Stellenbosch, the second-oldest wine producing region in South Africa, is one of the country’s premier wine regions.Today, it is home to Warwick Estate, one of the leading South African wineries in the Stellenbosch region. Warwick Estate has a rich farming history dating back to 1771. It was originally a fruit farm, but then emerged at the forefront of South Africa’s wine scene when Stan and Norma Ratcliffe bought the estate in 1964 and started developing the land with an extensive focus on the classic Bordeaux varieties, particularly Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Norma became increasingly interested in the making of wine and began to study the subject.
Soon a cellar was in place and Norma began producing her own handcrafted wines using the Warwick grapes. Norma developed a talent for making great wines and production rapidly increased. Through determination and commitment, Norma Ratcliffe became one of the Cape’s first female winemakers. She also became one of its most illustrious wine personalities, whose legacy is immortalised in the Warwick “First Lady” range.
The first wine under the Warwick label was released in 1984, then named “La Femme Bleu” – “Blue Lady” as it is known today. Two years later, in 1986, the Warwick Trilogy – a three varietal Bordeaux-style blend – was released and has since been recognised as a truly iconic wine, with multiple vintages adorning some of the greatest wine lists in the world.
Norma was awarded the 1659 Medal of Honour in 2015 for her impact and contribution to the South African wine industry: an impact which has had a lasting effect and benefitted the industry as a whole. Previous winners were Nelson Mandela, amongst other leaders.
Today, Norma’s legacy has been entrusted to Cellarmaster, JD (Johannes Diederick) Pretorius and Christiana Von Arnim, CEO of Warwick Estate, who spearheads the company.
Cellar Master, JD Pretorius completed his B.Sc in Viticulture and Oenology in 2007, at the University of Stellenbosch, before working stints at Beyerskloof Wines and Graham Beck. He also spent a harvest in Sonoma, California. Upon his return, JD worked beneath John Loubser at Steenberg, before joining Warwick in 2019. Christiana’s background is also firmly based in wine having grown up amidst the vines of both Pfalz in Germany and Alsace in France. She expresses her passion for wine by saying that ‘’Not only does a good glass of wine vastly enhance almost any situation, but it opens up the entire world for you. In addition to the aromas and flavours, you’ll find complex layers of history, topography, soil and climate, rounded off to perfection through the winemaker’s philosophy, creativity and inspiration’’.
Under their guidance, Warwick continues to go from strength to strength. The many awards that Warwick has won over the years have firmly establishing the brand as a South African icon, a reputation that has been further enhanced by its approach to sustainability and the environment.
Realising the importance of biodiversity, over the past decade Warwick have strived to maintain a balance between nature and winemaking.
The farm refrains from using harmful insecticides, instead concentrating on spot treatments in the vineyards. This has had a positive effect, clear evidence of which is their booming earthworm population. Warwick are a Biodiversity and Wine Initiative member, striving to protect and conserve the Cape Floral Kingdom, by preserving the Cape Fynbos and planting at least 100-150 trees per year.