Max du Preez

Veteran journalist and author Max du Preez has found his home and haven in the hamlet of Riebeek-Kasteel

Pictures: Nico Degenaar

Max-du-Preez-WebApicturesque valley famous among connoisseurs for its exceptional wines and fine olive oil – the Riebeek Valley in the Swartland – is my favourite spot in Africa.

Riebeek-Kasteel is a charming, authentic village with no pretensions or flashiness; a village of mostly working (and many young) people, craft shops, art galleries and several good restaurants and guest houses – the latest, the splendid Red Tin Roof, owned by the renowned former journalists Jacques Pauw and Samantha Rogers.

The valley has a rich history. When the first Dutch settlers crossed over the mountain into the valley in 1661, they were met by one of the strongest Khoikhoi chiefs of the time, Ngonnemoa of the Cochoqua. He sensed that the arrival of these European settlers would mean a loss of land and cattle to his people and had several armed conflicts with the Dutch.

The other famous figure from the valley is the former prime minister, war hero and philosopher General Jan Smuts, born in the neighbouring town of Riebeek-West in 1870.

This Riebeek Valley and the adjacent Paardeberg area have become essential stopovers for real wine fundis from the world over because of the daring and groundbreaking winemakers of the area. People like Eben Sadie, AA Badenhorst, the Mullineux family, Anton Espost of the Wine Kollektive, Hugo Basson of Annex Kloof, Paul Kretzel of Lammershoek and Jannie Louw of Nuweland. Add to that Kloovenburg, Allesverloren, Pulpit Rock and Riebeek Cellars wineries and you’re in wine heaven.

Riebeek-Kasteel

Okay, time to come clean: when I realised that Cape Town International Airport was just an hour away from the valley, I went to live there three years ago – I travel to Johannesburg or Durban every week.

Every time I come back from the airport and drive over the pass above Riebeek-Kasteel, I feel blessed that I live in a magical place like this; a patchwork of vineyards, orchards and farm dams between the mountains. And interesting people.

Max du Preez is best known as the founding editor of Vrye Weekblad. His latest book A Rumour of Spring – SA after 20 Years of Democracy has received the 2014 Alan Paton Award for non-fiction.

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