Rustenberg has a wine-growing history dating back to 1682, when settler Roelof Pasman, from the wine region of Meurs near the Rhine in Germany, recognised the potential of the rich, red granite soils of the Simonsberg mountains in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The estate flourished, reaching its peak in the 1820s, only to fall victim to phylloxera and the ensuing recession in the second half of the century.
Peter and Pamela Barlow purchased Rustenberg in 1940, and the regeneration of the estate began, replanting new vineyards, enlarging and updating cellars, even installing an electricity-driven crusher thanks to the new power line now serving the farm. Their son, Simon, took over running the farm in 1987 and is the force behind the 21st century Rustenberg. His upbringing and training focused on farming and management. He studied at the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester in Gloucestershire, UK, and at the Stellenbosch University Business School. He was elected one of the youngest governors of the World Economic Forum in 1989.
Simon's vision extends beyond local boundaries. "We are committed to playing in the highest quality international stakes ... passion and total dedication to quality are absolute in both vineyard and cellar." This uncompromising stand is basic to the Barlow credo for Rustenberg.
The farm sits in a natural amphitheatre, with the granite peaks of the Simonsberg Mountains towering behind. Vineyards producing the grapes for Rustenberg and Brampton wines climb the rich red slopes of the Simonsberg and Helderberg mountains, the former producing mainly red varieties from the granite soils and the latter mainly white varieties from the cooler climate of the Nootigedacht. A range of slopes and aspects allows site-specific plantings that enhance varietal characteristics. Vineyards have been rejuvenated with a mix of virus-free clones in all cultivars on the best root stocks. A small scale nursery has been started for propagation, providing available root stock for upgrading, replanting and experimentation.
Controlled irrigation is used when necessary to alleviate stress and maximise quality. All grapes are hand-picked in the cool of the early morning and all vineyard blocks vinified separately, then blended for added complexity.
The winemaker is Adi Badenhorst who joined Rustenberg in 1999 after working around the world for producers like Château Angelus in Bordeaux and Wither Hills and Delegats in New Zealand. Adi works closely with viticulturist Nico Walters to make the Brampton and Rustenberg ranges which are rightly regarded as being some of the very best South African wines produced.