My friend Louise de Waal from Green Girls in Africa visited Vergenoegd Wine Estate in Stellenbosch recently and she was kind enough to share this incredible story of sustainable  farming and using 700 or so Indian Runner ducks as natural pest-control.

Vergenoegd Wine Estate Stellenbosch
The historic homestead at Vergenoegd Wine Estate, Stellenbosch. The Dutch word ‘vergenoegd’ translates as ‘satisfaction has been achieved’.

On my way to Stellenbosch, I passed the massively understated Vergenoegd Wine Estate entrance off Baden Powell Road countless times, but never gave it a second thought. I didn’t even realise there was a wine estate, until I was invited by Destinate for a media event in December last year. What lies at the end of an ordinary farm road is an extraordinary day out for families, couples, and groups of friends – a truly wonderful and unique experience and welcome addition to the so often “much of a muchness” Winelands destinations.

Duck Parade

Vergenoegd Wine Estate Ducks on Duty
The 700 or so Indian Runner ducks led out to the vineyards by Peter Stuart (DM).

My mood for the day was set to elate, when 700 or so Indian Runner ducks met us at around 09.30 in the morning. The ducks set off en masse for the “office”, performing their daily duty of picking out snails and other unwanted bugs in the vineyards. This waddling workforce, as Vergenoegd affectionately calls their ducks, covers around a quarter of the farm, enabling them to cut down dramatically on the use of pesticides.

Vergenoegd Wine Estate Runner Duck Range
Indian Runner ducks, known for their agility, are specifically bred for pest-control in gardens and vineyards.

Indian Runner ducks are bred specifically for natural pest-control and are true champions in their field of hoovering up any bugs that happen to come in their wake. They are pretty low maintenance with just one duck-keeper during the day, who makes sure they have enough water on hot Cape summer days.

In the afternoon around 16.30 hrs, the waddling workforce goes for a well-deserved swim and sundowners on the dam, before heading back to their quarters for supper. The duck parade is definitely the highlight of a Vergenoegd visit and still puts a smile on my face.

Denzel, the Duck Whisperer, is in charge of the duck breeding pen, where the cycle of life can be witnessed up close – a fun and educational stop for kids.

Blending experiences

Vergenoegd Wine Estate Cape Winelands
Some of the farm equipment and features at Vergenoegd dating back to times gone-by.

Vergenoegd has a lot more to offer besides the unusual duck parade. This historical farm and homestead date back to 1696, when the farm was granted by Simon van der Stel to its first owner, Pieter de Vos, making Vergenoegd one of the oldest farms in the Cape. Since then ownership has changed hands a few times before its current Swiss owners put their grand vision for the farm into action.

The Manor House, a registered historical monument, serves as the venue for their fascinating, experiential, hands-on and most importantly fun blending experiences, and of course the more traditional wine tasting. The blending experiences cover some of the world’s most popular beverages, i.e. wine, coffee and tea, as well as olive oil blending – there must be at least one blending experience that tickles your fancy!

Vergenoegd Wine Estate Olive Oil Blending
Blending Leccino olive oil with the more commonly known Mission olive oil to make the ‘Confused Green Girl Blend’.
Vergenoegd Wine Estate Tasting Room
Kathryn Rossiter from ‘Becoming You’ tasting her personal tea blend.

The olive oil blending is like being back in the science lab at school, but then more fun. Sniffing, tasting and mixing different varieties of olive oil to create your own unique blend. I had no idea there is such a range of flavours in olive oil. I was fortunate to have some real foodies among the group of bloggers, with Dax Villanueva and the information from the lady leading the olive oil blending activity, I learned more than I knew possible. You can even order a bottle of your favourite blend labelled with a customised label – mine read ‘Confused Green Girl Blend’, I wonder why…..?

Vergenoegd Wine Estate Blending Tea
The hugely different colours of Rooibos, Buchu, and Tanzanian black tea.
Vergenoegd Wine Estate Blending Experiences
An unlikely, but interesting marriage of Buchu and Tanzanian black tea.
Vergenoegd Wine Estate Tea Blending
All the paraphernalia necessary for the various Vergenoegd blending experiences is purely exquisite.

