Andre van Rensburg retires

Tom Cannavan

The name might not mean much unless a fan of South African wines, but the legendary winemaker for Vergelegen has retired. Larger than life barely does it justice. I've met with him at Vergelegen 3 times on visits, first in 2002 when half of his quotes were completely unusable because they were not just non-PC, they were downright mind-boggling. But as he aged he mellowed somewhat (somewhat) it seemed to me, my last visit in 2019 seeing him still hugely entertaining, but still far too outspoken for his CEOs liking.

I thinks it Glenelly Winemaker Luke O'Cuinneagain not Glen Ellen... Luke is a top bloke and incredibly talented winemaker.. he's taken Glenelly a long way - as well as having spent time at Rustenberg when Adi was there (I think).
I had the pleasure of tasting with him in March at Vergelegen, one of the most memorable tastings of a pretty intense trip. A real character, very much the antithesis of his former corporate overlords! It is safe to say that he may be retiring from Verglegen but he has no intention of hanging up his boots whatsover, watch this space!
So farewell to the ‘enfant terrible’ - Andre‘s departure marks a real changing of the guard - he has really been a massive brooding presence in the Stellenbosch scene, at least in terms of perceptions from our side of the equator. it is not in doubt that he has improved the viticulture, ripping out vines infected with leaf roll virus, so it is likely that we will only really appreciate his contribution in 5-10 years time. If you took advantage of the offers from TWS from the 2015 vintage onwards you will probably have a fun journey. His riposte to the Swartland Revolution was done in episode 7 of Richard Kelly’s Liberator series - worth the Google search!

His replacement, Luke is a great choice. His time at Glenelly working for Lady May de Lencquesaing previousky the owner of Pichon de Longueville has given him an appreciation for Cabernet Sauvignon, albeit the Simonsberg expression - the world of Rustenberg and Thelema. The meticulous attention to detail in the cellar design will be second nature after Glenelly and he will bring a less abrasive but no less accomplished style. His choice of cellar dog, a golden retriever might suggest a character eager to please the owner, which is perhaps what he will need to guard against being over zealous however I think he will show himself a very capable steward of the Vergelegen heritage.
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I live next door to Vergelegen and , as a long term patron of the winery, have met Andre many times. As others have said, he is a legend of the SA wine scene and , arguably , it’s greatest winemaker . Perhaps though, it is time to move on, both for him and the winery .