New wine celebrates historic ties between SU and pinotage

Professor Wim de Villiers, right, vice chancellor of Stellenbosch University, and Distells managing director, Richard Rushton, exchange bottles of wine as a gesture of goodwill.

A noble wine has been released celebrating the close relationship that Stellenbosch University (SU) enjoys with the development of pinotage wine.

The 2014 Rector’s Reserve Pinotage is from the university’s own Welgevallen Cellar, and it was presented to Professor Wim de Villiers, rector and vice chancellor, by Welgevallen wine maker Riaan Wassung. The wine is made from grapes harvested from the oldest block of pinotage growing on the university’s experimental farm near the Eerste River in Stellenbosch.

The Rector’s Reserve is not available for sale to the public, but will be presented as a goodwill gift to visitors and friends of the university.

“In this way, we are actually able to give a little piece of our history to good friends of Stellenbosch University,” says Professor De Villiers.

SU is the only university in the country with its own commercial wine cellar. Professor De Villiers invited members of the public to visit the Welgevallen Cellar on weekdays and to taste or buy wines being produced under the “Die Laan” and “Maties Rooiplein” labels. These wines are regularly served to guests at functions hosted by the rector and the University.

Pinotage is probably the best-known truly South African wine cultivar, and its development shares close ties with Stellenbosch University. The famed Professor Abraham Izak Perold is regarded as the father of pinotage – he was the first professor in oenology at SU, and later also served as dean of what is today the Faculty of AgriSciences.

Professor Perold successfully crossed the pinot noir grape with Hermitage in the early 1920s.

His first hybrids were planted in the vineyards of the Welgevallen experimental farm. Seedlings also grew in the Perold family’s garden at their home situated close to what is today the Welgevallen Cellar. Professor Perold lived on the experimental farm before joining the KWV in later years.

In recognition of the Perold family’s connection to the university, Professor De Villiers presented one of the first bottles of the 2014 Rector’s Reserve to Professor Willie Perold, vice dean of the Faculty Engineering: research. Professor Al Perold was his uncle.

Distell’s managing director, Richard Rushton, and the company’s director: innovation, Dr Marius Lambrecht, were also among the first to sample the new wine. It was presented to them by Professor de Villiers as a token of thanks for the role that Distell and the South African wine industry as a whole has played in the activities of the university over many decades.

The labels for the Rector’s Reserve wine bottles are sponsored by Collotype, the business from whom the labels are bought for Welgevallen’s full range of wines.

The company also offers two bursaries every year for students in agriculture.