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Zonnebloem Cellar Master’s nicknames for vineyards

Posted on: 11 February 2020

Nicknames. You either love or loathe them! But one thing is unmistakable – nicknames are terms of endearment. A stranger wouldn’t dare call you Homer, Guppy or heaven forbid, Sweet Cheeks. Such personal ‘call signs’ are solely reserved for those who have been allowed within the boundaries of your inner circle.

It’s just a human way of expressing love. Sometimes these inside jokes stick for life and in many instances move from being one person’s affectionate nickname to what everyone from your boss to your mother-in-law calls you. Isn’t that right, Hank? I’m just so grateful that my father’s Posduif nickname for me has never gone beyond his lips!

Jokes aside, just like family and friends develop their own ‘secret code’ language, so do we with the vineyards where we source our grapes from for Zonnebloem.

This year marks my 15th harvest with Zonnebloem. And I can’t help but reminisce about each vineyard block that I know so well.

Just like a teenager, I have sweaty palms and butterflies in my stomach as I daily visit each block around Stellenbosch in anxious anticipation of that thrilling moment when we just know: the grapes are ready for harvest.

It’s this very intimacy, this ‘insider’ language that we share with the vines as we read the signs on the berries, watch the weather, squint at the sun and breathe in the wind, that gives us the right to give nicknames to each vineyard block. There are many – Snake, Dam, and Sokkie – the list goes on, sometimes back into the mists of time, the origin of the name long forgotten.

It’s our shorthand of admiration and affection. Our very own code in our personal relationship with the land.

These vineyards share their location, secrets, personality and language of love with such generosity. We can’t help but fall head over heels! The diverse slopes of our vineyards in Stellenbosch each have their own individual character – from blocks shaded by the high mountain peaks from early afternoon to the rocky terrain where fynbos thrives. The area is terroir-heaven for sourcing exceptional grapes for our wines.

One of my fondest memories of naming a block is the vineyard where we source our Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Stellenbosch Kloof, a grower who has supplied Zonnebloem for three generations. I was still very much a novice and one day as I stood with seasoned grape grower, Marais Neethling, deciding whether it was time to harvest the grapes or wait a little longer, I noticed a significant difference between the one side of the block and the other. I casually pointed it out to him, not thinking much of what I’d meant as a general comment. But then he pointed out where the line clearly ran transversely through the block as the soil type changed, slicing the vineyard into two symmetrical blocks, like a sandwich.

On that very day, the block became known as Toebroodjie (‘sandwich’ in Afrikaans). The difference between the grapes on each side is so significant that we have been harvesting them separately ever since. And it’s with this very block that we have started our harvest for 2020. It couldn’t have been more symbolic to me than this. One of my beloved blocks whispered in my ear and said: the grapes are ready for harvest.

ELIZE COETZEE – CELLAR MASTER

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