Zonneboem Laureat recalls a magnificent wine tradition and history

Date posted:
August 30, 2012

From the 2010 vintage, Zonnebloem’s flagship red blend, Laureat, features a new label that pays homage to those who have shaped this well-loved South African brand. The new look, strikingly different from its earlier iterations, also better distinguishes the specialty wine from the core range, says global marketing manager Deidre Samson.


A cabernet sauvignon and merlot-dominated blend, the wine takes its name from the laurel conferred in ancient times on those deemed worthy of the distinction.


The wine has been made by Bonny van Niekerk under cellarmaster Deon Boshoff from hand-picked grapes selected from a range of top-performing farms in Stellenbosch. The berries, she says, were smaller than average owing to the vintage conditions of 2010, giving rise to an excellent skin to fruit ratio and concentrated colour and flavour.


The grapes from every vineyard block were individually vinified, with the components aged for 14 months in a combination of first- and second-fill French and Hungarian oak barrels.


“I have strived to make this a full-bodied but very graceful and well-balanced wine,” says Van Niekerk. “It has a rich, ruby colour of luminous intensity with a bold aroma and taste. Fragrances of blackcurrant and dark chocolate literally jump out of the glass and they are tinged with oak spice and hints of tobacco. The palate is dense with vibrant cherry and blackcurrant, restrained by firm but supple tannins.”


She adds that while the 2010 Laureat certainly offers drinking enjoyment now, it has been structured to age for a decade or more. “I like to pair it with robust red meat or game dishes or with hard cheeses.”


Samson explains that each pictorial element of the label is a reflection of an important element of Zonnebloem’s history. The lion is derived from the Malherbe coat of arms, whose family gave the name Zonnebloem to the Simondium farm. Originally it formed part of a larger property situated on the banks of the Great Berg River granted in 1692 by Governor Simon van der Stel. In 1856, the owner at the time, Petrus Jacobus Malherbe, divided the land between his two sons, Daniël Francois and Willem Andries. Willem Andries called his farm, Zonnebloem.  There was already a homestead here, built in 1822, that is recalled by the gable on the label.


Zonnebloem was bought by Frederik JJ Furter in 1893 and for the next few generations the family was closely bound up with the history of the farm. Frederik’s son, also Willem, established a reputation for producing wine of excellence, winning many prizes and export contracts. Sadly, he died at the height of his career in 1940, but his descendants continued in his tradition.


First, his daughter, Marie, without any formal training in wine, excelled at the annual Cape Wine Show, outranking her older and more experienced competitors. She also taught her sister’s husband, John de Villiers, to make wine. He acquired the farm and applied the De Villiers family crest to the Zonnebloem label, as well as its motto: La Main a l’oeuvre, meaning the “hand that works”, that has always been the main feature of the Zonnebloem label. Now the label also includes a lamb that appears on the De Villiers family crest.


Over the next few years De Villiers amassed many trophies and prizes for Zonnebloem, including top honours in 1946 at the Cape Wine Show, when he was dubbed Wine King of the Cape. He also brought home several first prizes from the Wine Show of the British Empire in London. However, he died early so Marie took over once more, this time teaching her husband, Maurice Crouse, to make wine. They too garnered many awards, including the General Smuts trophy for South Africa’s champion wine on the South African Young Wine Show in 1954.


Many accolades have followed for Zonnebloem since then - gold medals at Veritas and on wine shows abroad and top prices paid for vintage wines at the prestigious annual Nederburg Auction.


Van Niekerk says she has made the wine as a tribute to her predecessors. “Knowing of the new label and its intentions, I thought very much about the characters who played such a pivotal role in Zonnebloem’s past when I was making up this blend. Although they all inspire me, I have to admit that Marie Furter is the personality who stands out most for me. She was just 21 when she took over from her late father in 1940 with such success. If she had lived today, she would have been able to pursue her gift for winemaking without any question, but in her time winemaking was very much a male-dominated terrain. That she trained first her brother-in-law and then her husband and both achieved such outstanding results is a real testimony to her talent.”



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