Prieska \\ Northern Cape \\ South Africa
Bertie Coetzee represents the sixth generation of his family to farm at Lowerland, on the banks of the broad Orange River near Prieska in the Northern Cape. Let’s not beat around the bush: this is not traditional wine country. The main crops are maize and plump, melt-in-your-mouth pecans, alongside an award-winning beef stud; but in 1999 the first grapevines were planted by Bertie’s father Hennie, literally sowing the seeds for a game changing endeavour continued by Bertie after he joined the farm in 2013.
The desert-like climate is peculiar, being at approximately 29 degrees south so on the outer limits of what’s considered prime viticultural latitude, but the African heat is moderated by over 1,000 metres of altitude and consequentially high diurnal range. Summer rains can be problematic but generally conditions are dry and therefore favourable for organic farming, with the vineyards certified by Ecocert. Bertie and his team are striving for a holistic, regenerative model of farming, converting all land to organic practices.
Bertie has worked tirelessly to put Prieska on the South African wine map and gain approval for Wine of Origin status, a landmark achievement for what is – if anything – a rudimentary bulk wine region. Turning preconceptions on their head, the vineyards are producing truly exceptional fruit: indeed, the Koedoe block of Cabernet Sauvignon is a source for Landzicht’s Reserve, the 2015 vintage being of best Cabernet at the 2017 Old Mutual Awards.
The Lowerland wines come therefore from a very unique source and follow a very unique journey. After picking, the grapes are driven in a bakkie for 8-10 hours south to Stellenbosch, where the wines have been made variously by Lukas van Loggerenberg, Johnnie Calitz and JD Pretorius.