Undeterred and committed to making our dream a reality. The History and Philosophy of Paul Clüver Wines.
“As a family-owned and operated winery, we take pride in continuing the legacy of our ancestors by cultivating the land with the utmost respect for nature.”
The story of Paul Clüver Family Wines underscores the importance of visionary people in the world of wine. Be it a Bordeaux 1st growth, a Grand Cru Burgundian label or a cult wine from Napa in California, somewhere there was a person with a vision to establish vineyards on a special place of earth with the goal of making a great wine. Of course, many of these impassioned visionaries did not live to see their dreams realised, for it has taken some of the world’s great wines centuries to attain the rarefied exclusive status and reputation they have today.
In the dynamic wine region of South Africa’s Western Cape, the local wine world has been fortunate to witness a relatively rapid transition between lofty ideals and ambitious foresight into the establishing and furthering of a great winery and a successful brand. Paul Clüver Family Wines is one.
The Clüver family has been custodians of the De Rust farm in Elgin since 1896. Livestock, vegetables and fruit – namely apples – have been farmed by generations of Clüvers, driven by a love the 2 200ha of soil, indigenous plants and mountains comprising De Rust farm. Farming together with a fierce commitment to conserving the unique natural environment of the Elgin biosphere on and around the Groenlandberg, as well as empowering and sustaining the local communities, the name Clüver has always represented the beating heart of family agriculture in Elgin.
Up until the 1980s Elgin was renowned as the apple basket of the Western Cape, the fruit thriving in the cold winter and moderate summer conditions, with the verdant orchards adding to Elgin’s aesthetic appeal as an admired part of the Cape’s natural splendour. At that time, De Rust was owned by Dr Paul Clüver, a renowned neurosurgeon who – in between his specialist medical career – presided over the farming activities on De Rust, this mainly focusing on high-grade apples for the export markets.
In the mid-1980s, Dr Clüver was approached by viticulturists from Stellenbosch Farmers Winery, at that time one of South Africa’s leading producers of fine Cape wines. Thorough research on Elgin’s geographical features, as well as a search for new regions in South Africa suited to the planting of vineyards able to express a unique terroir in the country’s wine-offering, led to this part of the Cape being identified as having the potential of presenting the country’s wine industry with a unique and – up until then – undiscovered wine quality offering. Dr Clüver, impassioned with Elgin and keen to see the region further its reputation as a unique agriculture enclave, agreed to allow Stellenbosch Farmers Winery plant vineyards on De Rust Farm in 1986 – the first vines to be established in Elgin.
From the outset, the results were outstanding. The elevated sites, the hardy Bokkeveld shale soils and consistently cool temperatures – the coolest of all wine regions in South Africa – allowed the vines to grow and mature to the state of health and robustness required to see the developing of grapes with exceptional character. Fresh acidity, balanced chemistries and – above all – suitable for the making of fine wines that express the character of Elgin terroir.
Initially, wines from these first Elgin vineyards were made at the Nederburg Estate in Paarl, with Paul Clüver releasing its maiden wine, a Riesling, in 1990.
Paul Clüver Family Wines built its own cellar in 1996, with Andries Burger being responsible for the first estate vintage, a position he has maintained to this day.
Today the winery’s focus is on the great Burgundian varieties of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with the name Paul Clüver having become synonymous with excellence in these two grape varieties for which it has become renowned locally and internationally. This, the result of terroir-driven wines made with a clear vision and with a relentlessly uncompromising approach to quality and individuality.
Paul Clüver is managing director of Paul Clüver Family Wines in Elgin where the Clüver family pioneered viticulture and winemaking in this unique region being the first to plant grapes there 35 years ago. Paul spent much of his childhood on the farm, and after graduating from the University of Stellenbosch with degrees in horticulture and economy he has overseen Paul Clüver becoming one of South Africa’s leading wineries – judged a First Growth by Tim Atkin in his annual report on Cape wine. Paul’s love for and knowledge of land, soil, vineyards and farming are complemented by his commitment to overseeing the production of premium wines from his Elgin terroir. Together with Paul Clüver winemaker Andries Burger, who is also Paul’s brother-in-law, Paul is a self-confessed acolyte of Burgundy, which has as result seen the winery taking its place at the top end of South Africa’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir offering.
Andries Burger is the longest-serving winemaker in Elgin where he has been in charge of winemaking since our maiden vintage in 1997 in our own cellar. A graduate of Stellenbosch University with a BSc degree in oenology and viticulture, Andries has helped Paul Clüver gain a reputation for establishing Elgin as one of South Africa’s leading wine regions as well as a winery synonymous with the crafting of premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines that are recognised as among the country’s finest.
A fervent disciple of the ethos and terroir-driven approach of Burgundy, Andries has worked at various wineries in this ancestral home of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, including a stint at Domaine Comte Senard in Aloxe-Corton under the watchful eyes of owner Phillipe Senard.
Recognised for his meticulous approach to winemaking and a commitment to expressing the unique Elgin terroir in his wines, Andries is a senior member of the Cape Winemakers Guild, a collective body representing the leading and most respected winemakers in the country.
