Bellingham’s Bernard Series pays homage to its legendary founder and maverick winemaker Bernard Podlashuk, ‘Pod’ to family and friends. Bernard’s daring vision, tenacity, drive and courage not only put Bellingham on the wine map, but also the South African wine industry as a whole.
The story of Bellingham in Franschhoek, South Africa is a fascinating one. History begins in 1687 when twenty-year-old Gerrit Jantz van Vuren (Dutch patriarch of the prominent South African family – the Janse van Vuuren’s) and his French Huguenot wife Suzanne Jacobs settle in the Dutch Cape Colony.
In 1693 Gerrit and Suzanne establish a farm with the name Bellenchamp -beautiful fields- in one of the valleys of the Groot Drakenstein mountains, south of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. Bellenchamp is marked as number 66 on the map of farms granted to French & Dutch settlers before 1700. Father-in-law Pierre Jacobs owns farm ‘De Goede Hoop’ -number 16 on the map- about 5 km away from Bellenchamp.
The French Huguenots not only brought a wealth of vine growing and wine making experience with them, but also vine shoots. These shoots were most likely of the Chenin Blanc variety as Huguenot Pierre Jacobs was from Calais in the North of France and probably traveled to the Loire to buy vines. In 1693 the first vines were planted in Bellenchamp, now part of the Bellingham wine estate.
Fast forward to 1943
The attraction of the lush, sun-drenched valleys of the Groot Drakenstein Mountains is not lost on Bernard and Fredagh Podlashuk. They fall in love with Bellenchamp at first sight. Fredagh and Bernard choose the Cape, because of Bernard’s respiratory problems. They needed somewhere to live where the air was not very dry.
They acquire the run-down Bellingham Estate in 1943 with the aim to revive it. Being the maverick he was, Bernard did things his own way. For someone without any formal wine education he became a formidable winemaker. Bernard even traveled to France a few times to deepen his knowledge of wine and wine making.
To cut a long story short
Bernard not only made the wines of Bellingham famous all over Europe, he also put South African wines on the map. His wine philosophy: to craft well priced, expressive wines that can be enjoyed and shared with friends, food, and convivial storytelling. The result of his efforts led to South Africa’s first rosé, its first ‘premier grand cru’ and the bottling of the first single cultivar Shiraz in 1957 under the Bellingham label. With the first varietal bottling of Shiraz in South Africa Podlashuk earned the honorary title: “The father of Shiraz in South Africa”.
At Bellingham, they believe that good wines are made in the vineyard
Bellingham strives to accentuate regionality, sourcing grapes from specific sites. The ancient soils on the slopes of the surrounding mountain ranges surely help to grow healthy and terroir driven grapes. Different micro-climates influenced by the cool breezes during the day and moisture-laden breezes in the night facilitate viticulture too. At Bellingham they want each wine to show the natural varietal character of the grape and the characteristics of a specific terroir.
The Bernard Series – Chenin Blanc
The Bernard series, as you can guess, is named after Bernard Podlashuk. His tenacity and innovative flair come alive in Bellingham’s premium range. The 35 to 47 years old bush vine grapes for this 100% Chenin Blanc are from 4 exceptional Chenin Blanc vineyards: Agter-Paarl, Stellenbosch, Darling and Cape Town. The low yielding bush vines grow in predominately weathered granite soils, which give the wine a vibrant acidity, complexity and balance.
2017 Bellingham Bernard Series, Chenin Blanc Old Vine
A full-bodied, almost golden, wine with a introvert nose of ripe peach, honey melon, pear and citrus aromas, supported by hints of toast. Generous, juicy fruit flavors on the palate, such as pineapple and citrus. The subtle oak maturing in the background gives the wine structure. The finish is long and shows complexity. In short: a great wine to enjoy with food.
Topchefs on Tour and Bellingham
To illustrate the food-wine pairing Winejus participated in a -Topchefs on Tour- lunch organized by #PitchPR for #Bellingham at Restaurant Limon in Amsterdam. Chef Maik Kuijpers (former chef at the Librije *** Michelin restaurant, now concept chef at Restaurant Carstens in Amsterdam) prepared for us a main course of haddock with inlaid leek-antiboise in a shellfish sauce. Haddock is a tricky fish to pair with a wine, but this combination was delicious. If there is one wine that heightens the taste of haddock it surely is this beautiful, full-bodied Old Vine Chenin Blanc from the Bellingham Bernard Series.