Benguela Cove estate launches English vineyard

Benguela Cove cellarmaster, Johann Fourie, and the wine estates owner, Penny Streeter in the Benguela Cove vineyards, at the Walker Bay property near Hermanus.

Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate – situated in Walker Bay, Hermanus, at the start of the Hermanus Wine Route – is transporting its expertise 10 000km to create the newest vineyard in England.

The pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier grapes will be ready to make sparkling wine in 2020, with the first bottles available in 2023.

Penny Streeter, the Zimbabwean-born entrepreneur and owner of Benguela Cove Wines, bought the site at Mannings Heath in England in 2016 to develop a golf and wine estate. Cellar master Johann Fourie, formerly of KWV in Paarl, is managing the planting of 38 000 vines within the 200ha parkland site in England’s south east sparkling wine region.

The English venue is now a showcase for the owner’s wines from Benguela Cove in the Walker Bay region.

The Mannings Heath Golf Course and Wine Estate is a division of The Benguela Collection, a wine producer and hospitality group that Ms Streeter set up with the acquisition in 2013 of the Benguela Cove vineyard. The group now includes four restaurants and a hotel on the Garden Route.

“We are developing an international brand based on the South African wine farm experience -with wine tastings and pairings and themed events – through acquisition and new investment in vineyards, restaurants and hotels,” Ms Streeter says.

“The new wine destination in England complements and promotes our South African offering.

“We already have golf club members at Mannings Heath booking wine tours to Benguela Cove and other South African vineyards.”

Mr Fourie was appointed in 2016 as cellar master for Benguela Cove wines in South Africa and at Mannings Heath, to manage the selection of vineyard sites, grow the grapes, plan the wineries and oversee winemaking.

Mr Fourie is upbeat about the prosepcts for the English vineyard.

“The limiting factor in British viticulture is lack of heat. The location at Mannings Heath was selected for its steep slope, sheltered from the prevailing south-westerly winds, below 100m altitude,” he says.

“We have no such issues at Benguela Cove – even though Walker Bay as a region has a cool climate for growing grapes.

“The vineyard position is ideal, at the edge of the southern coast. The south-easterly sea breeze is chilled by the Benguela Current flowing up from Antarctica, cooling the grapes during the sunny growing season.

“It makes for a longer than usual ripening period and ideal temperature fluctuation, which plays a key part in the quality of wine making.

The South African and British properties share common themes – a cool climate and location in global wine regions which will become even more important due to global warming – offering a style of wine with increasing appeal to the palates of wine lovers, according to Mr Fourie.