Vilafonte: Stories

Vilafonté is the fi st American and South African joint wine-making venture. This ground-breaking red wine project is a partnership between a respected group of wine specialists from South Africa (Mike Ratcliffe) and the United States (Zelma Long and Dr. Phil Freese). The name Vilafonté is derived from the primary soil type of the 100-acre estate. Recorded as one of the oldest soil types in the world (somewhere between 750 000 and 1.5mil years old), this character forms the foundation of these wines The age of the soil is important as it is deeply evolved and has been stripped of much of its inherent capacity, that encourages smaller vines, lower yields and highly concentrated fruit.


PROPRIETORS: Mike Ratcliffe, Zelma Long, Phil Freese

WINEMAKER: Zelma Long & Martin Smith

SIZE OF PROPERTY: 42 hectares (100 acres); 16 hectares (40 acres) planted

TERROIR: Vilafonte is located in the Paarl-Simonsberg region on the northern side of the Simonsberg Mountains. Annual rainfall in the area is approximately 500 mm (20 inches) with gravelly clay and well-weathered soil. The “Vilafontes” soil type is the namesake for the vineyard and the wines. The area is gently sloping with a northwesterly facing topography, and all of the rows run parallel to the downhill slope. Vine spacing is at 1.2 meter in-row by 1.6 meter between-row to give 5,208 vines per hectare (or 4 feet by 5.25 feet, resulting in 2,110 vines per acre).

ANNUAL PRODUCTION: Series C: ~28 barrels; Series M: ~36 barrels

General Manager/Owner

Mike qualified as a business major before attending the University of Adelaide, and was in the first graduating class for the Graduate Diploma in Wine Marketing. Mike is Managing Director of his family estate, Warwick, which is recognized as one of South Africa’s foremost wine estates. Mike is a leader in the Cape wine industry. At 28, he participated in reigniting the concept for a “Cape Blend” (Pinotage-blend) which has since become an integral part of the Capes high-end wine offerings. Mike is a board member of WOSA, (Wines of South Africa) and maintains a keen involvement in black economic empowerment through his board membership of The South African Wine Industry trust. (SAWIT).