HISTORY OF ASHTON CELLAR
Most places, probably throughout the world, are named after a particular natural characteristic, landmark, or physical property which is peculiar to it, or after some important person or event.
This country is rich in names which honour figures such as political, community, civic and religious leaders.
Some are named after administrators in government, statesmen, national heroes or historical events.
Lying at the foot of the Langeberg range, between Robertson and Montagu, on one of the main roads between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, Ashton cannot lay claim to any of these reasons for its designation.
The town owes its existence to the railway station established in 1887 by the Cape Central Railway on the farm Roodewal. Ashton in turn, was named after its first station master cum manager of the local hotel.
Situated in a rich fruit-growing area, Ashton only assumed significance when a large co-operative Canning Factory was build there in 1940. A township was laid out to provide accommodation for staff.
The following year saw the founding of a number of co-operative wineries around Robertson and Montagu, followed some years later by others at McGregor and Bonnievale.
The large grape producers were well provided for, but by the end of the 50’s, the smaller farmers found that the merchant producers were not interested in small quantities, while existing co-operatives no longer had spare capacity.
KWV depots at Robertson and Montagu were willing to buy any grapes delivered to them but only at prices applicable to wine destined for distilling.
A number of farmers, mainly those bordering on Ashton, Bonnievale and Robertson, considered establishing a new co-operative cellar to cater for their needs. The idea found favour and on May 10 1962, an inaugural meeting was held at which it was decided to proceed.
So enthusiastic were the proponents of the scheme, that farmers came along with money in their pockets which they eagerly handed over to start the ball rolling, without even asking for a receipt.
Ashton Co-operative Wine Cellar was launched with 28 members, a board of directors was chosen with Mr P. P. Jordaan as Chairman.
A site for the cellar was selected and Mr Jordaan transferred a water right which he enjoyed from a Brandvlei irrigation canal, to the Co-op, since the ground on which the cellar was to be erected had no other source of water.
Almost immediately, work was begun on digging trenches to carry a pipeline to the site where there had previously been a quarry. The Land Bank was approached for a loan which was initially refused, but the bank under-estimated the farmers determination.
When bank officials one day by chance heard the announcement on regional news service of the SABC that water was gushing out of the pipeline in the old quarry, they relented and the loan was granted.
By the time the cellar was built in 1963, there were 46 members who delivered a total of 2 130 tons of grapes. With the commencement of the 1964 season, there were 56 members and 5 790 tons were pressed.
In the 1968 season 10 000 tons were pressed.
One of the problems at Ashton was the considerable quantity of grapes being produced which were not suitable for vinifying because of low sugar content. To deal with these grapes, it was decided to use them for the production of grape concentrate. The most up-to-date machinery for this purpose was imported from West Germany during 1971.
Approximately 70 000 hectolitres of juice is converted to grape concentrate annually. The product found great favour and the quality was considered so good, that virtually every wine producer uses it for the sweetening of semi-sweet wine.
Ashton wines have won numerous awards at various wine shows.
The Co-op currently handles 27 different grape varieties and bottles an extensive range of wines for sale to members and to the public. It also offers a pink Muscat de Hambourg sparkling grape juice.
The grape intake normally amount up to 20 000 tons, produced by 46 farmers, making it one of the bigger co-operative cellars in the Western Cape operating under one roof, an example of what can come from small beginnings with a spirit of co-operation and the will to succeed.
ASHTON WINE CELLAR BACKGROUND
Ashton Cellar strives to produce the best quality grapes in cooperation with its members and to make and market exceptional quality wines for the local and international markets.
We are ideally situated for commitment to quality as Ashton Cellar lies in the hart of the Robertson Valley between the Breë River and the foothills of the Langeberg mountains. The unique climate, the variety of soils and scientific viticultural practices give the cellar natural attribute to produce the best quality grapes and outstanding wines from this Valley of Wine and Roses.
The fourty six grape producers grow all the main cultivars in a wide variety of micro climate regions with result that we can make a wide variety of wine types and styles. The producers are regularly informed of the most recent viticultural and vinicultural information by our own vineyard consultant.
The linkage as well as cooperation between the grape producer and the winemaker is essential. The best vineyards are selected for the top quality wines and in this regard we are leaders in the field. The cellar is equipped with the most modern equipment to ensure continuous quality and can handle up to 24 000 ton per year.
Ashton Cellar is also known for the production of grape juice concentrate for the wine and fruit industry. This product is of high quality and is unique to Ashton Cellar.