Ansela van der Caab was forced to live in the slave lodge in Capetown, a windowless domicile for the slaves working for the Dutch East India Company. For 14 years, Laurens Campher walked 35 kilometres to Capetown every two weeks to see the love of his life. In 1699, Ansela and the three children they had while she was held in Capetown were finally allowed to join him there at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountain. The oak tree she planted when they got married is still standing.
From 1735 to 1763, the estate had various owners. Finally, Martin Melck purchased the vineyard together with the beautiful house built in the Cape Dutch architecture, one of the oldest in Stellenbosch. The last owner from the Melck family was Catherina Elizabeth, married Beyers. In 1897, Hugh Porter and William Van Der Byl purchased the estate. During this time, the estate also became known under the name “Muratie”, a derivation from Afrikaans. “Murasie” means something like ruin, so apparently, times were not good for the estate. Then in 1927 along came George Paul Canitz.
Together with his daughter Alberta Annemarie, he had discovered the estate when the two had got lost during a trip. They fell in love with the estate and acted quickly when it became for sale. The aesthete George Paul Canitz, originally from Germany, had two passions besides his beloved Amber and horses: painting and Pinot Noir. He cultivated the first ever South African Pinot Noir! And he returned the vineyard, which was now officially called “Muratie”, back to its old grandeur. In 1958, he handed the estate over to his daughter, who continued it in honour with passion and love. She loved horses and continued to ride until long past the age of 80. When she finally stopped riding, she said that the horse was too old...
This independent, unusual woman had no family and was looking for a successor. She found one, who could not have been more perfect: Ronnie Melck, a direct descendent of Martin Melck. Ronnie Melck had hoped for many years to one day return the vineyard to the family. Just like his ancestor, he had fallen in love with the land. And his dream came true in 1987!
A passionate, warm-hearted winemaker on beloved family land: it is a wonderful story, which has also led to equally wonderful wines. When Ronnie Melck passed away, his family continued the company the same way he would have done it. Its authentic, classic, and charming wines are considered one of the flagships of the South-African vineyards.
His oldest son, Dr. Rijk Melck, became the director of Muratie in 2006. For 22 years, he had worked successfully as a physician, until he followed the call back to the family estate. “I basically consider myself the curator of Muratie, the one who makes it possible to create fantastic wines in a manner consistent with the estate’s tradition,” says Rijk Melck.
Winemaker Francois Conradie believes in organic cultivation. The ducks and geese, who feel comfortable at Muratie, help with the biological pest control just as much as the other 85 species of birds that can be found there. The white wines are fermented spontaneously. All grapes are manually selected and then sorted once again. The know-how and the intuition of the winemaker, proven practices, and modern methods are all equally used at Muratie. “Each of our wines has its own personality,” says Rijk Melck. That also becomes clear in the names of the iconic wines that clearly reflect the estate’s history. One red cuvée is named Ansela van der Caab, while a white cuvée is named Laurens Campher. George Paul Canitz, of course, is the name of a Pinot Noir, and a Merlot is named after Canitz’ daughter Alberta Annemarie. A Shiraz is named after Ronnie Melck, and a Chardonnay after his granddaughter Isabella, the daughter of Rijk.
The four vineyard dogs that welcome visitors also have personalities. Their names are Frank Zappa, Stella Artois, Jackson and Sid Vicious - the latter being a charming and affectionate Golden Retriever and German Shepherd mix, so most definitely not vicious at all.
Muratie is a family company, which is just as committed to the environment as to its employees. The Muratie Farm Workers Trust was founded in order to subsidise the education of employees’ children. It is very possible that they may want to follow in their parents’ footsteps and have already played with the children of the Melck family.
Muratie will probably stay in family hands, because the youngest generation has already been infected by the love and passion for wine and the land.