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Simon van der Stel

The arrival of the Dutch doctor Jan van Riebeeck (1619-1677) in the Cape in 1652 and the first planting of vines by him in 1655 marked the beginning of viticulture in South Africa. The first governor of the Cape Colony from 1679 was Simon van der Stel (1639-1712), who is also regarded as a pioneer of viticulture. He was the son of Adriaan van der Stel, an official of the Dutch East India Company. During Stel's reign, French Huguenots, experienced in viticulture, came to the country from 1688 onwards and brought their knowledge of viticulture with them from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Provence. They settled in what are now the Paarl and Stellenbosch winegrowing districts. The name Stellenbosch (roughly "Stel's Bush") was used by Stel to refer to a small island in the Eeste River. It was here that he founded the riverfront town named after him in 1679 and in the same year the "Delaire" winery (now known as "Delaire Graff Estate")

Simon van der Stel - Porträt

Simon van der Stel promoted viticulture and had over 100,000 European vines planted. He bought a large estate behind Cape Town's Table Mountain, named it not after his wife, as is often wrongly told, but after the virtue Constantia (perseverance) which he valued and developed it into a model vineyard with the sweet wine which has since become legendary. By allocating land to settlers, van der Stel founded many of the wineries that still exist today. His son Willem Adrian van der Stel (1664-1723) became his successor as governor. Although he was a tyrant and corrupt, he continued his father's work in viticulture in a positive way. The "Free Burgher Rebellion" in the Cape in 1707 ended his career. He was exiled to Holland in 1708, where he spent the rest of his life in exile.

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