A special, limited-edition memorial magnum of South African favourite Chateau Libertas is being released as a tribute to Duimpie (Francis Carr) Bayly, the late wine industry icon who played a major role in shaping the country’s wine reputation.  He sadly passed away last year.  

The famous Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend stayed close to Duimpie’s heart for nearly a lifetime. Once likening Chateau Libertas to “an old friend who never lets you down”, he could trace his association with the wine to the 1960s.

He joined the industry in 1962 and even after he had been promoted from winemaking to the boardroom and was spending much of his time serving on local and international wine organisations to advance and promote the industry, his affection for Chateau Libertas never wavered. Not even retirement in 2013 stood in his way. He would still pop into the cellars annually to give his feedback on the vintage of the time.

He was a mentor to many Chateau Libertas winemakers, including the current Bonny van Niekerk: “Warm, kind-hearted, and generous, he was as much a friend to the blend, as it is to South African wine lovers. He was always ready to share his knowledge and experience, while gently ensuring we never veered from the wine’s original intention.”

That intention was conceived in 1932 by Dr William Charles Winshaw, founder of the Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery (SFW), and his sons Young Bill and Jack. They introduced South Africans to their medium-bodied, Cabernet-based, claret-style, easy-drinking table wine that would give what they called “the right stimulation to digestion”. 

“Duimpie had so much on his plate. He sat on important technical committees and organisations to promote South Africa’s wine production integrity and to conserve our wealth of biodiversity. He was central to establishing the Tabernacle wine library, where literally thousands of bottles are maintained as a reference to the local winemaking community. He belonged to oenology and viticultural societies in the US and Australia, as well as at home. But that didn’t matter. Chateau Libertas remained important to him.

“We owe him so much. And now it falls to us to be the old friend who never lets Chateau Libertas down. We made this beloved wine in a way that expresses the loyalty to Dr Winshaw’s original idea and to Duimpie’s protection of it, his preservation of a legacy. 

“It is remarkable to think that Chateau Libertas has been made almost every year without interruption since its launch in 1932. Neither war, drought, pandemic nor regime change has stopped it. So much has changed socially and environmentally since those days between the two world wars. We’ve gone from being a member of the British Commonwealth to a republic to a democracy. Dining conventions and the way we eat now are in many ways unrecognisable compared with those early days. Today so many exciting global influences shape our culinary thinking.  We also have a deeper understanding of how ingredients impact our health and wellbeing. Plus, we farm very differently. We site our vineyards more judiciously. We use different clones, and we apply different viticultural and cellar techniques. 

“But the ethos of Chateau Libertas has remained steadfast. It has always been styled as a smooth, supple and juicy Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend with marvellous capacity to age, no matter the prevailing flavour fashions. And wonderfully, it’s still giving pleasure to wine lovers and critics in its unassuming way.

“Duimpie’s death last year has left an enormous personal and professional loss. In our bid to honour him and his contribution and to remain faithful to what he taught us, we have called on a number of wine stalwarts to give us input in blending the memorial magnum of Chateau Libertas. These are all people, like Duimpie, who have known Chateau Libertas for decades and understand what it represents.”

These wine experts are veteran wine critic and industry commentator Michael Fridjhon; editor of Winemag Christian Eedes, and wine communicator Bennie Howard, one of the first Cape Wine Masters. “They are all closely attuned to what Chateau Libertas stands for. It’s been an honour to work alongside them,” Bonny said.

They, together with several members of the Distell team, including Distell chief winemaker Andrea Freeborough as well as Bonny, have finalised the assemblage for the special memorial magnum of the 2021 vintage, of which only 2 800 bottles will be released. A small batch of 750ml bottles will also be made available. These are first to be offered for sale at a special price to the industry via various wine route offices, and then sold via to the public from 12 October, and in future, on selected auction platforms. 

All proceeds will be going towards an initiative intended to honour the memory of Duimpie. Still in the planning stages, it will form part of a project of the University of Stellenbosch to restore the historic Welgevallen farm buildings in Stellenbosch. The Duimpie memorial centre, to be housed in a section of the Welgevallen homestead, will encompass the collection, transcription and preservation of knowledge, history, stories and academic inputs involving the country’s wine industry. The archived material will be housed in a centre to be accessed not only by members of the wine industry, but also the public. 

Click here to view a short video of the development of the blend, and here to watch a longer video.  

Click here to view a short video of the hand-waxing ceremony, and here to watch a longer video.  

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