Having won numerous local and international awards for Paul Clüver Family Vineyards’ wines, Andries is committed to the estate’s goal of making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines proving that South Africa’s Western Cape is capable of making some of the best renditions of these noble varieties in the world.
Karin Clüver has a deep passionate for farming and all aspects of agriculture with a particular focus on preserving the land for future generations. She tirelessly seeks ways to enhance farming practices and is a proactive advocate of regenerative farming and the symbiotic relationship between agriculture and the natural environment. Karin employs cutting-edge technologies such as drones and GPS trackers to gather real-time information, enabling her to make well-informed decisions that benefit farming and the natural environment.
When asked about her perspective on organic farming, Karin’s response is as insightful as it is open-minded. She believes that there’s much to be gained from collaborative learning, emphasising that the ultimate goal is to strike a harmonious balance that ensures a sustainable future for all.
Additionally, Karin holds the position of Chairlady at the De Rust Future Academy, an institution originally founded by her grand-mother the late Gertrude Clüver in 1957. This role underscores her commitment to education and the legacy of her family’s contributions to their community.
Inge Clüver Burger, the eldest among five siblings, initially pursued a career in nursing. For many years she dedicated herself to her role as a theatre sister as part of various hospitals’ operating teams. However, in 1998 she made the decision to join the family business, taking on the role of financial manager where she excels with her attention to detail and calm demeanour. Inge maintains a strong working relationship with the local doctor who visits the farm twice a week to address health-issues among our family and workers . In her characteristic compassionate and caring manner Inge not only manages the financial aspects of the business, but also takes it upon herself to support and care for the people involved. She is supported in her duties by her loyal office cat Swartjas.
Liesl leads the wine marketing division of the family business, bringing a unique blend of knowledge and skills to the role. Holding an undergraduate degree in oenology and viticulture, she even had the opportunity to collaborate on the first experimental wines at the farm with Gunther Brozel. However, when Andries assumed the position of winemaker, Liesl transitioned to managing vineyards and bookkeeping for a brief period before eventually finding her calling on the marketing side of the business.
During her professional journey, Liesl pursued her MBA, graduating with honors (Cum Laude). Seeking international experience and growth, she spent five years in the United Kingdom. Yet, her deep connection to South Africa and her desire to make a meaningful impact in her lifetime led her back home. Notably, Liesl is also a qualified Enneagram practitioner, further highlighting her ability to connect with people on a profound level. Her greatest talent lies in forging connections and bringing individuals together.
Dr Paul Clüver was a renowned medical professional specialising in neuro-surgery where he worked at Groote Schuur Hospital as well as in private practice from 1977 to 1989. Upon leaving the medical profession he focused on farming activities on the family farm, De Rust in Elgin, the home of Paul Clüver Family Wines. A pioneer in agriculture and conservation, Dr Clüver was in 1995 named the Farmer of the year and won the Fertilizer Association’s Floating Trophy for Leadership.
Under his guidance the first commercial vineyards in Elgin were planted on De Rust Estate in 1987 after Dr Clüver was approached by the erstwhile Stellenbosch Farmers Winery who had identified the region as having the potential of making premium terroir-specific wines. This was the beginning of Paul Clüver Family Wines.
He started a black empowerment farming trust, Lebanon Fruit Farm Trust, in 1996. At the same time, he initiated a Black Economic Empowerment wine company, Thandi Wines, which became the first Fairtrade wine brand in the world. Alongside his commitment to empowerment and social development, his lifelong dedication to conservation and innovation has been exceptional. In 1998 Dr Clüver was appointed a trustee of WWF South Africa, and he has been an engaged member for almost 30 years. In the early 2000s he was the first landowner in the Western Cape to sign a perpetuity contract to legally bind part of the De Rust farm to CapeNature’s Stewardship Programme. It was also around this time that alarm bells were raised by the conservation sector who saw rapid vineyard expansion that was threatening to eliminate the last fragments of many three critically endangered fynbos and renosterveld vegetation. This issue became a matter of discussion between the wine industry and conservationists. One of the early leaders of this cause was Dr Clüver.
At the beginning of the millennium he worked with the Botanical Society of South Africa to forge a way to protect the iconic biodiversity of the Cape wine-growing regions which led to the establishment of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative, which has since become the WWF Conservation Champion programme with 55 participating farms in the Western Cape.
In 2022 Dr Clüver received the WWF’s Living Planet Award for his contribution to conservation.
Today he is still to be found daily in his office on Paul Clüver Family Wines where he provides guidance, advice and inspiration to the family now running the agriculture and wine business and remains a source of immense wisdom, not only here, but for the South African wine industry as a whole.
Songvei, the mother of the five Cluver siblings, has played an instrumental role in their family’s history. In the 1970s, she managed the dairy operations and also took charge of the bookkeeping duties. In 1989, she established a nursery school, showcasing her commitment to education. Songvei even assisted with wine promotions and sales during the early days at Nederburg. In her administrative role, she transitioned the bookkeeping system from traditional ledgers to digital, displaying her adaptability and forward-thinking approach.
In addition to her versatile skills, Songvei possesses a remarkable talent for gardening. She continues to use her expertise to maintain the beauty of the gardens around the office, tasting room, and restaurant, ensuring they remain visually stunning.