The First Luddite Chenin Harvest!


Last Sunday saw the first harvest from the block of Chenin right in front of the Luddite’s home. Niels was ‘very chuffed’ with the quality of the grapes…


Friends and family tackled the rows in pairs, fueled by bubbly, eggy-bacon rolls and the promise of lunch cooked by Penny…


Some dressed for the occasion…


Others just got down to business and did their duty…


Even Niels’s mum armed herself with a pair of secateurs!


Some bunches were trickier to retrieve but all the grapes were bursting with prime Chenin juice…


There was picking…


And posing…


And when the crates were close to full the youngest Luddites made for the dam, while the oldest Luddites retired with the Sunday papers…

The inbetweeners brought in the last haul and barring something of a saboteur moment (a close shave with a rogue pair of secateurs) everything went off beautifully.

Niels uncorked a couple of bottles of Luddite Chenin 2012, Penny delivered her from-scratch chicken pies to the lunch table and the harvest festivities continued late into the afternoon.

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Barrels & Beards 2014!


Roll up, roll up – the Bot River Barrels & Beards tickets are now on sale! Best get them while they’re hot as Barrels & Beards 2013 sold out completely. And if last year’s celebration is anything to go by, 2014 is going to be rip-roaring fun. (Yes, that’s our Niels on the right, reigning champion of the Best Beard competition!)

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A Day in the Life of Penny Verburg


Although it’s Niels that makes the wine, Luddite is a team effort. Penny is quick to duck out of the limelight but she’s the one who keeps the wheel turning while Niels is away and, when he’s there, does what it takes to make Niels’s life easier so he can get on with making delicious wines.

At Luddite most things are done by hand and it’s Penny who numbers every single bottle, so whenever there’s a spare moment she’ll dash down to the cellar with her pen. ‘Its something really close to my heart,’ says Penny, ‘it might sound silly but I like the fact that I get to hold every bottle of wine that leaves the farm…twee, I know, but true.’


Being a good farmer’s wife, Penny knows how to bake her own bread and make bacon (with rind!) and bangers, and a mean chourizo (that includes a splash of Luddite Shiraz)* and is willing to show her friends how to do it.


She’s a natural in the kitchen, rustling up lunches for special wine tastings and charity lunches, feeding visiting Russians and putting her hand up for cooking at the local harvest festival – she even bottles her own Luddite olive oil (for sale at Wine @ The Mill).


Last year, when Niels was out of action, Penny stepped up and went on tour (dazzling the Europeans) and this year she’s been appointed Chairperson of the Bot River Vineyard Association for 2014.

And in case it sounds like being married to a winemaker is all work and no fun, Penny knows just how to rally the townsfolk to go for a drink down at the Bot River Hotel bar on a Friday night.

Let’s hear it for Mrs Verburg!

*Sorry, Penny only makes enough charcuterie to feed her family so it’s not for sale! 

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The Story Behind Luddite’s New Chenin


Niels explains why the Luddites decided to make a Chenin of their own…

‘Penny and I have always loved Chenin. Besides being such a great food wine, it is multi-faceted, ages well, and expresses terroir beautifully. The first Chenin Blanc to grab my attention was Moulin Touchais, which we tasted while living in London. Then, when working at Beaumont I realised the full potential of Bot River’s suitability to this grape variety, and ever since we started Luddite I couldn’t wait to get back in the saddle and start making Chenin again.

The story came full circle three years ago when I was back in London presenting a Chenin Blanc tasting. Based on the quality and enjoyment of those wines I immediately phoned our nurseryman – from London – and told him to source Chenin vines for Luddite. Then I phoned Penny and told her to prepare the soil and plant – it was an impulse buy if ever there was one!

Hopefully, if the buck stay away, we should have our own Chenin grapes for the 2014 vintage. In the interim it was important to source some good grapes to start the ball rolling, which we acquired from an old vineyard down the Van Der Stel Pass in Bot River to our Luddite Chenin 2012.’

