Hansie Britz, owner of Under Oaks.

We chat with a cellar each month about their business, what makes them lie awake at night and what gives them hope. “If we can stand together as an industry to increase value and tell the world about the quality of our spectacular South African wines, we can ensure a bright future for this incredible industry,” says Hansie Britz, owner of Under Oaks near Paarl.


1. Tell us more about Under Oaks?

Simon van der Stel gave the farm Honswyk to the free burgher Frans Hendrickz in 1695. With a colorful history and several owners, this piece of paradise has stood the test of time. The farm, now known as Under Oaks, is located on the northern slopes of Paarlberg, just outside Paarl on the way to Windmeul.

This year we are celebrating 20 years of winemaking – a proud milestone and an incredible friendship that has developed between our winemaker, Bertus Fourie, and our family. It developed from a Friday night chat (over a glass of wine) to being a well-known brand in the South African wine industry. We cultivate about 30 ha of wine grapes and make wine from our own grapes. We sell any additional grapes to the KWV.

We are a boutique cellar and therefore pride ourselves on producing and selling excellent quality wines at good prices. Under Oaks’ wines appeal to the customer with an appreciation for premium wines made with respect for nature. About half of our wine production is sold locally (only available directly at the farm or from our online store) and the other half is exported, with Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands as our main export markets.

Under Oaks also houses the famous Under Oaks Pizzeria under the able leadership of Carlos d’Oliveria. Come and taste the best pizzas in the south of Italy!

We also have a guest house that is well known for its beautiful location and breathtaking views. Our guests leave Under Oaks as friends and return regularly. Covid-19 was challenging, but our regular foreign guests are back and we feel that tourism is picking up again this year.

2. What lessons have you learned over the past few challenging years?

We look at our wine friends and visitors with new appreciation. Without their support we wouldn’t be able to exist. It is important for us to better understand their needs, and to communicate better with them, in whatever way.

Our online store has grown, but one should never underestimate the value of personal encounters and conversations. We also used the lockdown to renovate the restaurant and plan for exciting things that visitors can look forward to.

3. What makes your region special from a tourism point of view, as well as in terms of the terroir and wine styles from this region?

Paarl offers an incredible variety of attractions for all tourists. There’s something for everyone – from amazing restaurants to a myriad of fantastic wine farms with tasting rooms and lots of outdoor activities. Of course our weather is also very favourable for visitors for a large part of the year.

One of the great vineyard teachers of our time, Prof Eben Archer, referred to the soils in the area as “pudding soils” – rich, healthy clay-rich soils in which a vineyard can grow comfortably. With the weathered granite of Paarlberg, as well as Glen Rosa and Oakleaf soils in very close proximity, it creates the perfect opportunity for Bertus to easily acquire complexity in our wines. We are grateful for water, and can irrigate if the vineyard and soil ask for it. The wines reflect the great climate we are in – ripe, fruit-driven, soft and full with a good aging ability. Wines that you can enjoy on the lawn, or around the dinner table.

4. Do you have any exciting plans under way?

We planted a test block of Pinot Noir, and its first wine is proudly aging. It is a 2020 vintage and we are anxiously waiting for it to be ready to be released. “Alpha” which means “The First” is a more mature style, yet elegant Pinot Noir from the first crop of a very small block of Pinot Noir that we planted four years ago – against the traditional beliefs of where Pinot Noir should grow.

We are also working on expansions on Grande Roche (our sister property) that will have definite Italian nuances. Watch this space!

5. What is your message to other wine businesses?

Everyone in the industry understands the many challenges of customer building, customer service and market seeking. Everyone understands the need to move product (increasingly to Covid-19) and I feel if we can stand together as an industry to increase value and tell the world about the quality of our spectacular South African wines, we can ensure a bright future for this incredible industry.


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