Wine tasting

Vergenoegd Wine Estate Vintage Range
Vergenoegd Wine Estate is known to produce an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon.
Vergenoegd Wine Estate Vintage Wine Range
A vertical vintage tasting of award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon Vergenoegd wines.

Besides a more traditional wine tasting of the Vergenoegd current Classic and Runner Duck Range of red and white cultivars, we had the privilege of experiencing their Vintage Range. A unique vertical tasting of Cabernet Sauvignons dating back to 1975! The terroir and climate of the Vergenoegd Farm seems perfect for this classic cultivar, which consistently produces award-winning wines.

This quick lunchtime tasting of incredible vintage wines seems somewhat sacrilegious, as classic wines like these need to be paired with good food to be fully appreciated, something Vergenoegd is planning to offer soon. My favourite was the 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon, an absolutely amazing, full-bodied vintage with plum notes – does that sound like I really know what I am talking about?

The Food Dude experience

Vergenoegd Wine Estate
Chef Rhyan Shell, aka The Food Dude, picking organic herbs and lettuce for the our picnics.

No wine farm visit is complete without good food, as wine tasting and blending makes one rather hungry. Chef Ryan Shell, aka the Food Dude, previously head chef at Haute Cabrière in Franschhoek, creates some culinary delights in the form of a classic picnic, including wicker basket and blanket. There is plenty of space in front of the homestead on their lawn or in the shade of the majestic oak trees to enjoy Ryan’s scrumptious picnic. All produce in your basket is locally produced and procured, organic, home-grown and/or homemade. A spread that not only makes my mouth water just thinking about it, but is a real feast for the eye too.

Vergenoegd Wine Estate Winelands Picnic
Proper wicker picnic baskets filled to the brim with gorgeous homemade and organic delights.
Vergenoegd Wine Estate Stellenbosch Picnic
A artisanal Vergenoegd picnic spread of wine, rustic bread, cheese and meats, fresh salad, main course, and desert.
Vergenoegd Wine Estate Artisanal Picnics
The picnic main course is presented in beautiful wooden boxes – Vergenoegd have a real eye for detail.

Their artisanal picnics come with a bottle of their Runner Duck Range of red or white wine, rustic bread, cheese and meats, fresh salad from chef’s organic herb garden, a main course in a beautiful wooden box, and a desert in a jar. For the kids there is the Duckling Delight with a surprise activity. I had the pleasure of enjoying my picnic with Kathryn Rossiter (Becoming You) and her daughter, who had lots of funs decorating her Christmas cookies.

I am so glad to have been given the opportunity to get to know and experience this little gem. The Vergenoegd team is truly inspirational. Their positive energy is refreshing, their sustainable approach towards farming is commendable, their vision to create experiential and out of the ordinary activities is remarkable, and their drive to enhance the historical features of the farm and incorporate these into the daily operations is purely exciting. It gives me hope that more wine farms will follow their lead in order for the Cape Winelands to keep their edge as an exciting and lasting tourist destination.

Words and pictures: Louise de Waal

See Louise’s photoblog about this day on Green Girls in Africa

Louise has shared many a story on this blog! Read more of here stories here.  For more specific stories and travel ideas for the Cape Winelands, click here.

Vergenoegd Wine Estate Indian Runner Ducks
After a day of hard work in the vineyards, the waddling workforce turns in for the night at Vergenoegd.
  1. The duck parade had me amazed. I liked that you had natural products in the picnic.
    i have never been to a place like this. looks like a memorable experience.
    have a nice day!
    xStella from a Looks & Travels

  2. Hi Stella,

    thanks for your lovely feedback. the duck parade had me amazed too 😉
    I have been fortunate enough to have visited many different wine estates in south africa, but this one certainly belongs in my top 5.

    Louise x

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