The history of our farm Wildekrans is closely connected to the history of Botriver where the first European farms in the Overberg were established in 1708.
The Overberg has been explored as early as 1663. These expeditions were commissioned by Simon Van Der Stel to buy cattle, sheep, and dairy products for Cape Town. Corporal Hieronymus Cruse and Ensign Olof Bergh from the Dutch East India Company (VOC) were the early pathfinders, barter trading with the Chainouqua and the Hessequa – two Khoi tribes in the Overberg.
Their first challenge was the crossing of the Hottentots Holland mountain range over a pass called Gantouw Pass, the old Elands Pad. This was eventually replaced in 1830 by the Sir Lowry’s Pass. In 1669 Cruse kept a diary of one of his trips to the Breede River. It took 20 days, and he documented the route to the Hessequa’s Kraal that later became known as the Kaapse Wa Pad (Cape Wagon Road). He used the words Palmiet, Houw Hoek and Zander End Rivier to describe the route, which initially followed the Eland trails. As traffic increased, a toll gate was opened at Compagniesdrift on the Botrivier crossing, where the Beaumont Wine Estate exists today.
The word Botrivier originally comes from the Khoi San name for the river Gouga, meaning ‘lots of fat’. The area was called Gouga Kamma (“Place of Much Fat“) until the Dutch word for butter and fat (botter) replaced the original name. Governor Willem Adrian Van Der Stel viewed the Overberg as his personal fiefdom. He acquired 18 grazing farms for his own benefit, from the foot of the Houw Hoek Pass all the way to the Breede River. The first one was called Botrivier. He was dismissed by the VOC in 1707 and returned to Holland. Farmers from Stellenbosch started using the area around Botrivier for grazing and cultivation of wheat and in 1726, the VOC erected an outpost on the farm Compagniesdrift (part of the original farm Botriver) to protect their interests.
In 1731, Daniel Malan was given formal grazing rights on Compagniesdrift, passing to Josias De Kock in 1745 and to his son, Servaas Daniel De Kock, in 1783. After petitioning Lord Somerset, he was granted full ownership in 1818, a reward for his role in the Battle of Blouberg when the British defeated the Dutch and took control of the Cape. Ten years before, Ferdinand Appel was granted ownership of a farm in Caledon, which is now the site of the present hot springs. The De Kock, Le Roux and Appel families feature as prominent families in the area between Botrivier and Caledon to this day. Servaas planted wheat, vines, fruit, vegetables, and turmeric. The town Botrivier was established in 1890 when a trading store was opened and the Bot River Hotel was built, followed by the opening of a railway line to the town in 1902.
Splitting the farms
The early Botrivier farm owned by Adrian Van der Stel was comprised of Compagniesdrift, Rouiheuwel (or Roodeheuwel), Botrivier Outspan, and Keerweer (or Keer Weerder, meaning ‘come again’). For 3 centuries, these farms were where travellers outspanned their oxen and wagons along the Botrivier. This was in effect the beginning of the fertile rolling hills of the Overberg that early travellers were known to call Canaan (the ‘promised land’) and for years, Botrivier has been called the ‘gateway to the Overberg’ because of this.
Later, the Keerweer farm would be renamed to what is known as Wildekrans Wine Estate.
Wildekrans, spread over 1000 hectares of land south and southwest of the N2, was an integral part of the early history of the Overberg. The Keerweer title deed (portion 860) dates back to 1864, when the farm split from Rooiheuwel and which had, in turn, split from Compagniesdrift. The mountain side of the farm was called Botrivier Outspan, which was part of the original Botrivier farm. The original buildings, including the site of the early wine cellar and restaurant, date to the 1860’s and are still present, while the original concrete vats and kuipers in the old cellar (built by Kannemeyer in the late 1920s) are still standing strong. The new cellar was commissioned in 1982 to make way for newer winemaking techniques.
Farming, Fauna & Flora
Over the years, the farm has produced wine grapes, wheat, oats, apples, pears, plums, nectarines, turmeric, onions (at one stage Botrivier was centre stage for growing onions in South Africa), potatoes, vegetables, honey, citrus, olives, canola, and proteas – the latter being first commercialized in the 1940s at the Honingklip Farm.
The farm also prides itself on protecting its natural and indigenous surroundings. Sandstone Fynbos, endangered Western Ruens, and Shale Rhenosterveld are protected in the non-cultivated land on the farm – land that used to see Black Rhino, Eland, Cape Buffalo, Cape Mountain Zebra, Bontebok, Red Hartebeest, and the extinct Blue Buck and Quagga roaming freely. On the predator’s side, there was an abundance of Cape Leopards, Spotted Hyenas, and African Wild Dogs. Today, we regularly see Grey Rhebuck, Common Duiker, Cape Grysbok, Cape Fox, Caracal, Genet, Porcupine, Jackal, and (very rarely) the elusive leopard in the mountain. The flora in this region is equally renowned, with over 9000 species found within the area, with fynbos being the predominant species.
A Very Warm Welcome
We would like to welcome you to the Wildekrans Wine Estate. Our passion is in preserving the rich heritage of the farm and region, its fauna and flora, as well as making award-winning wines.
Some of our vineyards date back to 1982 – some of the oldest producing Chenin vines in the Cape. Our aim is to provide an opportunity for our guests to enjoy the exquisite scenery and tranquillity of our Overberg farm that has hardly changed in over a century. Complemented by our renowned hospitality and enshrined in the original farm name ‘Keerweer’ (Come Again), the wines speak for themselves and our visitors keep returning.