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RRottcher Wineries’ lineage goes back to Muden near Greytown in KwaZulu-Natal, when a German missionary by the name Reverend Heinrich Rottcher and his family established the Sonnengold Orange Winery in 1916 – the first orange-based wine-making recorded in South Africa – to supply communion wine for the mission.
Kurt Rottcher, a grandson of the missionary, took the practice of making wine from oranges with him when he moved to Heidelberg farm in White River in the 1950s – then in the vast Transvaal province, it is now in the small eastern province of Mpumalanga.
Unlike his family’s syrupy, sweet libations, Kurt aspired to make orange table wine. His orange wine-making experiments produced potent dry, off-dry and semi-sweet wines that were very popular with the locals, perhaps more for the effects than taste.
In 1967, Kurt moved to the farm Magnifique off the White River/Nelspruit road (Nelspruit’s name has since been changed to Mbombela) and established Rottcher Wineries. On Kurt’s retirement in 1983, the new owners reverted to making an unfortified sweet orange wine, which they initially called Witrivier Medium Crème.
Later, the beverage was renamed Avalencia, after the Valencia oranges from which it is produced. Though officially it may not be called ‘wine’ – in South Africa, only a drink made from grapes qualifies – Avalencia, which is made from pure orange juice and cane sugar, is produced in the same way as wine.
It’s fermented using a very specific yeast, vat-matured for at least 6 months, then fined, racked if necessary, filtered and bottled. Unlike grape-based wine, Avalencia does not easily oxidise, and matures well in the bottle when stored correctly.
As word of Rottcher Wineries’ unusual products spread, it wasn’t long before it was de rigueur for visitors en-route to and from White River to call in at the farm tasting room to buy Avalencia and Avalencia ginger-infused wine.
In 2008, under new ownership, Rottcher Wineries relocated to the busy Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre in White River. in 2012, distiller Frank Theron bought the business. His plans for the winery include the production of liqueurs and a boutique gin.
Legendary crooner Frank Sinatra is reputed to have said, ‘Orange is the happiest colour.’ Judging by the grinning patrons departing with armloads of orange wines in their distinctive ceramic carafes made by local potter Antjie Newton, it’s the happiest taste, too.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Rottcher Wineries; Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre
Tel: +27 (0)13 751 3472
Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre
Tel: +27 (0)13 751 1540
White River Tourism Bureau
Tel: +27 (0)13 750 1073
How to get here
Reach White River by road, or fly into nearby Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. If driving from Johannesburg, take the N4 or the N12 to Mbombela via Emalahleni (formerly Witbank) and Middelburg. In Mbombela, turn left onto the R40 to White River. Continue along this road and turn left at the 2nd set of traffic lights onto the R40 towards Hazyview (for approximately 5km). Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre is on the corner of the R538 and the R40.
Best time to visit
Rottcher Wineries trade from 9am to 4.30pm on weekdays and 9am to 4pm on weekends. Closed at Christmas and New Year.
Around the area
Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre also has a theatre, cinema and motor museum. Nearby is the Numbi Gate entrance to the Kruger National Park. Hazyview offers adventure activities aplenty, and in Mbombela, there’s a national botanic garden, a casino, shopping and dining.
Tours to do
Tour Rottcher Wineries’ on-site cellar when you visit the shop.
Where to stay
Casterbridge Hollow is a new boutique hotel adjacent to the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre.
In addition to their orange wines, Rottcher Wineries sells locally produced pottery.