Malgas Region ImageSijnn is an remarkable vineyard venture in remote Malgas named after by the original Khoisan name of the Breede river along which it lies.  It is set on a stony plateau between Malagas and Cape Infanta approx. 230km east of Cape Town. Together with a few strategic partners, a small run-down ostrich and grain farm was purchased early in 2004 by David & Rita Trafford of De Trafford wines in Stellenbosch.  These vineyards are located 70m above the Breede River, 25 km from the sea by boat and 15 km as the crow flies. At this stage, there are no other vineyards within a 40 km radius, the closest being those inland around Swellendam and along the coast at Elim.

The complex stony soils, together with a warm dry climate (350mm) moderated by the constant sea breezes offer excellent vineyard potential and the possibility of producing something unique. This is quite a pioneering venture and extensive soil studies were undertaken together with analysis of climatic data. With these results, a variety of proven Mediterranean or southern European varieties have been planted, including Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Trincadeira together with future plantings of Grenache. Chenin Blanc and Viognier were planted for a white wine blend together with more recent plantings of Rousanne and plans for Assyrtiko.


On 9 February 2007 the first grapes from the Cape Infanta/Malagas area were carefully picked and transported back to Stellenbosch for vinification by the De Trafford team. Production grew from 10 tons in 2007 to 30 tons in 2009. All the vines are grown as bush vines with a maximum expected yield of 3 to 4 tons / ha. The new wines were matured in a mix of new and old 700L French oak barrels, bottled after 17 months and are already showing a unique and appealing character.

In November 2013 it was decided to start building a small, low key cellar and tasting room in keeping with the environment. As David was an architect by trade prior to making wine, he designed the building and visited Malgas weekly to make sure the building was finished in time for the opening of the winery on April 23, 2014. The tasting room is open to the public for wine tastings and sales every Saturday 10am – 3pm and by appointment.

Wine of Origin Malgas

A few years after the first vintage, the Wine and Spirit Board approved the formation of a new ward, Malgas, for the Sijnn vineyard on the Lemoentuin farm, close to the village of Malgas. They are  hoping other farmers will also be brave enough to plant a few vineyards in the area soon. From the 2010 vintage, Sijnn uses "Wine of Origin Malgas”, instead of “Swellendam”.

Jancis Robinson wrote on 3 December 2010

Everything is new about this ground-breaking wine. This is its debut vintage (she is referring to the 2007 vintage). It is being exported for the first time. And it is grown in a vineyard 40 km from the nearest vines, the closest being those of much hotter terrain way inland around Swellendam and the vines of cool Elim on the coast. The vineyard lies way to the east of Cape Agulhas between the hamlet of Malagas and Cape Infanta 15 km from the ocean at the mouth of the Breede River, called Sijnn by the original Khoisan inhabitants of the region. (Sijnn may be difficult to pronounce -say_in- but it works well for online searches.)

This is a joint venture between South African environmental businessman Quentin Hurt, Simon Farr of UK importers Bibendum Wine and gifted architect-turned-winemaker David Trafford, who has his own eponymous winery in Stellenbosch. You can read a bit more about him in connection with this 2002 wine of the week.

The idea behind Sijnn is to grow warm-climate varieties in this cool climate and, presumably, push things to the limit. Trafford has long been a terroirist and is presumably inspired by the slate and rolled stone plateau on which this new vineyard sits. The blend in this particular maiden vintage is 42% Shiraz, 26% Mourvèdre, 21% Touriga Nacional, 10% Trincadeira and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, all vines being grown as bushvines on these rugged, low-yielding soils. Average yields in this first year of commercial production were a completely ludicrous 6 hl/ha.

The land used to be home to an ostrich farm, apparently, but that is certainly not taste-able. The alcohol level of 14.5% is not obvious either. The wine itself is sweet with the merest hint of coffee toasted barrels but the fruit dominates and is attractively complex, very gentle and flattering at first, even though the wine finishes firm, sinewy and very polished. The overall impression is of a South African red that is unusually lively, complex, confident and creditable.

The wine was made at De Trafford in Stellenbosch, although the aim is to build a winery on the vineyard in the next few years. The must was kept on the skins between six and nine days for a spontaneous fermentation and was aged half in French barriques and half in what must be very unwieldy 700-litre casks for a total of 18 months, with a few of the larger casks being new.

The first Sijnn wine, the flagship red blend, arrived in Ireland in August 2011 with the 2008 vintage. We are now on the 2010 vintage of this glorious wine with its four other stablemates, the Chenin Viognier blend, a Syrah, a Touring Nacional and the Low Profile red blend.

About Kinnegar

Kinnegar Wines was born almost by accident and been growing organically since.

In 1998, I was in the midde of a two year diploma course with the London Wine & Spirits Trust when an opportunity came up to visit South Africa's Western Cape. Naturally, I was keen to avail of the opportunity to learn more about viticulture and winemaking in South Africa.

We had an excellent guide who brought us to a number of the Cape's leading estates including Thelema and De Trafford where we had in depth vineyard and cellars tours. At the end of the day, I wanted to take back some of the wonderful wines we had tasted for our own use. It was not possible to take two or three cases of wine with us on our flight and shipping such a small quantity was more than the cost of wines. So I had the mad idea of shipping a pallet! Clearly, I had to start selling these wines and so began Kinnegar Wines. Ashford Castle took many of the wines and continue to list them and newer arrivals ever since.

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