It takes over 365 days to craft a bottle of Krone Mèthode Cap Classique. Each bell-shaped glass vessel nestles carefully upon the other in subterranean cellar racks, waiting, with seemingly infinite patience, for golden bubbles to rise slowly from within.
It is no coincidence that the considered production journey behind one of South Africa’s premier MCC brands has been faithfully echoed in the attention paid to the revitalisation of its home estate, the historic Twee Jonge Gezellen farm in Tulbagh. A treasured national monument, the farm is rooted in the year 1710, and in a rousing tale of two hearty bachelor boys who had links to the erstwhile governor of the Cape colony, Willem van der Stel. The ongoing refurbishment project has already spanned two years, with wise choices and sensitive implementation as its hallmark. Clearly, this is a place where things are done properly.
When the Rands family bought the farm five years ago, many of the original buildings were in need of restoration. At the behest of Abigail Rands, who manages the estate together with her brother Svend, architect Rick Stander and interior designer Tracy Lynch were brought on board. Their role was to reconceptualise not only how the farm’s series of interlinked buildings and existing tasting room looked, but also what their newfound purpose might be...
“We love things where time shows,” says Abigail Rands. “We wanted to do something where… the traces of time can be felt throughout the spaces, the land and ultimately in the wine. It’s a life-long project for us.”
To answer this extraordinary brief, Lynch immersed herself in an intuitive design process that was led by deep engagement with the context: “My first encounter with the Twee Jonge Gezellen farm revealed both a history and a physical site that demanded of me the deepest and most sensitive intuitive response,” says Lynch.
One of her first responses was to re-open the farm’s earliest entrance, which, over the years, had lapsed into neglect through misuse as a storeroom. “I wanted visitors to be led on a journey through the buildings before arriving at the tasting area, to intensify their visceral response to the sensory qualities of the place and the wine,” Lynch comments.
Now, visitors can once again enter through the original arched portal. Modern-day glass doors shield an impressive reception counter, while an overhead cluster of woven metallic lights makes it even more of a focal point. A family of monumental metal pieces – part sculpture, part industrial design – looks on with benign, almost surreal grace.
Once whitewashed, the gallery-like dimensions of the reception area and adjoining rooms naturally lent themselves to displaying a rotating collection of artworks. Abigail Rands has not only actively encouraged this dimension of the interior design, but is also propelling the newly reinvented Tulbagh Arts Festival, set for late 2017.
That Twee Jonge Gezellen is now able to function in this way – as a beacon for contemporary art and design and a bastion of heritage – is a fulfillment of a much earlier vision that was laid down long before the actual renovations began.
To allow the historic buildings to function as a receptacle for a contemporary sensibility and function, Lynch’s overall approach has been steadfastly minimalist. Nothing encroaches on the Cape Dutch integrity:
“These spaces are inherently stark, monastic and cathedral-like,” she says. “I felt a deep responsibility towards the history contained within the stones of the structures, that have stood as silent witnesses to the passing of countless seasons.
“It was important that nothing be added to the spaces that felt permanent or 'built-in', but rather, that all fixtures and fittings were left free-standing and that everything sits slightly apart from the walls. The buildings live at a pace which renders our passing through as the merest flicker of presence. The unchanging buildings needed to consciously enclose and hold the transitory markers of our brief habitation of them, but also be allowed to release them to the flow of time and be left unmarked by them,” Lynch comments.
Besides her obvious reverence for the farm’s provenance, Lynch’s design treatment is further distinguished by a decidedly spherical, recurring leitmotif. Whether it’s circular pendant fittings, ovoid bathroom credenzas, or artworks that explore arched shapes, the rounded forms prevail and are very much intentional. They echo and respond to the many elliptical window openings, half-moons, and arched doorways that were present in the historic architecture.
A symbol of wholeness, “the circle suggested a way to return these buildings to their original state,” while also paying homage to the sparkling bubbles of Krone’s age-old fermentation process – the very raison d’être of the brand.
“The circular motif finds itself again reiterated in the detailing of functional and décor objects; the delicate bubble becomes the handle of the ice buckets, and large brass round trays bear dark blue leather padding that reflects the night sky under which the grapes are harvested.”
These connections are considered rather than coincidental – much like the association between the very best of high-end, handcrafted South African design and the decidedly premium positioning of the Krone brand.
“The new owners of the farm wanted to refresh their Krone MCC brand and to bring a new sophistication to it,” states Lynch. “It was important to keep this reinvention grounded in a sense of the place itself – to look to the future through the eyes of the past.”
Svend Rands, who has project-managed the architectural and interior installation process and also landscaped the grounds, reiterates: “Our main focus is to make the best MCC in South Africa. What we do on the farm is all about achieving this.”
Today, the farm – which has reopened to the public – is both redolent of its 300-year-old history and burgeoning with contemporary relevance. Vistors can journey through the vision embodied in a series of extraordinary spaces before moving on to savour Krone’s one-vintage-only liquid gold on a raised terrace that offers singular views out over the valley and onto the nearby mountains.
Cellar tours by appointment. Call 023 230 0680 for more information.