6 Things That Set Alvi’s Drift Apart From Other South African Wines
Alvi’s Drift doesn't produce your average South African wines. Read our blog to learn more about what sets us apart from other SA wine producers.
Alvi’s Drift is no ordinary South African winery, and we certainly do not produce your average South African wines. Each of our award-winning wines bear testimony to the passion, dedication, and almost a century of heritage that’s infused into every bottle we produce.
Read on as we explore some of the reasons why our third-generation Breede River Valley winery is such a unique place – and our wines so unforgettable!
1. Our Vineyards Benefit From a Unique Terroir
Situated in the southernmost part of Worcester district within the breathtaking Breede River Valley wine region, our vineyards are blessed with an ideal Mediterranean microclimate, varied topography and incredible soil diversity.
Says celebrated South African wine master Junel van der Merwe:
“Alvi’s Drift is home to granite, shale, red Karoo soils, black slate and sandy soils from the ancient riverbanks. Dotted around our vineyards are ancient limestone banks, brought to the surface by termites during the Jurassic period.”
In our vineyards, each soil type is put to use for the cultivation of specific grape cultivars. For example, limestone soils are where grapes for our award-winning sauvignon blanc wines are grown, while our chardonnay and pinot noir vineyards, planted on south-facing ancient shale and black slate slopes, are the birthplace of our internationally acclaimed Cap Classique sparkling wines.
Adding to our vineyards’ already remarkable terroir is an abundance of water from the life-giving Breede River running through our farm, while the nocturnal breeze from the Atlantic Ocean, a mere 50 kilometres away, cools down our night-time temperatures.
With 430 hectares planted under vines, our vineyards are blessed with everything our passionate team of winemakers requires to produce internationally celebrated, fruit-driven wines of singular character and delectable complexity.
“Our vineyards are incredibly diverse. We have so many different soil types and so many rootstocks to choose from,” says our winemaker, Alvi van der Merwe. “We have rootstocks for clay, for shale, for limestone, for sandy soils – and all of them result in different flavours. We’ve spent a lot of time over the years finding out what works for us.”
2. Alvi’s Drift Winery Boasts A Family Legacy Spanning Almost a Century
Our wine farm’s story originates in 1928, when our founder and patriarch, Albertus Viljoen van der Merwe I acquired a piece of fertile Boland farmland on the banks of the Breede River.
Back then, Oupa (grandfather) Alvi, as we still fondly refer to him, farmed apricots, peaches, lucerne and onions. He also cultivated vineyards from which to produce wine.
In 1930, Oupa Alvi commissioned a low-water bridge to be built across the Breede River dividing the farm in two. Locals named this bridge Alvi’s Drift, the same name it is known by today.
In 1933, our patriarch married Emmarentia Naudé, and together they went on to have two daughters and three sons, among them Albertus Viljoen van der Merwe II (or Bertie, as they called him). Years later, in 1959, Oom (uncle) Bertie took over the running of the farm, continuing to cultivate colombar, white muscadel, cinsaut and chenin blanc grapes for the local bulk wine production market.
In 1999, one of Oom Bertie and wife Muberna’s three sons, Albertus Viljoen van der Merwe III (also known as Alvi, like his grandfather) returned from practising medicine abroad. While Alvi primarily assisted his father with the running of the farm during this time, his dream of creating world-class wines from the family farm’s vineyards persisted.
“One year, after my dad had picked his grapes, I was allowed to pick and use what was left. I really put in a lot of effort and made just a little bit of chardonnay and muscat de frontignan. I had to buy my own bottles, and barrels for maturation, but I was fortunate to win quite a few awards with my first wine.”
In 2003, Alvi produced his first wines, going on to win several local and international wine awards for his muscat de frontignan (known today as muscat blanc à petits grains), as well as his first chardonnay wine. In 2005, after passionately pursuing his winemaking hobby for five years, our winemaker decided it was time to start marketing the family cellar’s award-winning (and increasingly popular) South African wines under its own trademark.
Alvi selected to honour his grandfather’s legacy by naming his wines for the low-water bridge commissioned by Oupa Alvi nearly a century ago.
3. Our Exceptional South African Wines Not Only Taste Great, They Offer Great Value Too
Wine lovers at home and abroad often comment on the surprisingly reasonable cost of Alvi’s Drift wines. This is no coincidence, as our winemaker and his partner Junel pride themselves on their commitment to fair pricing for their products.
“We believe that everyone deserves a fair deal, as well as the chance to share in and celebrate the joy of living,” says Alvi.
“We make world-class South African wines, not compromises. If we did anything differently or any other way, it wouldn’t be us.”
At Alvi’s Drift, we stand behind our true nature and beliefs. We’re real, equitable and uncompromising. In all our undertakings and in everything we do, we aim to give everyone in our value chain a fair and equitable deal.
If you need proof of our winning approach, all you need to do is have a taste of one of the wines in our Signature range. These superb, fruit-driven South African wines offer enthusiasts exceptional value.
In the words of our winemaker, “Think ‘great’ for the price of good!”
Visit our online wine shop to find your favourite among our Signature range pinotage, pinotage rosé, chardonnay, merlot, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, viognier, sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc wines today.
4. Superb South African Wines: A Worcester District Winery Situated in a Cooler-Climate Wine Ward
Ask any aficionado of South African wines, and they’ll confirm that South Africa’s Breede River valley wine region (home to the Worcester wine district) gets extremely hot in summer.
Although this fertile region’s average summertime temperature is around 29 °C, during the months of January, February and March, it is not unusual for temperatures to reach above 40 °C. To say that the Breede River Valley is a rather hot place in the summer months is somewhat of an understatement and, reflecting its climate, the region is known for yielding full-bodied, fruity South African wines – red wines in particular.
