A vineyard in Stellenbosch with a view of the Simonsberg mountain. Picture: 123RF/hpbfotos
A vineyard in Stellenbosch with a view of the Simonsberg mountain. Picture: 123RF/hpbfotos

The Western Cape’s devastating drought may have dampened wine exports, but it has seemingly not diminished the cachet of owning a trophy vineyard in SA’s so-called Golden Triangle of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl.

Wine farm buyers are notoriously tight-lipped about what they pay for big-ticket estates, but the FM believes a Slovak family forked out about R94m to buy Knorhoek Wine Estate on the slopes of the Simonsberg mountain near Stellenbosch.

The sale is thought to be the highest price fetched for a property in SA year to date. It tops last year’s record of just more than R90m and R80m respectively that San Francisco-based investment firm Eileses Capital apparently paid for two Stellenbosch wine estates: Uitkyk and nearby Warwick.

Knorhoek was owned by the Van Niekerk family from the late 1800s and comprises 105ha of vineyards, a guesthouse and Towerbosch, a restaurant and wedding venue.

Industry players say prices of the Cape’s 600-odd wine farms can range from as little as R10m to R100m-plus depending on location; how well the farm or wine brand is known; the quality of the terroir (soil, topography and climate); the size of the land under vine; building infrastructure such as houses, hotels, restaurants and wineries; and the type of grape planted.

Seeff agent Kevin Layden says there is some hesitancy among local and foreign buyers to invest in SA property due to lingering political and economic uncertainty, but there is still strong interest in revenue-producing wine farms. Demand is driven by, among other things, the weak rand and improved wine tourism prospects.

Western Cape tourism, trade and investment promotion agency Wesgro recently said there was a 60% year-on-year rise in food and wine tour bookings in the Cape winelands area in 2018.

That’s despite a 17% drop in wine exports over the past two years, due primarily to the drought, which created stock shortages, according to SA Wine Industry Information & Systems. SA remains the ninth-biggest wine producer in the world.

Layden says boutique farms priced up to R30m are most in demand. Larger, commercial wine farms are typically priced from R50m to R75m while top-end branded wine estates can fetch between R100m and R250m. "But estates at this end of the market are not actively marketed and are usually sold on a confidential basis," he notes.

Pam Golding Properties’ (PGP) Surina du Toit confirms that wine farms remain sought-after investments for foreign buyers due to SA’s favourable exchange rate, good weather conditions and the enviable lifestyle. She says PGP has had interest from Belgian and Chinese buyers in particular.

The 2,240ha Boschendal, which fetched R700m in 2011, still holds the record as the most expensive wine farm ever sold in SA. But Constantia Uitsig, which was previously owned by companies set up by business tycoon Tokyo Sexwale and former merchant banker Dave McCay, set a new rand per square metre benchmark for Cape winelands values when it was sold for about R175m — nearly R3m a hectare — to former Pepkor CEO Pieter Erasmus in late 2013.