The South African roots of world-renowned neuroscientist Professor Mark Solms brought him back home in 2002 to revitalise the historic Delta wine estate … and to fundamentally rethink Cape wine-making traditions in the process.
Solms assumed custodianship of the 320-year-old estate with a vision that went much deeper than re-establishing its vineyards and cellars. He also wanted to do something about the legacy of his European forebears (who had settled in the Cape six generations before) and thereby address the pressing social and economic problems facing South Africa today.
First he planted Rhône varietals, ideally suited to the dry, hot and windy ‘Mediterranean’ climate of the Franschhoek Valley. Then he and the winemaker Hilko Hegewisch introduced desiccation – a largely forgotten, ancient mediterranean vineyard practice.
The result is a stable of wines that delivers a new, uniquely South African style. These are classical wines with a difference: made from grapes desiccated on the vine in the manner of the ancient Greeks, using selected French varietals that are known to thrive in Mediterranean climes, intelligently blended with the tried-and-tested favourite grape varietals of the old Cape. The wines offer a cascade of tastes and styles, all with a distinctive sense of place.
The Solms-Delta wines: There are six wines in this range, three consisting almost entirely of Rhône varietals. Two wines in this range, Africana and Koloni, are made from desiccated grapes. These are intense, concentrated wines. A new addition to this label (launched Thursday 8 July 2010) is Gemoedsrus 2009 – a highly innovative elaboration on the theme of European ‘port’ wine, desiccated Shiraz, fortified with husk spirit (grappa) .
The Solms-Astor wines: Consists mainly of unusual Cape blends. Fun, accessible, price-friendly wines, these were inspired by Solms-Delta’s involvement in reviving the traditional folk music of the Cape.
The Solms-Astor range celebrates a partnership between Mark Solms and British philanthropist Richard Astor, who each control one third of the modern-day Delta estate. Together they have tackled the social realities of South African agriculture with maverick zeal. First they established a trust that benefits the estate’s historically disadvantaged residents and employees. Then they gave it an equal (one third) equity stake in Solms-Delta. From the profits, the farm residents enjoy new, refurbished and comfortable homes, and social programmes that have greatly improved their health, education and general quality of life. To make this three-way partnership work, Solms and Astor put their own assets on the line, reasoning that without a realistic wealth-sharing model their own privileges were both indefensible and unsustainable.
This forward-looking arrangement is based on a full acknowledgment of South Africa’s painful past. The estate’s Museum van de Caab, which houses a treasury of artefacts unearthed at the estate, is a living testament to all who lived and worked there over the centuries. Solms-Delta is also supporting a musical heritage programme – Music van de Caab – that preserves and celebrates the joyous, resilient and defiant musical traditions of the Cape winelands. And, at the estate’s Fyndraai restaurant, imaginative homage is paid to the cultural melting pot of the Cape, with a mould-breaking menu that is built around fresh, indigenous ingredients from the farm’s very own culinary gardens – known as Dik Delta.
Solms-Delta… so much more than a wine estate.
Visit the farm’s museum to explore the history in a visual representation including artefacts from the archaeological site. Taste traditional Cape cuisine at the Fyndraai restaurant and enjoy your meal with our range of wines available at the farm or from our various stockists and restaurants around the globe.