Stone age tools found on Nelson's Creek, which are on display in the cellar, suggest that people have inhabited this area for a very long time.
It is comprised of two portions of land, originally called 'Wittenberg' and 'St Martin', each with a very different history:
The first "owner" of that portion of the farm originally known as 'Wittenberg' was a freed slave with a remakable life story called Angela (also pronounced Anselaar or Ansiela) of Bengal.
Angela was born in Bengal, in North Eastern India, in 1646. Surviving the horrors of being conveyed on a slave ship , Angela was sold to Jan van Riebeeck by one Pieter Kemp a ships captian of the Dutch East India Company . When the van Riebeecks left South Africa she was sold to Abraham Gabbema, the second in command, who freed her in 1666 on the grounds of her "seer goeie en getroue dienste en ander oortuigende redes" (exceptionally good and loyal services and other convincing reasons).
Whilst working for the van Riebeeck family, Angela forged a close friendship with a young Khoi girl, known as Kratoa, who also lived in the van Riebeeck home. Kratoa's sister was the second wife of a prominent Khoi chief, Oedasoa. It is well documented that in 1657 Kratoa played a prominent role in mediating the first agreement between Oedasoa and the Dutch settlers then desperately in need of cattle and sheep. On this occassion Oedasoa, whilst trying to capture wild horses (the now extinct Cape Kwagga) at van Riebeeck's request, was seriously injured by a lion. Legend has it that Angela was sent to nurse him here and as a quid pro quo was given the right to farm this land or at the very least became familiar with its beauty.
It is thus not surprising that the first recorded registration of the land is in the name of a Jacobus van As, who was one of Angela's children. The inventory of Angela's assets at her death in 1720 reveal that she was by then a very wealthy woman. Her assets included wine making equipment, making her the first woman wine maker in South Africa. It also included a woman's side saddle. Today the Nelson's are proud to continue this remakable woman's passion for both wine and horses on land steeped in history.
'St Martin' is the name of a town in the Loire valley in France, which is famous for its Chenin Blanc.
It is well documented that during the religious war many of the French Protestants, including some famous winemakers from the Loire, fled to Holland where they were prevailed upon by the Dutch East India Company to emigrate to the Cape in order to improve its fledgling wine industry.
Old mud and stone buildings on the estate and an ancient underground cellar suggest that "St Martin" was one of the first farms in the Paarl region to be selected for winemaking by these early pioneers and one can just imagine how in a spirit of good neighbourliness Angela and her french neigbours shared the secrets of wine making.
In pursuit of a childhood dream, Alan Nelson acquired these farms in 1987 out of a bankrupt estate. Since then, they have been lovingly restored by the Nelson family and their team of dedicated workers.
Between 1987 and 1994 approximately 50 hectares of old vines were replaced under the watchful eye of the best viticulture consultants in the Cape with noble cultivars, including Cabernet Sauvignon; Merlot; Shiraz; Pinotage; Sauvignon Blanc; Chardonnay and Semillon. Between 1993 and 1995, a state of the art wine cellar was constructed with the help of Elsenburg oenologist Eugene van Zyl.
Wine production commenced in earnest in 1995. The very next year, the Estate won an award for the Best Chardonnay in South Africa and was in the same year crowned as the Champion Private Wine Producer in the Boland region. Since then the Estate has never looked back. The Estate has become internationally known as Nelson's Creek, named after the Nelson family and the small stream that winds its way through the Estate. It inspired and is depicted on the unique two-part label.
The Story Behind New Beginnings
One of the most frequently asked questions is why Alan Nelson donated a part of his farm to his farm labourers. He conceived of the idea as one of many to inspire his farm labourers to help him realise his dream of producing South Africa's best wine. All that he could offer in exchange when he bought the land on a shoestring was a promise to share in the fruits of any success that their dedication in the vineyard would bring.
The labourers took him up on this offer and in 1996, when Nelson's Creek won the Trophy for South Africa's Best Chardonnay and was adjudged the Champion Wine Producer in this region, it was time for Alan to deliver.
In 1998, New Beginnings produced the first wine ever to be made by people of colour from grapes grown on their own land.
It has not been easy for this fledgling producer in a highly competitive and over traded wine market but moves are afoot to inject new enthusiasm into the project. Watch this space for further developments.
The Story Behind The Label
A year and a half had gone by after the Nelson's produced their first wine and still nobody could satisfy their quest for a truly unique label. After spending yet another sleepless night worrying about how he was going to pay the bank with the wine still being without a label, Alan got up at four am one morning determined that this would be the day upon which he would conceive of an idea for the label.
For the hundredth time he sat there racking his brains for some feature on the farm that set it apart from all of the others and that could be used as a theme for the label but nothing came to mind. Eventually, in utter desperation, he closed his eyes and started to pray. As he finished, Alan's eye caught an aerial map that was hanging on the wall of his study. It was a photograph of the farm that he had pondered over a hundred times yet on this occasion the winding river that runs through the farm from one end to the other suddenly took on a special meaning. “That's it,” he whispered gratefully, “the winding river is unique”.
With crayons he drew the river on a scrap of paper. By the time the rest of the family had woken up, Alan had pasted the mock-up label onto a bottle and was enthusiastically awaiting the response to what he thought was a pretty good piece of handy work for a layman. To his dismay, when his wife Marguerite saw the label she told him to tear it up, or so he thought. A few words later and Alan realised that what she had actually meant to say was “tear it along the lines of the Creek”. And thus a label split in two was born through the combination of a woman's intuition and a touch of divine inspiration.