A FOUNDLING IN THE MOUNTAIN SIDE
From being a winery belonging to a Swedish immigrant in the early 18th century to a sought-after wedding venue and conservation area, while still keeping the winemaking tradition of the estate intact and of top-quality, Vondeling is a fascinating stop, as Paula Rabeling found.
Along the N1 before travelling through farm country on the R44, myself and a few colleagues ventured into the Swartland to visit Vondeling, a 300-year-old estate that mixes wine, weddings, and conservation, to resounding success.
Our transport, a Renault Duster 1.5 dci with rugged muscular styling, an array of advanced features, impressive fuel consumption, remarkable off-road abilities, and comfortable interior, was the ideal SUV in which to take on the Swartland roads, and its 475-litre boot space ensured we did not have to leave anything behind.
The Dutch word vondeling means “foundling”, the name given to a child who was abandoned by their parents and found and cared for by others. A word more commonly used in the 18th century and earlier, the farm was named after the foundlings that perhaps travelled to the Cape hundreds of years ago. Today, it is still easy to see why people would have been attracted to this land. The manicured lawns that surround the tasting room, Manor House, and church of Vondeling sweep the estate in green, and the slopes of the Paardeberg meet this well-kept nature with wild beauty.
Besides making fantastic wines, the other passion of Vondeling is conservation. The estate is a proud supporter of many conservation initiatives and has received awards for its own conservation efforts. While some of the land is dedicated to vineyards, a massive portion is reserved for the natural fynbos of the area, which includes four species unique to the region. Also, a new species
of fynbos, the Micranthus, has been discovered on the land.
After a fire spent through the Paardeberg in 2011, a botanical survey was commissioned by the Paardeberg Sustainability Initiative (PSI) together with Vondeling Wines to record the plant species growing on the mountain. From the plant records collected, 900 species of fynbos were documented, of which 10% are threatened. Not only did this record aid botanists and plant enthusiasts, the photographs were put together into a beautiful coffee table book, Fire to Flower; A Chronology After a Wildfire in Fynbos.
A nature walk in the grounds of Vondeling brought us up close to its natural beauty. Up the mountain we went, to happen upon a Dutch East India canon from a bygone era once used to signal the arrival of ships, overlooking the ocean in the distance.
Due to its sustainable farming practices and its participation in the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative, Vondeling has been recognised by the WWF as a Conservation Champion, something that the estate is proud of, and therefore continues to uphold a conservation conscious farming philosophy. This philosophy has translated into a range of wines enjoyed both locally and internationally.
If you find yourself on the R44 and wish to take a breather among gorgeous surroundings, while sampling a few wines, Vondeling is a foundling in the mountains you will be happy to spend a few hours with.
For more information, visit www.vondelingwines.co.za.