The Goudini Valley in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, is only 100 kilometers from Cape Town, enclosed by the Du Toit's and Slanghoek mountains on one side and the Breede River on the other.
HISTORY OF FARMING IN THE GOUDINI VALLEY: 1716 - 2005
Pieter du Toit, 2005
Today, the majority of the region's farms’ owners are direct descendants of the original Dutch and French pioneers who began to occupy and cultivate this enclosed valley from 1716.
Before that, the nomadic Khoi and San, or Bushmen tribes often roamed the valley - the Khoi with their large herds of cattle and the Bushmen in search of for game and veld food. They found the honey this region to have a bitter taste in early summer, and named the region K’gou dani, "the place of bitter honey." Today this phenomenon is still evident as honey made of the blossoms of the wild almonds and smalblaar trees on the banks of the Smalblaar- and Holsloot rivers apparently has a bitter taste.
Except for communities established around Table Bay, there were also communities developing at Stellenbosch, Franchoek, Drakenstein and from 1713 a farming community at Roodezand (Tulbagh). At that time, the first generation of Huguenot children were grown up and sought after their own farms. To meet this need, the Company started with a grazing rights system. Under this system the citizens could make use of pasture-licences based on no more than 6 hours on horseback from their farm. This was done to prevent the colony's boundaries expand too quickly. The colonists of the Drakenstein concession made use of this licences as the Goudini pastures were, through the current Du Toit’s Kloof pass, well within 6 hours on horseback from the Drakenstein Valley.
To explore the areas east of the Du Toitskloof Montains, the first pioneers used a game path which was especially used by elephants through the mountains to the Breederiviervally - to the place of bitter honey, that the colonists called Goudini.
These first pioneers were livestock farmers. Cattle-posts were received from the Company which were issued with pasture licences. These were valid for a period of 6 months, after which the farmer had to renew it again. In the beginning the young farmers could pick and choose pristine areas for their cattle posts. Only vague descriptions of such cattle posts were given such as: “in de Slange Hoek” or “bij de Laauw water fontijn” or “aan de klijne rivier bij de klippedrift”.
When more people started to use these licences, it became necessary to demarcate the borders of such areas more accurately. It was not possible anymore to move around with cattle as someone else could easily take a farmer’s original pasture. The temporary pasture licences therefore became permanent cattle posts with clearly defined borders. Depending on its particular location, the size of such cattle posts was limited to about 1500 to 2000 acres.
The first farmers could only obtain pasture-licences in an area that was within 6 hours on horseback from his farm. Their children almost permanently lived in temporary homes on these cattle posts. At the beginning of the 1800’s, these cattle posts had become loan-farms. At this time, there were no more than about twelve to fifteen farms in the Goudini district.
A Dr. Lichtenstein, who travelled through Goudini area in1803, describes the area as follows:
Goudini is a low-lying, level region in the western mountain range that runs parallel with the Hex River Mountains and the Breede River. Many small streams flow through the plains to the Breede River. These quite often flood the plains in winter. Abundant grass provide good fodder for oxen and horses. Little corn is grown here but the fruit is beautiful, especially the grapes. The raisins of this district is considered the best in the colony.
The farms were mainly cattle farms with small crop fields, a vegetable garden and fruit orchard, and a small vineyard for brandy, wine and raisins as well as moskonfyt. It was subsistence farming and everyone was self-sufficient.
Loan-farms could not be divided, but under British law this system was replacedafter 1806 with a property-system where the farmer could acquire title deeds of the land after which the farm could be divided among his sons.
The first farms in the Goudini area were: Slanghoek, Groote Vlakte, Klippedrift, Drie Fontein (Skilpadfontein), Wyzersdrift, Groote Eiland, Aan’t Groote Eiland and Gevonden which were all west of the Smalblaar River, and the farms Goudyn, Boontjiesrivier, Pokkekraal, Voorsorg, Daschboch and Louwshoek which were east of the Smalblaar river.
In 1858 a portion of Aan’t Groote Eiland was divided into plots to establish the town of Rawsonville. As the farms became smaller, livestock started playing a smaller role. Raisins were particularly profitable and provided a good living on a small piece of land. Farms such as Groot Eiland, Groot Vlakte, Klipdrift, Dasbsoch and Slanghoek were consequently divided into smaller farms to accommodate farmers’ sons and grandsons. This resulted in an increase in the number of farms in the Goudini area - from about 14 farms in the first 100 years to more than 150 in the next 100 years.
Grape varieties such as Steen, Hanepoot, Groendruiwe and Muskadel were initially planted. Later came Hermitage (Cinsaut) and French grapes which were usually planted in narrow rows 3 feet 6 inches apart in a way the old people called “skuinsry”. The lands were initially worked by slaves, but in later years, the use of horses and ploughs made the task easier. Some farmers made use of irrigation while cattle dung was used as fertilizer.
