Waverley Hills Makes Wine History By Planting and Harvesting South Africa’s First Marselan Grape Crop

6 March 2020

An 11-year project by the cellarmaster Johan Delport of Waverley Hills came to fruition this month with the first Marselan grapes ever being harvested for winemaking in South Africa.

You will be excused if you are not familiar with this fairly young grape cultivar. Marselan is an artificial crossing between two famous red grape varieties – Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. The cultivar was bred in 1961 by the professor Paul Truel at French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in the town of Marseillan, after which the grape was named.

Today the highly regarded crossing is found in niche pockets across the globe, with Decanter going as far as calling it the future “signature” grape of China.

Johan Delport showcasing South Africa’s first Marselan vineyard, located in Tulbagh.

Johan Delport started with this project in 2009, by importing the first Marselan plant from France. After a regulation 1 year quarantine period, Vititec, the vine nursery in Paarl, started with the multiplication process of the plant. After years of multiplying and setting up small experimental vineyards, the first commercially viable amount of Marselan vines were planted at Waverley Hills in 2016, under strict certified organic practices.

It took 4 years for the vine to mature and start to bear grapes, the first being harvested on 26 February 2020.

The first Marselan wine from Waverley Hills will be released in 2021.