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The Story Behind Luddite’s Saboteur

Niels explains his motivation for the Luddite red blend, Saboteur

‘Saboteur was born out of a dilemma we face every vintage, that is what to do with the good wine that just doesn’t suit the style of the Luddite Shiraz? So we created a wine with which we can express innovative blends, such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre, and christened it Saboteur.

It’s a name very much rooted in the Luddite story because the definition of a saboteur is a person who engages in sabotage, which is essentially what the Luddites did to the labour-saving looms during the Industrial Revolution. Some say the word sabotage has its origins in workers throwing their shoes into machinery to jam the cogs – from the French word sabot meaning ‘wooden shoe’. And Saboteur’s connection to wooden clogs is fitting, since the Verburgs are of Dutch descent!

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Luddite in Fairlady

Luddite in Fairlady

Thanks to Robyn for the lovely mention in the October issue of Fairlady!

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Tom Cannavan on Luddite

Tom Cannavan came to visit the valley – see his write-up on Bot River wines and Niels ‘Man of the Mountain’ Verburg.

And this is what Tom had to say about Luddite’s wine:

Luddite Wines, Chenin Blanc 2012, South Africa
All barrel fermented in old oak, “all sorts of ferment on skins,” according to Niels. Lovely fresh colour and lots of flinty, mineral smokiness, some soft green herb notes too. The firm, crisp apple is there, but this is more about something mineral. Is there a touch of oak on this? It certainly has a little of that nutty quality, a touch of something toasty, but that could be minerality again expressed as a flinty, racy character. The sweet mid-palate ripeness and richness builds in a complex, long wine with concentration. An intriguing expression of Chenin. 91/100.

Luddite Wines, Shiraz 2008, South Africa
Meaty, gamy, northern Rhône style with lots of dark mulberry fruit and hints of chocolate, there are hints of leafiness and complexity too, a touch of pepper in a very attractive, complex nose. Beautiful palate. It has the sweetness of fruit of the Paardenkloof, but adds substantial layers beneath of full, creamy textured oak and plum, the tannins very svelte and creamy on the mid palate, and the spice and pepper filling in on the finish with a powerful freshness and length. 92/100.

For more see


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And The Winner Is…

Barrels & Beards Harvest Celebration

A hardcore Luddite in leathers – more scary than the chain is the moustache!

Niels Verburg of Luddite – the godfather of the Bot River harvest beard!

Last night Niels, kitted out in leathers and wielding a chain, won the Best Beard at Barrels & Beards 2013 Harvest Celebration.

Photo by Chris Rebok, WINE & DINE South Africa - Chris completely captured the spirit of Barrels & Beards, check out his fantastic pictures.

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Barrels and Beards 2013

On Saturday it’s Barrels and Beards, a Bot Riveria ritual that all started with Niels’s pragmatic approach to personal grooming during harvest. Usually Niels shaves his head – to avoid having to fuss with hair or haircuts – and grows his bread for the same reason, one less thing to do in the morning (ie. no shaving) before getting to the grapes.

Inspired by Niels, other winemakers began adopting the same approach and so there developed a Bot River subculture of bearded winemakers around harvest time. As was bound to happen, the testosterone kicked in, and at one of the town meetings Niels suggested the men have a beard-growing competition.

The first vote for the best beard happened over a couple of beers at The Shuntin Shed. Then last year it got organised with ticket proceeds going to the Botrivier Education Foundation. Now it’s even more official; the contestants must prove they were clean-shaven on 1 February with a photograph of their smooth chins alongside the front page of a Daily bearing that date.

The addition of the ‘Barrels’ fits into the first part of the evening, when each winemaker will be offer tastings of their new vintage straight from the barrel. This year it’s not only the longest growth that will be recognised but also the most imaginative trimming. Niels has been mulling over some designs and all will be revealed on Saturday night!

A very hairy Niels


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Luddite in House and Leisure

Thank you House and Leisure for making Luddite Winery of the Month!


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