Historic Stellenbosch estate returns to the UK

One of the oldest estates in Stellenbosch is returning to the UK with its range of super-premium wines after a seven-year absence.

Overgaauw was distributed by Forth Wines and then Nick Harvey Miller Wines but pulled out of the UK market went the latter went bankrupt in 2008.

It has now decided the time is right to bring its wines back to the UK after noticing a shift towards premium tiers of South African wine among British consumers – thanks in part to strong marketing from the likes of generic body Wines of South Africa.

David van Velden, owner and fourth-generation winemaker at the 90ha estate, said: “There is a growing appetite for South African fine wines in the UK. The quality and value for money has always been there and it’s actually being communicated a lot more effectively now.”

The Overgaauw estate dates back to 1905 and van Velden took over as winemaker from his father in 2007. He insists he sees himself as more of a custodian of the family business than owner, and has two young boys aged two and six months ready to continue the legacy. 

It mainly plants Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc to make Bordeaux-style blends, along with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Since 1971, it has been the only South African estate to plant Silvaner and makes small parcels of that.

The flagship wine is Tria Corda, a blend that would retail for around £24-£28. Its Cabernet Sauvignon retails for £17-£19, while its Merlot retails for around the £14 mark.

It has built up a strong business in the US, Europe and the Far East, and 70% of sales are now exports, so it decided to return to the UK.

“When the markets opened in 1992 the UK was the first market we exported to,” said van Velden. “It went really well until 2008 but when our distributor went bankrupt we were disheartened and left.

“But we decided to re-enter the market and didn’t want to go into a large agency portfolio where it can be lost among all the different wines they have. To reintroduce the wines to the UK we have to be hands-on and work with people that are hands-on.”

It has teamed up with new importer Chill Wines to bring the wines to market. Chill Wines has been set up by John Scully and Mark Sands for the purpose of distributing Overgaauw. They aim to add further estates to their portfolio in the near future.

Scully said: “We want to put all our efforts into Overgaauw as we believe it has great potential in the UK market.

“We know how great David’s wine is and we want to get people in this market to drink it and appreciate, so we can show the high level of quality that South Africa can offer.

“We are aiming for top independent wine merchants and high-end restaurants.”

Overgaauw is confident its wines can make a splash in the UK. Van Velden said: “Where we are located it is two or three degrees cooler than the rest of Stellenbosch, which gives a nice complexity to the Bordeaux varietals, and gives good aromatics to the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay too.”

He added: “The perception of South African wine in this market is variable. The quality of South African wines has not been communicated as effectively as it should have been. But that leaves us with an exciting opportunity.

“The only way to build a sustainable industry in South Africa is to focus on quality and demand a premium for those wines, but we need to make sure we over-deliver at these price points. Our wines are quality wines and they are great value for money.

“There are some really top producers coming out of South Africa now and it’s a case of communicating it.”