Leading South African drinks company DGB, owners of top wine brands including Boschendal and Bellingham, has purchased Fryer’s Cove, one of the most exceptional boutique wineries in the country. Fryer’s Cove is situated at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean on the remote Cape West Coast at Doring Bay.

With a winery built right on the water in an old fish factory and a stunning set of cool-climate wines from vineyards planted 500m from the water’s edge, Fryer’s Cove makes Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from its six hectares of Bamboes Bay vineyards.

Fryer’s Cove has not only seen these wines garner local and international acclaim through the unique terroir of the vineyards, but the place itself has become a sought-after tourist destination with a restaurant and tasting room set above the splashing Atlantic Ocean.

A unique addition to the DGB portfolio

Tim Hutchinson, executive chairperson of DGB, says the acquisition of Fryer’s Cove was done through Artisanal Brands, a DGB subsidiary focusing on the niche and artisanal wine sector, which includes Old Road Wine Co. in Franschhoek. Artisanal Brands has developed this brand from scratch into a portfolio of terroir-driven wines where the winemaker has the freedom to craft his best expression of each cultivar.

These wines are showcased in the well-suited tasting room and restaurant in Franschhoek’s old main road. Old Road Wine Co. added a wine range appealing to modern, fashion-conscious consumers by offering quirky naming and packaging while maintaining wine integrity through quality and an emphasis on terroir.

Hutchinson says like the Old Road Wine Co., Fryer’s Cove adds a unique brand to the DGB portfolio. The brand underscores individuality with its own story that has delivered quality wines and captured the imagination of the consumer through the pioneering spirit involved in establishing the brand.

The story of Fryer’s Cove

Fryer’s Cove was founded on an idea that Jan van Zyl, an Olifants River farmer, and his brother-in-law, winemaker Wynand Hamman, had in 1985 to make wine from a vineyard growing on the edge of the cold Atlantic Ocean. “We focused on Sauvignon Blanc, which we had heard liked extreme conditions on the cool side,” says Van Zyl.

“We had the site on the water’s edge some 30km west of the town of Vredendal. However, the dream could only be realised in 1999 when a pipeline was built between Vredendal and the sea-front land we had demarcated for planting.”

For the vineyard to materialise, Van Zyl took on a partnership with his father, Ponk van Zyl, as well as Hamman, local farmers JH Laubscher Brothers and wine distributor Andrew Baker. With the first wine – Sauvignon Blanc – made in 2001, Van Zyl says he and Hamman realised they had something unique. “As critics’ recognition for the wines and their unique sense of place rolled in, we knew Fryer’s Cove was true to its slogan – forged of the earth, tempered by the sea.

“This was the start of an amazing journey. We established a winery in an old fish factory in Doring Bay and ran a restaurant together with the local community. Visitors from all over the world come here to experience true West Coast hospitality, with the wines expressing the singular terroir. Here at Fryer’s Cove, a visitor becomes a wine customer for life.”

Passing the torch to DGB

Van Zyl says the Fryer’s Cove journey was one of the most satisfying of his life, as he and his partners had created a new wine region out of nothing. “I don’t think anyone in the wine business can ask for more than that,” he says. “I have my own family farming interests to look after, and Fryer’s Cove is not something you can do as a hobby.

“In DGB we have found the perfect entity to continue the vision we had. They are wine people who live every part of the world of wine. We are thus happy we found a group who recognises the effort put in and hardship experienced over the years to create this business and build a future on quality, uniqueness and strong relationships.”

Andrew Harris, marketing manager of the Old Road Wine Co. in Franschhoek, will now also be responsible for Fryer’s Cove. He believes the Cape West Coast will be a new frontier for the South African wine industry, very much like the Swartland was several years ago, led by a group of exciting young winemakers.

“Wine drinkers these days are looking for wines with interesting and exciting stories with which they can engage, and Fryer’s Cove is exactly that,” says Harris. “And if you can add an element of adventure into it, all the better. Fryer’s Cove’s vineyards are 500m from the Atlantic Ocean and the icy seawater is used to cool the tanks during fermentation, resulting in some of the most exquisite wines you will ever encounter.”

Harris says Fryer’s Cove will continue to lead the local and international interest in the Cape West Coast as a wine region.

Plans for the future

“The demarcation of the Cape West Coast as a new sub-region last October has rightly given the region its own identity. We will work to preserve and celebrate this identity,” Harris says. “The Doring Bay wine in Fryer’s Cove portfolio has many scalabilities and we will also review which further growth opportunities exist at the different price points. The uniqueness of Fryer’s Cove as a destination is underscored by the fact that 50% of the current sales come from the cellar door.

“DGB will also be using its international network to place this brand in selected markets, reinforcing South Africa as a wine country like no other in terms of extraordinary sites, terroir and wine expression, much of which has still to be discovered.” – Press release, DGB