valley) provides moderately warm summers that are cooled by winds off the Atlantic Ocean.
South Africa: Fun Facts!
• South Africa's Cape Winelands have over 500 wineries. Included in the region is Route 62, which is considered the longest wine route in the world.
• South Africa's brewery, SABMiller, ranks by volume as the largest brewing company in the world.
• The Cape Floral Kingdom is one of the world's six floral kingdoms, and the only one which is wholly contained within a single country.
• South Africa is home to deserts, wetlands, grasslands, bush, subtropical forests, mountains and escarpments.
• There are more than 2,000 shipwrecks off the South African coast, with most dating back at least 500 years.
• The Karoo region in the Western Cape is home to some of the best fossils of early dinosaurs. In fact, it is estimated that some 80% of the mammalian fossils found to date were found in the Karoo.
• Pinotage is a South African grape varietal that was developed in 1926. Its 'parent varietals' are Pinot Noir and Cinsault.
• South Africa's wildlife is legendary, including the famous 'Big Five' - lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo and elephants. The world-renowned Kurger National Park, established in 1898, provides a sanctuary for an exceptionally diverse mix of species. On a safari here, you can expect to see elephants, lions, buffalo, hippos, giraffe, zebra, hyena, wildebeest, warthog, baboon and antelope.
• South Africa is extremely rich in mining and minerals and is considered the world's leader with nearly 90% of all the platinum medals on Earth and around 41% of all the world's gold.
Wine Regions of South Africa
South Africa's vineyards are mostly situated in the Western Cape near the coast. Here, the winegrowing regions are influenced by one of the two mighty oceans that meet at this southernmost tip of Africa - the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans.
The maritime influences of regular coastal fog and cooling sea breezes, along with a moderate Mediterranean climate, distinctive and varied topography, and diverse soils makes for an ideal setting to produce wines of unique character and complexity. South Africa has a winemaking tradition and history dating back over 350 years that blends the traditional elegance of the Old World with the fruit driven, experimental styles of the New World.