In 1820, from the Waveren region (Tulbagh) down the banksof the Breede River to Hexrivierpoort(Worcester) , a total of 451 barrels of wine were produced. (http://www.tanap.net/content/activities/documents/resolutions_Cape_of_Good_Hope/introduction_english/39.htm).
This gives an average of 8 tons per farm, a very small amount considering that the region consists of at least 50 farms (Goudini alone had 14 farms). However, it must be kept in mind that the main farming activities consisted not only of the growing of wine grapes but also involved grain, raisins and cattle farming. (Willem Adriaan van der Stel produced as much as 600 barrels of wine in 1707 on his farm Vergelegen - much more than all the farms in the Breede River Valley more than 100 years later.)
Because travelling with an ox wagon through the Nuwekloof pass to the Cape Town market took more than two weeks, it was easier for the Goudini farmers to produce brandy from a large portion of their harvest.
Producing brandy reduced the volume of liquor that had to be transported to the Cape significantly. When the Bainskloof pass was built in 1853, the journey to the Cape was slightly shorter, but the first railway line to Goudiniweg in 1875 marked the start of a new era for the farmers.
At the beginning of the 1900’s, a large joint distillery was built on the farm Klipdrift, later also at Goudiniweg. Ox wagons with barrels of wine was a common sight on the bumpy, worn sandy roads through Platdrift and Wyzersdrift to the Goudiniweg distillery.
As the earliest travellers to the Cape remarked, the fruity hanepoot grapes produced in Goudini made particularly sweet raisins. The Jordaan family is still in possession of a gold medal which JP Jordaan achieved for his raisins at the Cape show in 1833. Even in the town of Rawsonville, many small farmers made a good living out of raisins on their properties.
Raisins were so profitable that it indirectly led to the demise of many Goudini farmers. With the end of the second world war, the raisin market collapsed when no more large purchases were made for troops.
Numerous family farms were divided into several small units. The focus shifted from raisins to wine farming. To produce wine from the grape harvest, farmers got together and established cooperative wineries as the small wineries on their farms could not accomodate all the addisional hanepoot grapes (of which the largest quantity was formerly used for raisins).
Goudini Cooperative Winery, established in 1948, was the first cooperative winery in the Goudini Valley.
Twenty-five members were part of the cellar in 1949 and a total of 6053 tonnes of grapes delivered during that harvest season.
The members were spread all over Goudini valley:
Botha (Potifar), Die Straat
T.C. Botha, Rawsonville
J.H.S. de Wet (Kobus), Gevonden
J.H.S. de Wet(Koos), Houmoed
M.T. de Wet (Marius), Welgegun
D.E. du Toit Z/- (Danie), Klipdrift
Mac du Toit, Klipdrift
P.D. du Toit (Muis), Goudyn
P.P. du Toit (Tom), Klipdrift
P.P. du Toit (Flip Mary), Klipdrift
T.C.B. du Toit (Muis), Goudyn
Z.B. du Toit jr, Klipdrift
C.W. Everson, Skukuza
D.P.H. Jordaan, Die Straat
C.W. le Roux (Klipvoet), Goudyn
J.P.J. le Roux(Potjie), Goudyn
L.B. le Roux(Lewies), Boontjiesrivier
P.D.J. le Roux(Potjie), Goudyn
P.D.S. le Roux(Pokkraal), Pokkraal
P.D.S. le Roux(Pokkraal), Oakview
R.E. le Roux(Potjie), Goudyn
P.D. Marais (Paul), Eikeboom
J.A. Stofberg(Moffie), Koria
D.P. van der Merwe, Boontjiesrivier
W. Viljoen, Lanquedoc
Other Cooperative Cellars, Slanghoek, Badsberg, Louwshoek, Du Toitskloof, Groot Eiland , Merwida and Nuwehoop followed in subsequent years so that within the next twenty years, more than 95% of small farm-cellars in Goudini were not in use anymore. After 1955 almost no raisins were produced. Farming had shifted from hanepoot-raisins in the Fourties, to very productive white wine-grape varieties. This trend continued until the end of the century.
For many years The Co-operative wineries mainly delivered their wines to two wholesalers, Distillers and Farmers Winery as well as to the KWV (Koöperatiewe Wijnbouers Vereniging) and a few smaller buyers.
After 1994, the demand for red wine increased worldwide. With the deregulation of the KWV, the abolition of production quotas and minimum prices, many farmers experienced a financial crisis. As the prices for white wines drastically dropped (to as little as 50 cents per litre in some cases) in the 90’s as a result of overproduction, and red wine prices increased to as much R9.00 per litre, farmers were forced to plant red grape varieties. For the first time in two hundred years, red wine was a most important product produced in Goudini.
For the first time, the wineries were forced to look for new markets. Today, wineries have their own marketers, make use of overseas agents and form alliances with other wineries to market bottled wine.
Goudini wines can now be purchased under several labels in European liquor stores and supermarkets.