A marriage of longstanding Stellenbosch roots and a pioneering spirit.
The Libertas Name
Our name honours and recognises the legends of South African wine that preceded us, and stands as a constant reminder of our passion to elevate South African wine on the global stage.
Our carefully selected portfolio includes some of South Africa’s most distinctive wines touched by an array of influences: the dramatically rising mountain slopes surrounding Stellenbosch, the cool Atlantic breezes, the character-building dryland soils and the searing Swartland heat. Our brands of pride include Alto, Nederburg, Pongracz, Durbanville Hills, Plaisir de Merle, Fleur du Cap, Allesverloren and Zonnebloem.
CEO Chief Executive Officer
Chief Financial & Operating Officer
MD Durbanville Hills, Alto and Alles Verloren
MD Nederburg, Pongracz, Plaisir de Merle and Zonnebloem
Lee-Anne van Wyk
Head of Growth and INNOVATION
Vihann le Roux
Commercial Financial Manager
Taryn du Preez
Head of Supply Chain
Head of Commercial
Head of Sales
Gideon van Zyl
Head of Strategic Projects
The wine industry in South Africa all started when the Dutch East India Company established a supply station at the Cape in 1652, a way-point in Table Bay for its merchant vessels to replenish their fresh water and food supplies on the journey along the spice route between Europe and India.
Jan van Riebeeck was the first Commander of this remote outpost, tasked with establishing the gardens to supply the fresh produce and sourcing meat from the indigenous Khoikhoi population. Although he had no knowledge of wine production, as a junior surgeon, he had become convinced that wine helped to prevent scurvy amongst ships’ crews, and he pressed his masters at the Company to send vine cuttings for planting against the slopes of Table Mountain.
Van der Stel allocated land to French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in their homeland between 1688 and 1689, settling them mainly in the Franschhoek (“French corner”) valley. The arrival of the Huguenots and their knowledge of vines and winemaking gave impetus to wine production and within two decades the Drakenstein valley (present-day Franschhoek and Paarl) had overtaken Stellenbosch and the Cape to become the colony’s foremost wine-growing area. Over time the Huguenots and their descendants had a lasting influence on South African culture and winemaking.
The cellar of Louis XVI, the last king of France, in 1782 contained more Constantia wine than the products of his own Bordeaux and Burgundy
The second part of the 1800s brought disaster, however – Britain and France resolved their differences by 1861 and exports collapsed as a result; then the phylloxera epidemic swept the Cape in 1886, destroying millions of vines.
In 1935 the Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery (SFW) Limited, a public company, was registered and a year later Johann Graue bought Nederburg wine farm and was the first to use cold fermentation for making white table wine in the 1950s.
The end of apartheid and the country’s first democratic elections in 1994 ushered in a renaissance for South African wine – export markets opened up and winemaking was exposed to new technologies and international influences. Winemaking styles were refined, new wine-growing areas introduced, quality improvements reflecting in increasing attention in international awards – paving the way for a sustainable industry into the 21st century.
The first vines, from France, the Rhineland and Spain, arrived in 1655 and were planted in the Company’s Gardens, which remain today as a green respite in the centre of cosmopolitan Cape Town.
Today, praise be to God, wine was pressed for the first time from Cape grapes.
Although Van Riebeeck was not much of a winemaker himself, producing a mere 12 bottles from that first harvest in 1659, the vines he planted and the cuttings he pressed on the first Dutch farmers formed the backbone of the first Cape vineyards that soon extended to roughly a 160km radius from Cape Town.
By 1691, van der Stel had been promoted to the position of Governor. He was succeeded in 1699 by his son, Willem Adriaan van der Stel, who founded Vergelegen estate, later the origin of the town of Somerset West and the area’s wine industry.
The French poet Baudelaire waxed lyrical about its “heavenly sweetness” while Jane Austen noted its healing powers for a “disappointed heart” in Sense and Sensibility.
British occupation of the Cape from the early 1800s brought prosperity to the industry, bolstered by demand from the strong military and naval force at the Cape, and Britain’s war with France resulting in preferential tariffs for Cape wines. These were boom years for exports and wine prices quadrupled.
The Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 brought further upheaval, while the proliferation of new plantings caused overproduction and further hardship for the industry.
In 1945 Distillers Corporation was founded.
In 2000 the Distillers Corporation together with Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery (SFW) Limited, formed Distell.
The exact date of the start of Cape winemaking is known thanks to Van Riebeeck’s journal and his now-famous entry for 2 February 1659:
When Simon van der Stel was appointed Commander of the Cape in 1679, he set about expanding the colony’s farmlands and vineyards to meet the Company’s increasing demands for produce. He established the town of Stellenbosch, which became the heartland of South Africa’s wine country, and planted some 100 000 vines in the valley behind Table Mountain. He had been granted land there, which he called Constantia, establishing South Africa’s first wine farm which still produces fine wines today.
By 1761 Constantia was exporting wine to Europe where these sweet dessert wines achieved great acclaim throughout the continent, famously enjoyed by its crowned heads and mentioned in the works of Dickens, Austen and Baudelaire. Aside from the success of Constantia through the 18th and 19th centuries, this was a difficult era for South African wine, quality often left much to be desired and farmers alternated between surpluses and periods of high demand when Europe was at war.
South Africa’s winemaking history is one of the oldest New World wine countries and spans a colourful and eventful 360 years.
Napoleon had a standing order for Constantia wines in his exile on St Helena – reportedly wanting nothing else on his deathbed in 1821.
The formation of the Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereeniging van Zuid-Afrika (KWV) in 1918 brought stability and saved the industry from disaster, laying the foundations for today’s successful wine industry.
In 1971 the Stellenbosch Wine Route, the first of its kind in the country, was founded and 1975 marked the first Auction of Rare Cape Wines held at Nederburg.
South African wines have been served at the weddings and celebrations of European royalty for centuries and in 2008 Barack Obama celebrated his presidential election victory with South African Méthode Cap Classique.