During the reign of the Catholic French King Louis XIV, he embarked on a campaign of persecution designed to extirpate Protestantism. Protestants fled to Holland, England and America. In Holland, many accepted the opportunity to start a new life in South Africa, under Dutch governance.
The first Huguenots started arriving in the Cape as early as 1671. One of these Huguenots, were Pierre (la) Grange, arriving in the Cape in 1688, on the ship Berg China. He hailed from the village Cabrières in the south of France, from the wine region Languedoc-Roussillon.
Painting of Table Bay (Illustrated History of South Africa - The Real Story)
By 1692, more than 200 French Protestant refugees settled in the Cape. The Dutch governor in that time, Simon van der Stel, was aware that the new culture influx would bring with it a risk that the newcomers might form a distinct society, cleaving to their own language and traditions, and therefore he insisted that Dutch must remain the only language permitted for instruction and worship, and that the use of French be phased out as quickly as possible. Apart from the drastic measures to dampen the use of French as a language, all other skills and knowledge that the Huguenots brought with them, were embraced.
Pierre (la) Grange’s great grandson, Joseph le Grange, was the first le
Grange to settle on Angeliersbosch farm (now named Fernskloof) around 1820. His grandson, also named Joseph, was
born in 1841. He was the first le
Grange to commercially plant vines, and also established a small winery, mainly
used for distillation to make brandy. Winemaking then took place on the farm for two
generations, but was sadly stopped, as other farming practices were pursued. Although they discontinued the winemaking,
the winery was still used as a farm shed. To this day, clear splatter- and
fingermarks are visible on the wooden beams of this building - this is also the
very building in which our wines are made today.
Vines were again planted on the farm in 1994. Grapes were first sold to other wineries, until 2010, when the first Fernskloof wines were made by Diederik le Grange, of the 7th generation on the farm. The name, Fernskloof, derives from a beautiful kloof on the farm, complete with dripping water, ferns, and stalactites – in stark contrast with the otherwise dry environment of the Great Karoo.
Diederik is behind the
winemaking and viticulture. After
graduating in viticulture and oenology at the University of Stellenbosch, he
worked harvests in Australia, America, Uruguay, France, and New Zealand.