Making Wine in the Midlands

The Midlands MagazineSeptember 9, 2019

The KZN Midlands boasts one of the most unique terriors for quality wine production, and we have several estates playing at an international level… 


There are few things as uplifting and heart-warming as the traditional tale of humble beginnings developing into successful legacies. For Rudi Kassier, the journey into becoming one of the three certified wine farms in KZN began years ago when he purchased a small vegetable farm, with the intent to supply local grocery stores. The natural progression from there, was the development of a community-style market (now the famous Piggly Wiggly market), that provided the option of locally-grown fresh produce to the residents of the Natal Midlands. More than ten years later, Rudi oversees a five hectare vineyard that produces eight certified wines.

Highgate Wine Estate boasts a magnificent tasting room, built according to world-class standards, and the venue where you are able to taste a selection of wines served with a cheese and charcuterie board. Their exquisite wine-bottle chandelier that adorns the tasting room is functional art at its very best. The estate also offers an hour-long cellar and vineyard tour, complete with a history of the wine estate and technical aspects of the farming process, as well as a very short wine etiquette course that lays the foundation for successful wine tastings. The estate’s wines are available for purchase inside the tasting room, as well as online to be delivered right to your doorstep. With a restaurant and wedding venue on site, this wine estate sets the tone for a picturesque escape into the countryside, where only the delicate taste of locally-produced wine really matters…


It took a mere three years from when the very first vines were planted in 2004 for Abingdon Wine Estate to produce their maiden vintage in 2007. Their wine was the very first certified estate wine to be produced from 100% KwaZulu Natal grapes, and they currently have three hectares under vine. The estate produces two varieties of sparkling white wine, five white wines, one rose and three red wines.

Most importantly, the KZN School of Wine is based at Abingdon and is under the brilliant leadership of Laurie Smorthwaite, who is both the founder of the school and the assistant winemaker, as well as the daughter of Abingdon’s owners, Ian and Jane Smorthwaite.

Wine tastings happen over weekends inside the hugely popular tasting room, and are served with tapas or harvest boards overlooking the vineyard or in front of warm fires during the winter months. Even though booking is not absolutely necessary, it is recommended during busy periods.

However, the estate offers corporate events for a small number of people, including a unique team-building exercise – a wine blending competition!


If you are searching for a wine experience that embraces detail, and is built on the basis of the desire to increase knowledge about wines, look no further than the world-class Cathedral Peak Wine Estate. A winery that is passionate about the heritage of the land where it is located, and constantly showing reverence to the San people that walked the lands eons ago, the wine that is born of such values can only be, as described by Cathedral Peak, “wines of distinction”.

The very first vines were planted in 2007, and now the estate encompasses close to twenty-nine hectares of vine under cultivation. With two ranges, namely the Estate Range and the Zulu Range, the estate pays homage to being proudly South African.

The Estate range includes five blends, each with at least 30% Pinotage to maintain its South African foundation, and the Zulu range includes two red blends, two white blends and one rosé.

Aside from the fact that the cellar master, Flip Smith, is the son of the legendary Dassie Smith (well-known South African wine master), and is eager to share his expertise via Skype call, the estate holds bookings-only wine tastings to be enjoyed with light lunch in the beautiful surroundings, catered functions such as cocktail parties able to accommodate up to 350 guests, as well as beautifully rustic weddings with excellent food and a faultless wine selection…what more could you ask for?