In 1937, Hennie Retief senior’s father bought him the farm Goudmyn F in the Robertson Valley. The name was passed on from a previous owner who paid a vast amount of money for the land (his neighbours teased him asking whether he thought he had bought a gold mine - goudmyn in Afrikaans). The farm was subdivided (A, B, C etc) to give each of his 9 children a piece of the original farm. Hennie Retief ended up acquiring portion F of Goudmyn.
A FAMILY STORY
In 1939 Hennie married Jean van Zyl, a teacher from the neighbouring town, Ashton. She was quite superstitious believing the “F” stood for ‘fools and failures’. Much later in her life she conceded that it also stood for ‘friendship and flowers’. But in her feisty youth, the name Goudmyn F didn’t bode well with her and she persuaded Hennie to rename the farm Van Loveren, in memory of Christina van Loveren, who came to South Africa in 1699.
Christina van Loveren was Jean’s ancestor, was married to Willem van Zyl and together they started the Van Zyl lineage in South Africa. With her, Christina brought her beautiful bridal 'trousseau' chest – made of Phillipine Mahogony. This chest was passed down from generation to generation and Jean bought it from her aunt for 45 pounds. This trousseau chest was the reason why Jean wanted to rename the farm Van Loveren. Today this stunning chest or kist is proudly displayed in the Van Loveren tasting room.
From 1937 we’ve been making wine. In the early years sweet wines and wine for brandy was made, and later when the 2nd generation Nico and Wynand joined Hennie and the winery was modernised, they started making noble cultivars to sell to the wholesale trade.
It was towards the late 1970’s when farmers in the Robertson valley started bottling wine under their own brands that Nico and Wynand wanted to do the same. A major milestone was reached in 1980, with the birth of the Van Loveren brand. To make the occasion even more special, it was launched on Hennie’s 67th birthday.
Under this brand, the first 500 cases of Premier Grand Cru were bottled. It took a whole year to sell 400 cases and the remaining 100 cases was lost by the Laingsburg flood of 1981, that had the Kogmanskloof river coming straight through the winery. From the start, visitors enjoyed the hospitality that the Retief family was known for and which can still be felt today.
The first tasting room was the ‘rondawel’, which was converted from a milk shed. When visitors came to call, a member of the family would greet them, proudly presenting the wines by means of a wine tasting.
In 1986, the Retief brothers entered the formal trade, selling Van Loveren wine in retail. They were warned that if they continued selling their own wine, wholesalers would stop buying from them – as it meant that they would be competing against them (wholesalers) in the market place. Sitting in front of the Rondawel, Wynand and Nico had to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives: whether they would succumb to the pressure and stop selling Van Loveren in retail or take the risk and go ahead? After a bottle of Blanc de Blanc the idea to take the plunge sounded good, and after two bottles, the deal was sealed – their dream to succeed was bigger than their fear to fail. That exact moment was the tipping point for the future success of Van Loveren.
The story of the third generation of Retiefs began in the 1990’s. Nico's sons, Bussell and Hennie; and Wynand's sons, Phillip and Neil joined the family farm after completing their studies. In 2000, the four cousins introduced the Four Cousins range of wines, cementing their role in Van Loveren’s success to grow to South Africa’s leading family owned winery. Today the four Retief cousins are the driving force behind the company.