• De Zeven Heritage Month Blog

De Zeven: Framed by Banhoek

Posted on Mon January 20, 2020.

It is no secret that we are absolutely and completely enthralled by the Banhoek Valley, home to De Zeven Guest Lodge. With a rich and colourful history - and a "cooler than Stellenbosch" climate - this area is producing its own distinguished wines and offering an off-the-beaten-track experience to inquisitive travellers.

The Beautiful Banhoek Valley Back Then

Despite its extraordinary natural beauty, the Banhoek Valley over Helshoogte Pass outside Stellenbosch remains relatively unknown. Yet few regions in South Africa can claim such a rich and fascinating history, from the arrival of early settlers, slaves and farmers through to the present day.

In this valley, some of the finest examples of early Cape Dutch architecture and buildings are contrasted with ultra-modern, enormously sophisticated wineries. In addition, some of the earliest villages established by freed slaves are a reminder of the country’s past, describes Beautiful Banhoek, a book capturing the essence of this fertile valley created by Keith Phillips and Susan Hayden, and with an introduction by Cape Herstorian Tracey Randle. 

"In this corner of the earth, surrounded by a majestic ring of mountains, a visitor travels back in time to a place where the pace of life slows to a leisurely stroll amidst rows of perfectly lined vineyards and orchards. Here in the valley, there is a cadence to the farming activities as the rolling seasons dictate the tempo of everyday life."

Preserving the Banhoek Present

Today, a group of winemakers have collaborated to form a collective, called the Banhoek Collective, in an effort to showcase this unique area's wines and the accompanying valley. 

Writes Malu Lambert of Port2Port: "You can’t talk about the Banghoek without mentioning its beauty. As I drive up Helshoogte Pass, mountain ridges and koppies swell and disappear like an ocean bearing current. Twists and turns reveal new views to be dazzled by, as the wine estates rise up amongst the rock and fynbos curves."

In the collective are Bartinney, Capensis, Delaire Graff, Erika Obermeyer Wines, Hogan Wines, Miles Mossop Wines, Oldenburg Vineyards, Thelema, Tokara, Vuurberg and Zorgvliet. At a gathering of the collective, Lambert recorded the winemaker of Oldenburg, Nic van Aarde, saying: “This valley creeps into you. When I drove here for my interview, I was wondering if I was doing the right thing—leaving a big, established brand, to work at a smaller, boutique estate. I saw this view of the Rondekop [round mountain] and I was mesmerised. I knew instinctively then it was the right move.”

Lambert also recorded Tokara's viticulturist Aidan Morton saying: "Banghoek is the coolest Wine of Origin ward in the Stellenbosch area." She then notes that the region's vineyards are planted at elevations of between 350m and 640m.

Our neighbours at Bartinney, whom we often refer guests to, produce wines that have a cool-climate minty-ness. "If managed correctly," says Ronell Wiid, winemaker of Bartinney, "it becomes a fine characteristic of this region."

Built to Celebrate Banhoek

As those who have visited us know, our guest lodge has been built to capitalise on the magnificent views over the Banhoek Valley. Whether you are reading a book in the lounge, sipping a glass of wine on the balcony, taking time out in the sauna, or simply strolling through our garden, the Banhoek Valley is there to frame every moment.