Lover of Wine. Founder. Visionary. Artist. Meet the inspired mind behind Haute Cabrière, Achim von Arnim.
At the mention of the name ‘Achim von Arnim’, tales of innovation, joie du vin and a pioneering spirit are offered in abundance by those who have met him.
Achim’s place in the South African wine industry is anchored in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which he has explored through quality wines, as well as having an important role in pioneering the country’s Cap Classique industry. In honour of his birthday, we are sharing some of Achim’s best stories, important milestones and a look into the passionate heart of Haute Cabrière’s founding Cellar Master.
Welcome to wine…
Achim’s mother, Theodora, met the great wine personality from Champagne, André Simon, in the 1960s while working at Silwood School of Cookery, and was inspired by his passion for wine. Achim was completing his military service during this time and on his return home at the age of 20, Theordora suggested to Achim that he work in a wine cellar and learn about viniculture and oenology. Achim fell in love with the idea and a seed was planted that would continue to flourish with every passing year…
Having studied in Europe and spent harvest time in France and Germany, Achim returned to South Africa. At the age of 32, he was appointed Cellar Master at Boschendal. Working within and exploring the relatively secluded valleys in the Stellenbosch-Paarl-Franschhoek region and ultimately – Achim’s path would lead to Franschhoek where his legacy would take root and blossom.
The second generation of Cellar Master
Achim’s eldest child, Takuan, was immersed in the family’s passion for wine and destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. He joined the Haute Cabrière cellar after his studies and various challenging harvest experiences in Europe. From a toddler in the cellar to working alongside his dad and then taking over the reins, Takuan’s journey to Cellar Master is something of which his father, Achim, is truly proud.
Achim has always been determined to create a quality South African Cap Classique that could proudly stand next to the Champagne houses of France. This necessitated the planting of the classic grape varietals of Champagne – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Haute Cabrière’s first Cap Classique was a traditional Champagne-style blend of these classic varietals and the first of its kind in South Africa … the Pierre Jourdan Brut, released in 1986 – exactly 35 years ago this year! In true French tradition, this Cap Classique was named after the land’s first owner and farmer, French Huguenot Pierre Jourdan.
While harvesting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for the Pierre Jourdan Brut, the unusually hot conditions led to the sugar content rising too much to be suitable for exceptional Cap Classique. Forced by the natural conditions of the Cape to be innovative, Achim decided on an inspired solution – a ‘still’ blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and something never before seen in the industry!
After tasting the blend at a luncheon of Mediterranean dishes in the company of wine-loving friends, the verdict was unanimous. This wine deserved to be a permanent release from the Haute Cabrière cellar.
More than 25 years later, this serendipitous wine continues to lead the way in the category.
On the elevated site at the foot of the Middagkrans Mountain, bought for its unique soils which weighed down Achim’s Levi boots with clay reminiscent of soil compositions in Burgundy, Pinot Noir was planted in 1989. From the first harvest, Pinot Noir was being explored to create a 2nd Pierre Jourdan Cap Classique.
At the time, Theodora worked side by side with her son Achim as the beloved PR personality of the winery sharing her love of wine, the Cape’s history and France with visitors and friends. Deeply regarded by her son for her perceptive and artistic responses when exploring new wines and vintages, Theodora was consulted with regards to the new Cap Classique. She exclaimed, ”The aromas on the nose and the colour delighting my eyes remind me of a bunch of beautiful roses. Please call this Pierre Jourdan Belle Rose”. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The Philosophy | Sun, Soil, Vine, Man
We believe that great wines are grown and terroir describes the conditions in which vines grow. Terroir encompasses everything that influences each bunch of grapes, from the minerals in the soil, to the reach of the sun, the strength of the vine and the skill of the farmer … For the von Arnims, these components allow one to fully appreciate the all-encompassing and unique French word ‘terroir’ because without Sun, Soil, Vine and Man working in harmony, there would be no exceptional wines to enjoy.
Achim von Arnim continues to call the Franschhoek Valley, home. Forever creating and with the Haute Cabrière cellar in safe hands with the next generation, he has immersed himself in his poetry, and his art which adorns the walls of the winery. He also still spends time daily on the practice of Karate.
Time is spent with his wife, Hildegard, enjoying spectacular sunsets on the ‘stoep’ with local smoked trout and a glass of Pierre Jourdan, dinners at home with his favorite Pinot Noir Réserve and lunches at the Haute Cabrière Restaurant. Achim is regularly noticed by guests, to his surprise, and greeted with loving exclamations of ‘You taught me to do sabrage!’ or ‘Surely you remember me, we met in the ‘90s’. And of course, spending time with the third generation, his charming and bright grandchildren. Achim’s days continue to overflow with joy.
While Achim tries to avoid birthdays, we simply won’t let him. He’s just too important to us. So happy birthday Achim! And thank you for the lifetime of memories.