When we consider the ever-changing nature of the world we’re living in, most of us want the steadying comfort of continuity and consistency. You’ll find it in Chateau Libertas, a well-loved, trusted and enduring household name, now nudging 90. What makes it so reassuring is that it’s been a part of our local landscape for what feels like forever. Every generation between our own and our great grandparents’ at least, has known it and loved it.
But now there’s a new side to the smooth, supple and juicy Cabernet-based wine that’s lightly wooded. For the first time since its maiden 1932 vintage, it also comes in a convenient and eco-friendly 2-litre bag-in-box.
“Everything our supporters love is on top form – the same beautifully balanced, generously flavoured, medium-bodied red at great value but in a bigger format,” explains brand spokesperson Jackie Olivier. “So, you could say the more things change, the more they stay the same. In a good way, of course. Call it nostalgia in a box.
“You don’t get to survive 90 years and flourish without listening to your market. The bag-in-box option for smart wines has been a staple of Scandinavian homes for decades. It’s only in more recent years, obviously accelerated by the pandemic, that South Africans have expressed the same wish to buy their favourite premier brands in a larger format. We’re obviously delighted to oblige.”
Consistency has always been the hallmark of Chateau Libertas, she says. “Every member of the winemaking team knows that. Two of South Africa’s leading wine personalities of the past had a turn making it. For Wouter Pienaar that consistency was ‘like a religion’. For Duimpie Bayly, Chateau Libertas had to be ‘like an old friend who never lets you down’. Elize Coetzee, who heads the team now, has never veered from this way of doing things.”
That doesn’t make it dull though. It continues to thrill wine lovers and critics, recently scoring a place on the top ten 2021 Prescient Signature Red Blend Report and voted the panel’s best buy. What’s more, a bottle of the 1957 vintage fetched R93 800 on a Strauss & Co Virtual Live Auction in September 2021.
Launched nearly 90 years ago, Chateau Libertas was the brainchild of a remarkably prescient medical doctor, Bill Winshaw. Decades before researchers were suggesting any link between moderate wine-drinking and good health, he was encouraging South Africans to have a glass with their meals “not to intoxicate but to give just the right stimulation to the digestion”. It must have worked for him because he lived till 96.
“He wasn’t only a doctor,” adds Olivier. “He was first an adventurer, who’d come to South Africa from the US. Born in 1871, he ran away from home aged 12, later met Buffalo Bill, and at 22 became a Texas Ranger. He then went on to study medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans.
“While in New Mexico he met a man buying mules on behalf of the British fighting in the Anglo Boer War. He reckoned the time was right to see some more of the world, so he took the job of accompanying the 4 000 animals on their journey to Cape Town. Once he landed, he was ready for action. He delivered the mules and joined the British fighting forces in 1900.
“He loved South Africa and made the country his home, soon turning his talents to winemaking, going on to found *Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery (SFW) in 1925. Chateau Libertas was one of many brands he developed, and it remained a favourite all his life.”
The 2-litre bag-in-box retails for around R120, and the 750ml bottle for approximately R59.
Share it with old and new friends and pair it with your favourite dishes, recommends Olivier.