Home to some of the world’s best Shiraz, this family-run wine estate lies to the north of picturesque Stellenbosch in a free-draining valley on the influential Bottelary Hills. At the forefront of South African winemaking, Hartenberg Estate’s true potential was first realised in 1987 when Ken Mackenzie acquired the farm. So began Hartenberg’s story of change which has resulted in the production of some of the most sought-after and distinctive wines that Stellenbosch has to offer.
The estate has three weather stations placed in the vineyards which resulted in half the spraying that was needed 5 years ago. These weather stations are instrumental in assessing where and when to spray, even recording conditions which encourage mildew infection. Hartenberg forms part of the South African Industry’s Biodiversity and Wine Initiative with 80 hectares of the 170-hectare estate being set aside as wetlands. Two of the rare animal species found here include the spotted eagle-owl and the arum frog frequently found in South Africa’s arum lilies.
The estate comprises of 99 hectares of vineyards which include a total of nine diverse soil types, differing microclimates and aspects. This demands careful site-specific planting which needs to be meticulously researched to determine the best planting site for a particular varietal. The continuing planting program has focused on previous strengths and has shown that the new vineyards, even though they are still young, will add an extra dimension to Hartenberg’s wines. The cornerstone of the estate’s future is its six site-specific varietals which include Chardonnay, Rhine Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon. To protect the vines from significant heat waves and the resulting drought conditions, all vineyards that are part of the replanting program have been fitted with drip irrigation lines.
Hartenberg’s climate is typically Mediterranean with distinct seasonal influences. The estate is situated on a north/ southerly axis so that the vineyards can benefit from the Cape’s two prevailing winds, the south-easter in the summer, and the north-wester in winter. The mean minimum temperature of the area is 12 degrees Celsius with a maximum of 26 degrees Celsius. The typical degree days experienced is 3000 (Celsius), with an average annual rainfall of 600mm.
Wilhelm Joubert, Hartenberg’s viticulturist and Estate Manager, together with his team of 60 dedicated permanent staff members is tasked with ensuring that the estate’s vineyards yield the highest quality grapes each vintage while still protecting its natural environment. Each year, during Spring and Summer, Joubert also relies on the estate’s California-sourced Winegrape Water Status "Pressure Bomb" unit which keeps him informed of what is going on below-ground, as well as a computerized weather station system that monitors all the different vineyards. This system downloads information such as humidity, temperature and wind speed every fifteen minutes. This information is vital when planning the spray program as well as for overall vineyard management. Since this unit was introduced, the spray application number has fallen significantly which has greatly improved the estate’s Integrated Pest Management System. The result of this can be seen in the estate’s vast variety of birdlife as well as wildlife such as mongoose and small deer.
Carl Schultz has been with Hartenberg since 1993 and is the estate’s director and winemaker. He has been instrumental in modernizing both the winery and wines and is tasked with ensuring that Hartenberg creates wines of superior quality that best reflect its terroir and location.
The estate boasts a cellar equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that allows for careful, yet efficient handling of the grapes each vintage. 52 stainless steel tanks, varying in size from 1000 to 16000 litres each with internal cooling plates, ensure that grapes harvested from individual vineyard sites are kept separate throughout the fermentation process. Computerized pumpover and punch-down programs designed for red varietals allow for the required colour and flavour extraction and assist in the creation of wines distinctive of their source. Also critical to the production of fine quality wines is the ability to separate the free-run juice, extracted through just the weight of the berries. Once blended with the juice obtained by pressing the skins, this adds an additional dimension to the wine. All fermentation tanks are fitted with a valve from which the free-run juice can be obtained.
To enable extended oak maturation, Hartenberg has two humidity and temperature controlled barrel cellars with the capacity to hold 2000 x 225 litre, mostly French oak barrels. Each vintage needs 400 new barrels that are used throughout two fills for premium wines, and then for the maturation of Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz. The length of time that the wine spends in wood is calculated by the quality of each vintage, and the wine quality and barrels are regularly tasted to monitor the maturation.
To this day the Mackenzie vision of producing outstanding wines of superior quality persists.
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