Seymour Pritchard bought the 10-hectare farm Malvern Heights in 1969 from Colonel JW Billingham, who had named the farm after the rolling hills around Malvern in his native England. When winemaking came into Seymour’s sights in the mid-1980’s France was still at the centre of the wine universe so he “Frenchised” the name to Clos Malverne.
By 1985 Clos Malverne had already been supplying its wine grapes to Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery for a number of years, when Jeremy Walker, now of Grangehurst farm, suggested to Seymour at a barbecue that Christmas Eve that they make wine from Clos Malverne’s grapes. So, 800 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon were made in 1986, and this and the 1987 vintage were so encouraging that Seymour decided to go into winemaking full time. The Cabernet Sauvignon ’88 was the first release to the public and a year later Jeremy Walker joined Seymour as full-time winemaker.
During the 90’s Clos Malverne grew from strength to strength and also increased vineyard plantations which consists of Pinotage, Merlot and Shiraz and a whole range of red wines were in the market place with many being blends. 1995 Clos Malverne was one of the very first wineries to produce a classic Cape Blend. The wine was such a success that the flagship wine, called Clos Malverne Auret, was changed from a Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Bordaux style blend to a Cape Blend (Cabernet Sauvignon / Pinotage). The Auret 1998 vintage was the first Cape Blend ever to receive 5 star status in the prestigious Platter Wine Guide.
Another high point was that Clos Malverne produced the 2001 National Wine Show Champion Cabernet / Merlot blend, which was given the award as South African Champion red wine and later went on to win the grand award as the most outstanding wine, red or white wine, of that year. This was certainly the highest point of our winemaker I.P. Smit’s career.
Clos Malverne is now very much a family affair. Besides overseeing the entire operation Seymour and his wife Sophia have spent enormous time and effort successfully developing international markets for Clos Malverne. At present about 70% of their wines are exported, to the UK, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, USA, Japan and a few others.
Zaine Pritchard, Seymour’s Nephew and Managing Director, plays the role of the right-hand man and assists in management and marketing in all markets overseas and local. Sophia also attends to the accounting. Lizelda Pritchard attends to all logistical and exports and plays the role of an Admin Manager overseeing daily activities on the farm. Mervyn Pritchard, Seymour’s only brother overseas the general farm well-being. Even Seymour’s mother is involved, if in name only. Auret, their flagship wine, is her maiden name and Seymour’s middle name.
It is no coincidence that the bulk of Clos Malverne’s successes have been achieved during IP’s tenure as winemaker, which started with the 1998 vintage. Seymour attributes this to his dedication to quality and the holistic approach he adopts in starting the winemaking process in the vineyards, through his position as viticulturist. He has been our winemaker for 10 years.