However, Scherpenheuwel, the wine ward in which our winery is situated, was recently classified to fall under Winkler Summation II. This classifies Scherpenheuwel as a cooler-climate wine ward, putting it in the same category as France’s Bordeaux region.
So how can a swelteringly hot-in-the-summertime wine region also be home to a cool-climate wine ward? The answer lies in the very unique microclimate that is found at the southern tip of the Breede River valley where our wine farm lies nestled between mountain ranges.
Here, the cooling breeze from the Atlantic Ocean creates a diurnal swing (difference between the highest and lowest temperatures in one day) which cools down Scherpenheuwel’s average temperatures, making it a cool-climate wine ward ideal for cultivating merlot, pinot noir and chardonnay grapes.
“Years ago we conducted a climate study and learnt that, on average, this region is about one-and-a-half degrees cooler than Stellenbosch. This got me excited. I knew our microclimate meant that great wines could be produced right here.”
5. Our Founder Made South African Rugby History Against the All Blacks
Oupa (grandfather) Alvi, as we still fondly speak of him, was born in 1909. Growing up on the family farm, Merwida, in the small Boland town of Rawsonville, young Albertus Viljoen van der Merwe I was a promising rugby player throughout his school years.
In 1928, New Zealand’s All Black rugby team (named The Invincibles by the rugby media at the time) arrived on South African shores. The Kiwi rugby team arrived in our country having just completed an undefeated tour of France and the British colonies and, according to rugby legend, the New Zealand team was expecting to continue its reign in South Africa.
But the international rugby world was stunned when young, unknown club rugby player Albertus Viljoen van der Merwe made sporting history by scoring the first-ever try against the All Blacks on African soil on 2 June 1928 at Cape Town’s Newlands Rugby Stadium.
Enthralling both the local and international rugby community with his unforgettable effort at Newlands, our charismatic founder went on to be selected as the 221st player to play for the Springboks, South Africa’s national rugby team.
With Alvi among them, in 1931, the Springbok team went on to tour the UK and Europe undefeated, changing the course of “The Invincibles” – the New Zealand national rugby team which toured France, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Canada that year.
6. Alvi’s Drift’s South African Wines Are Infused With the Passion of Everyone Who Helps Bring Them Into Being
“When the grapes start coming in, that’s when Alvi starts to play,” says Junel. “He’s tasting the juice, checking the pH, asking for input, experimenting with different wild yeast strains. People often tell him he’s wasting time, but he’s not; he’s creating. The attention to detail, the level of care ... with Alvi, it’s always, ‘Can I do it better?’”
Our wines not only express the story of our unique, temperate wine farm situated a mere 90 minutes’ drive from Cape Town. They are also the fruits of the labour of every member of our passionate and dedicated winemaking team.
At Alvi’s Drift, harvest time is always a magical time of year, and nowhere is this more evident than in our winery’s cellar. A round-the-clock hive of activity during the months of February and March, it is the place where carefully selected grapes, hand-harvested in the early morning for optimal flavour, are crushed, pressed, fermented, and matured.
“Terroir, soils and rootstocks are all extremely important. But by far the most important is picking your grapes at optimal ripeness,” says Alvi. “It is also crucial that you are sure of how you want to manage the winemaking process, and what the ultimate goal is for each wine. You need to remain aware of how each step, process and decision takes you closer to your goals.”
In our cellar, a combination of modern and traditional production techniques is applied in tandem with an unhurried, low-intervention approach to winemaking. Here, hi-tech winemaking equipment shares a home with the so-called kuipe, open-top concrete fermentation tanks built by our family patriarch, Oupa Alvi, almost a century ago.
Previously used for bulk wine production, today our cellar processes more than nine million litres of wine with every vintage. Here, our head winemaker combines his efforts and passion with those of cellar master Riaan Marais, winemaker Wim Viljoen and assistant winemaker Bernard Louw. Together, they produce our 9 000-tonne winery’s multi award-winning, characteristically complex, fruit-driven, red, white, rosé and sparkling wines.
When asked to name his favourite Alvi’s Drift wine, Alvi hesitates. “That’s like asking someone to name a favourite child. It’s an impossible task.” When pressed, our head winemaker admits to having a special fondness for Alvi’s Drift Verreaux Pinotage, a very unique wine that falls under our winery’s flagship Verreaux range.
“It’s just such an exceptional wine,” says Alvi. “Also our Albertus Viljoen Bismarck, a red blend from our Icon range which has done incredibly well for us on the awards circuit. Personally, I love our Drift Fusion from the Alvi’s Drift Reserve range,” adds Alvi. “It’s a Cape blend, in other words, dominated by Pinotage, and it’s just a beautiful wine to drink.”
“Alvi’s energy and passion, his love for each wine and for the craft of winemaking – it’s tangible. I believe it’s all still there in the final product,” says Junel.
Discover Your Favourite Alvi’s Drift Wine
At Alvi’s Drift, we make wine, not compromises. That’s why you’ll never find us doing what’s expected. We’re too busy doing what we love.
Visit our online wine shop to view our award-winning ranges of Alvi’s Drift red, white, rosé, sparkling and Cap Classique wines.
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The Alvi's Drift Story: A Winery Steeped in Heritage and Passion
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Alvi’s Drift Clinches 17 Top Wine Awards and One Best in Class Award at the 2022 National Wine Challenge
Alvi’s Drift Awarded 23 Top Wine Awards and Two Best in Class Awards at the 2023 National Wine Challenge Top 100 SA Wine Awards
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