South Africa is not only good wines and good food, also delicious brandy

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South Africa is in a sense a greater brandy country than wine country. But they keep most of the brandy for themselves. They make large amounts of brandy, of cognac type. It is actually a very old tradition. The first time they made brandy in South Africa was in 1672…

It is also largely thanks to brandy that chenin blanc is such a common grape. Chenin blanc, or as it used to be called, steen, is a grape that gives wines with high acidity. It is suitable for production of brandy. A large part of the chenin blanc production goes to distillation.

Brandy in South Africa fall into three different categories:

  • “Blendend” or standard-brandy
  • Vintage brandy
  • “Pot still” brandy, made from old-type stills of copper in, similar to the ones used in for example cognac and calvados.

Pot still is considered the best brandy. Vintage Brandy can also be pot still.

There is also something called Estate Brandy, which is exactly what it sounds like, made on a particular property.

A brandy pot still in South Africa
A brandy pot still in South Africa, copyright BKWine Photography

They make really excellent brandies in South Africa; I have on several occasions had the opportunity to try South African brandy and been very impressed.

They consume most of what is made within the country though. Unfortunately they export very little brandy from South Africa.

Award-winning brandy

So it was well-deserved when a South African brandy producer recently won the “Best Brandy & Cognac Producer in the World”. It was KWV who received the award at the 2015 International Spirit Challenge in London in July, the first time that a brandy producer and not a cognac house won!

KWVs 20-year-old brandy also won two prizes: the “Best Brandy in the World Trophy” and “Grand Champion”.

Read more about this on

A glass of South African brandy, Alchemy of Gold
A glass of South African brandy, Alchemy of Gold, copyright BKWine Photography

Swedish adventurer becomes brandy in South Africa: Olof Bergh

There is also a South African brandy with a direct link to Sweden, Olof Bergh Brandy, which of course it is a pleasure to explain. In particular since he also has some historic links to the South African wine industry.

Olof Bergh was born (it is believed) in Gothenburg in 1643, an adventurer. He joined the Dutch East India Company. After been in Jakarta and in Ceylon he came to South Africa, the then Cape Colony, in 1676. He was recruited by Simon van der Stel, the Commander and the first Dutch governor of the Cape.

Olof Bergh became very wealthy and owned much property and land. He became one of the wealthiest persons in the Cape. He married Anna de Koning in 1678 with, the daughter of a slave named Angela of Bengal, and she herself a slave until she was freed in 1666. Most interesting from a vinous point of view is that Lindbergh owned the large country estate of Constantia, where they made and still make, the famous Vin de Constance. However, apparently Bergh was not particularly interested in wine production. Nevertheless, he is said to have been the person who introduced the solera method to South Africa for the storage and aging of fortified wines and brandies. In 1724, 80 years old, he died at Constantia.

Ageing brandy in South Africa
Ageing brandy in South Africa, copyright BKWine Photography

The Olof Bergh brandy is indeed a solera. It was launched in 1988 as the first (in modern times) solera brandy. It is now made at Olof Bergh Cellars, between Cape Town and Worcester. Today, the brand is owned by Distell.

I have unfortunately never had the opportunity to taste the Olof Bergh brandy but it is said to be excellent.

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]Brandy is certainly something to be discovered in South Africa alongside exquisite wines. Come on a wine tour to South Africa with BKWine to get the chance to experience the best South Africa has both in wine, food and brandy.

Travel to the world’s wine regions with the experts on wine and the specialist on wine tours.

Unforgettable wine tours. BKWine wine tours.[/box]

Brandy tasting, Alchemy of Gold, in South Africa
Brandy tasting, Alchemy of Gold, in South Africa, copyright BKWine Photography

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4 Responses

  1. FYI , here is a short snippet from our research of the Oloff Bergh ,

    1712 – Van der Stel died at Constantia on 24 June 1712, aged 73. He was buried in the Groote Kerk, Cape Town. As none of his family remained at the Cape, an auction, lasting four days, was held at Constantia two years after his death. The property was split into three – two parts (Bergvliet and De Hoop op Constantia, originally known as Klein Constantia but referred to hereafter as Little Constantia to avoid confusion with the other property now known as Klein Constantia) going to the auctioneer, Pieter de Meijer, and the third (known as Groot Constantia) to Captain Oloff Bergh.

    1716 – Oloff Bergh took possession of Groot Constantia on 13 November 1716. Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1643, he had joined the Dutch East India Company in 1665 and was a sergeant by the time he arrived at the Cape in 1676. Ten years later he was arrested and imprisoned for plundering a ship, which had run aground near Cape Agulhas (the Portuguese Nostra Senhora de los Milagros). Upon release he was sent to Ceylon, where he must have behaved more appropriately because he returned to the Cape in 1695 with the rank of captain and was appointed as commander of the Cape garrison. He retired in about 1701 as a wealthy man, owning land on the Moolenweg, a farm in the Tijgerberg area, the farm De Kuijlen (Kuils River) and the adjoining farm, Saxenburg. With Johannes Phijffer he also owned the farm Vondeling ‘near Paarl Diamant’. He was married to Anna de Koningh (born in Batavia, a daughter of the slave known as Angela of Bengal) and they had 11 children.
    Already 73 years old when he acquired Groot Constantia, Bergh does not appear to have done much farming in the years leading up to his death in 1724. His widow Anna also appears to have neglected viticulture, given that there were only 1,126 litres of red wine in the cellar when she died in 1734.

    1. Hi, Hans I read your comment on Olof Bergh to Per Karlsson in his BKWine Magazine. I saw that you have done a research on Olof Bergh. I am currently also doing research on the Bergh family history and compiling the genealogy of the Berghs in South Africa.
      The founder or progenitor of the Bergh`s in South Africa was Olof Bergh, born in Götenborg, Sweden. He came to South Africa in 1676.
      I need more information on Olof Bergh in Götenborg, Sweden before he came to South Africa.
      I would appreciate if you can contact me if you can assist with more information.

      1. Jan, I am also a Bergh from Cape Town and have just spent a week in Goteborg, and did a bit of researching of Olof Bergh when not working. Unfortunately, there is nothing I could find which directly referenced Olof Bergh, but the Stadsmuseet in Goteborg has (had) an amazing exhibit on Goteborg from its founding in 1621 through to the present day. The 1600-1700 section seems to corroborate everything my family knew about Olof in terms of wealthy families, exploration from Goteborg to the East (China, admittedly mainly via the Swedish East India Company), and the trading nature of early Goteborg itself. They are very proud of the city history here, so I would suggest contacting the Stadsmuseet to see if they had any more info. I am sure they would be very interested in learning how Gothenburgers influenced other places.

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