Kanonkop is a fourth-generation wine estate situated on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain in Stellenbosch, the premium red wine region of South Africa’s Western Cape Province. To many, Kanonkop is considered the South African equivalent of a Premier Cru or First Growth. For others, Kanonkop is a place of natural beauty where hospitality, family values, tradition, history and interesting characters are as integral to their ability to create magnificent wines as the ancient decomposed granite soils, the cool air from the Atlantic Ocean and the old dryland vineyards.
The family-owned estate has been passed down from generation to generation and is now in the hands of brothers Paul and Johann Krige. The name Kanonkop is derived from a hillock (kop) on the Simonsberg mountain above the estate from where a cannon (kanon) was fired during the 17th and 18th centuries to announce the arrival of sailing ships entering Table Bay. The roar of the cannon would be the signal to local farmers, who were waiting to make the 50-kilometer journey to the harbour, to load up their wagons with fresh fruit and vegetables to barter their produce.
The first wines bearing the Kanonkop label were produced in 1973. To wine lovers familiar with the centuries old châteaux and domaines of Bordeaux and Burgundy respectively, the winemaking history of their estate may seem surprisingly young.
Kanonkop is blessed with a unique terroir that gives their wines a fingerprint and a consistent sense of place. Their three legendary winemakers have created part of their terroir, not only with their hands, but with their souls too. Kanonkop vineyards currently cover 95 hectares located between 180–365 metres above sea level. Their grape varieties include 50% Pinotage, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.5% Cabernet Franc, and 7.5% Merlot. All current vineyards planted at Kanonkop were thoroughly planned in advance with the help of specialists in various agricultural fields. Their ultimate goal is to achieve a balanced vine with just the right amount of leaf coverage to fully ripen the number of grape bunches. Vine growth is managed to ensure smaller yields, but within those yields the grapes are finely structured and concentrated to ensure a quality of fruit capable of expressing the excellence required to make good wine.
The classic approach to winemaking on Kanonkop is underscored by the emphasis on vintage. On this unique piece of Stellenbosch terroir, no year in the vineyards is the same. The focused and site-specific approach to winemaking, which has been at the heart of the estate since the first vintage, ensures the character of each year is captured. It allows climate and ecological vagaries to express themselves in the wines.
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