Christmas at Babylonstoren

Our farm shop stocks up with wonders


Brimful with the delicious and the delicate. Come see new Delft cloths and napkins. Margie Malan’s fine Babylonstoren porcelain range.  Garden soaps and candles, plus crafts from the farming community. Even a few cases of special wine, like the new Nebukadnesar.

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Babylonstoren parties!

Friends and partners came over to celebrate our fourth year

A garden in the winelands celebrates a fourth birthday
Meisiekind, the donkey, never misses out when there is some fun to be had

Guests arrive and the garden becomes a fantasy world full of surprises
Guests arrive and the garden becomes a fantasy place full of surprises

...and in the midst of all. the little Piggy fell asleep

…and in the midst of all, the little Piggy fell asleep

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Introducing the Nebukadnesar 2012

Yesterday we launched as flagship red a Bordeaux blend called Nebukadnesar. This deep red wine with intriguing personality comprises all five classic Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

Why Nebukadnesar, you ask? Well, thereby hangs a tale – quite a few in fact.

Firstly, Nebuchadnezzar was the most famous king of the Babylon, 6th century BC. Our farm is called Babylonstoren, or the Tower of Babel. It was named after the little conical hill on the farm that reminded the old farmers of a ziggurat in Persia, such as they saw in illustrated biblical stories.  But quite possibly the story of the Tower of Babel played a role: you may recall that the Bible tells of the people of Babylon building a massive tower to reach heaven. God frustrated them by causing a dispersion of languages, so that the builders could not follow each other and construction stopped. When this farm was founded in 1692, the Drakenstein valley around here rang like cosmopolitan Babylon with a profusion of tongues: Indigenous Khoi and San dialects, Dutch, German, Malay and Portuguese, plus the newly arrived French of the wine-making Huguenots: a polyglot melting pot much like the Babylon of old.

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But there are other associations. Nebuchadnezzar II got a bad rap in the Bible because he laid siege to Jerusalem and hauled the Jews off to Babylon. But overall he is actually rated quite highly as an efficient and sensible ruler. He’s famed as the creator of the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the classical world. Babylon itself was located on a flat, sunbaked floodplain. Legend has it it that his queen, Amytis, hailed from Media in the North and missed the green hills and valleys of her childhood. So Nebby built her some fabulous gardens, using ingenuous engineering to lift water, insulate bricks and the like. (By the way, unlike the other 6 wonders, no trace of the Hanging Gardens has ever been found and much speculation surrounds their whereabouts.) Our Babylonstoren garden evokes some of that magic.

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Then, thirdly, we share a theme with Nebuchadnezzar. His empire was one of the most diverse the world had ever known. When our team started here at Babylonstoren some years ago we had a beautifully simple philosophy: we were going to focus on producing one good red and one good white. Today that theory lies in tatters: we grow no fewer than 13 varietals and produce 7 wines. Why? Because our soil and our terroir proved as diverse as old Nebuchadnezzar’s empire. Our soils range from poor sand to rich loam to deep shale, and our vineyards stretch from 170 meters above sea level all the way to up to 600 meters: some of the highest in the country, where the summers are much cooler and the rainfall almost double that on the valley floor.

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Instead of fighting this diversity, we decided to embrace it. Wine connoisseurs will know that Burgundy produces only one white and one red varietal, like our old philosophy. But Bordeaux includes no less than five reds. Given the diversity of our soils and terroir, we found the perfect patch for each of these varietals on Babylonstoren. We blended them into what we hope will become one of the great wines of this country.

Meet Nebukadnesar in our Farm Shop or order online at R270 per bottle.

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Guns & Roses

Styled “Queen of Flowers”, roses have inspired poetry, song, art, strange beliefs and fables. On our daily garden tour one of Gundula’s favourites is the antique climber Souvenir de la Malmaison – do stop to pick and smell, where it rambles up the towers along the grapevine pergola, ’tis a sweet delight.

This rose is named for Château Malmaison, once the country seat of Empress Josephine of France, wife of the Great Nappy.  An avid collector of exotic plants, she spent wads of money importing them into France. In her own private haven the Empress became absorbed in the subject of botany, going as far as to heat the greenhouse with coal-burning stoves during harsh European winters.

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Much to hubby’s dismay, she had a crush on the English garden, or jardin anglais. Josephine sourced numerous species from a London nursery owned by James Lee and Lewis Kennedy. It is said that even during the war , Kennedy was bestowed a special passport to run the Continental Blockade with the Empress’ treasured plants and enter France undisturbed.

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From 1804-1814 Château Malmaison boasted the largest collection of roses in the world, with 200 varieties. Josephine commissioned famous artist and botanist Pierre Joseph Redouté to paint watercolours of the rose collection at Château Malmaison.  To be enjoyed.

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Zapping the Buggers Organically

We recently welcomed thousands of wingy guests on the farm! No less than three species of parasitic wasps found a new home in our vineyards and citrus orchards.

They’ll play a big role in keeping our crops healthy, by preying on mealybugs (“witluis”), a pest familiar to farmers all over the world.

Factoid for you: male mealybugs are as ineffectual as their human brothers; they pose no threat to crops – it’s the female that creates havoc. These femme fatales feed on exposed plant surfaces and can lay up to 600 eggs each. Infestation of mealybugs can cause fruit dropping, deformation/discolouration of fruit and can even kill the plant. Mealybugs also secrete honeydew that attracts ants and creates a growth medium for fungus.

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By releasing wasps in our vineyards and orchards, we hope for a more natural alternative to pesticides. Three types of good-cop wasps, Coccidoxenoides perminitus (Cocci), Cryptolaemus montrouzieri and Anagyrus pseudococci, will be buzzing our vineyards and citrus trees.

We’ve released the wasps by hanging small, biodegradable boxes (size of a matchbox) in the vineyards and citrus trees. Inside more than a thousand pupae were set to hatch the following day. Then they’re lured by sunlight through the exit hole, and start munching on yecchy mealybugs.  Let’s see if it works!

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Benefits of biologically controlling mealybug:

It’s a completely natural process, similar to the way populations are controlled in in the wild.
Helps decrease dependence on pesticides
Environmentally friendly: safe for animals, humans and other species.
No contamination of groundwater
No requirement of mechanical means: no machines and fuels used

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