“Omne trium perfectum” – everything that comes in threes is perfect

Winter has set in at Londolozi, and while our days are still lovely and warm, the evenings are cold and icy. Gone are the days of gin & tonics, Sauvignon Blanc and beer in the evening. It’s time for those full-bodied red wines. One such new addition to our wine list is the Warwick Trilogy.

Warwick is based in Stellenbosch and is owned and run by the Ratcliffe family. Mike Ratcliffe is the 3rd generation family member to oversee this high quality boutique operation.

The view over the magnificent Warwick Estate

The view over the magnificent Warwick Estate

Warwick Triology – a Trio of Perfection

Warwick Triology – a Trio of Perfection

From 1771 till 1902 the farm was known as ‘De Goede Sukses’ (the good success). Colonel William Alexander Gordon, Commanding Officer of the Warwickshire regiment, purchased the farm in 1902 after the Anglo Boer war ended and renamed it ‘Warwick’ as a tribute to his regiment.

On the 1st of April in 1964 Stan Ratcliffe purchased the farm. Stan met and fell in love with Norma, a science graduate born in Edmonton, Canada, who was running a restaurant on an island in Greece. They married in 1971 and settled on Stan’s 200-year-old farm in Stellenbosch where they grew fresh produce for the local markets.

Norma and Stan soon realised the potential of the property for grape vine production and started planting Cabernet Sauvignon which was soon in high demand from neighbouring wineries. Norma became interested in winemaking and lacking any background in the wine business, had to start right at the bottom. She learnt to speak the local Afrikaans language, took some winemaking classes, purchased second-hand winemaking equipment, learnt how to fix pumps and patch leaky barrels and did an internship at a wine cellar in Bordeaux. In 1984 she released the first Warwick wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon called “La Femme Bleu” – the Blue Lady.

Norma is a stalwart in the South African wine industry and is often referred to as “The First Lady” as she was one of the first women to make wine in South Africa. She was the first woman to become a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild and the only woman to serve as Chairperson. The Cape Winemakers Guild is a prestigious association of some of South Africa’s finest winemakers who in their respective fields have played a significant role in the development of the South African wine industry. Norma was recently honoured with the 1659 Wine Icon of the Year Award for 2015, an award which was previously awarded to the late Nelson Mandela and a few other industry stalwarts.

Mike, Norma and Jenny Ratcliffe at the presentation of the 1659 Wine Icon Award 2015

Mike, Norma and Jenny Ratcliffe at the presentation of the 1659 Wine Icon Award 2015

The logo for Warwick Estate is that of a Wedding Cup, a chalice from which two people can simultaneously drink without spilling a single drop. Mike’s grandfather found such a Wedding Cup at a silversmith on Chancery Lane in London. He and his bride drank from this cup on his wedding day, and with this started a family tradition as Mike’s parents did the same and when Mike married his bride, so did they. Today Warwick, with 17, reputedly holds the world’s largest collection of Wedding Cups.

Managing Director Mike Ratcliffe

Managing Director Mike Ratcliffe

In 1986, the first vintage of the Warwick Trilogy was released, and today we are sipping on the 2011 vintage, 25 years of greatness. The Trilogy is a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. A Trilogy is a form of poetry created by William Shakespeare when he wrote the parts one to three of Henry VI. It refers to three individual short plays, each with a beginning and and end, each with its own unique meaning, but when played back to back has a greater meaning. This refers to the winemaking style utilised by Warwick for this wine, each component of the wine is vinified and aged separately and only days before bottling are the three components blended together to create a greater wine. The Trilogy has aromas of vanilla, cassis, milk chocolate and fresh cherries and can easily age for over 20 years.

Warwick Triology

Warwick Triology

Today Norma is still very involved with Warwick and currently works as Warwick’s ‘Style Director’. Her children are also involved in the wine industry, her son, Mike, has been the Managing Director of Warwick since 1999 (he is also a Managing Partner at Vilafonté) and her daughter, Jenny – a Cape Wine Master – is the editor of WineStyle magazine, South Africa’s largest circulation wine magazine.

We look forward to sharing this beautifully crafted wine with you in the BOMA’s at Londolozi under the African skies.

Written by: Kim Drake, Londolozi Procurement & Control Manager and Sommelier 

Filed under Cuisine Life Travel Wine

About the Author

Kim Drake

Wine Curator

“When a winemaker gets the wine right, it is pure joy, like sipping a wonderfully painted artwork from the Louvre.” These are the words of Kim Drake, Londolozi’s Procurement Manager turned part-time Sommelier. Kim’s love of wine first started developing in 2010, shortly ...

More stories by Kim


on Warwick Trilogy: A Trio of Perfection
    Marinda Drake says:

    Awesome blog. A great wine. Lovely history behind it

    Kim Drake says:

    Thanks Marinda, it is a lovely wine.

    Kate Collins says:

    Great blog Kim, I love the history that you incorporate into your blogs –I look forward to tasting this wine with you sometime.

    Kim Drake says:

    Thanks Kate, it is the history that fascinates me most about the wine farms as it adds so much more to the actual wine.

    Jill Grady says:

    Very interesting blog Kim! Norma certainly travelled a long way from her Canadian roots to settle in another very beautiful Country. Did Stan also become as interested in winemaking? I will certainly have to sample this wine the next time I’m at Londolozi.

    Kim Drake says:

    Hi Jill, it really is a lovely gem. Stan wasn’t involved in the winemaking but was involved in the viticulture of the farm, so I guess one could say that he did have a hand in the wine in the sense that he had to nurture the berries in way to make a great wine.

    Rich Laburn says:

    Great blog Kim and fascinating history. Thank you for sharing this story and wine…

    Kim Drake says:

    Thanks Rich

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