Bellingham: an important winery in South Africa spanning fine wine to lower-priced offerings

Bellingham is an important winery for South Africa, bit historically and also in terms of what it’s doing now. Processing just over 1000 tons each vintage, it’s at an interesting scale where it can bridge more commercial, widely available offerings, and also make some more serious wines that are still well distributed.

The Podlashuk’s Bellingham Homestead, dating back to the 18th century (the original house was from the 17th century but burned down)

The Bellingham story begins with Bernard Podlashuk. Bernard and his wife Fredagh purchased a run-down but once-grand property on the borders of Paarl and Franschhoek in 1943 and began restoring the grand manor house. They even had help from Italian prisoners of war.

They replanted the farm to vines, and to understand more about wine production they travelled to France and Germany.

In 1949 they released the Cape’s first rosé in 1949, and in 1956 the first varietal Shiraz to come from South Africa. They were also the first to have active cooling in their wine cellar. Bellingham grew significantly in the 1980s and 1990s.

The 80s and 90s saw vineyard developments, cellar extensions and the beginning of Bellingham’s classic New World winemaking philosophy. Today, while still inspired by its history of innovation, ingenuity and foresight, the brand is firmly set in the 21st century, producing contemporary, structured wines with an unmistakable sense of place and style.

Richard Duckitt

We tasted with Richard Duckitt, who is in charge of the Bellingham range. He comes from the west coast and was always into fermenting and distilling before he became a winemaker.

The Bellingham style has moved a bit in recent years, explains Richard. It used to be really rich, but this has been reined in a little of late. You can taste this in the wines, which I think are better than ever.


Bellingham Chardonnay 2021 Stellenbosch
13% alcohol. This is Homestead range. The barrel part has malolactic, and the tank portion has no malolactic. This has brightness as well as some depth, with focused lemony fruit and some fine herby hints. There’s very subtle toastiness here. Lovely balance. 90/100

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2022
13.5% alcohol. Certified heritage vineyards 1978-1987, six vineyards in all. The main one (50%) is in Durbanville, Cape Town, which gives more citrus fruit. Combination of foudres and small barrels (60%, about half new oak), with 10% concrete and amphora. All wild ferment. Lovely weight and balance here with pear and peach, as well as a touch of citrus. Fruity and expressive with some richness but also brightness. Linear and fine, with just a hint of sweetness on the finish. Very fine. 92/100

Bellingham The Founders Series Freda 2021 Coastal Region
Small production, just a few barrels each. Three different wines. This is a white blend, based on Chenin (it differs every year). 50% Chenin from Durbanville, and also some Semillon from La Colline (40% this year), with 10% Grenache Blanc from the Swartland. Has a pithy, citrussy edge to the nose. The palate is vibrant, concentrated and intense with a bitter pithy edge to the sweet citrus fruit. Really distinctive and vivid with brightness and focus, and could age in an interesting way. 93/100

Bellingham Pinotage 2020 Stellenbosch
14% alcohol. Six or seven different farms depending on the year. Almost all old barrels. This is bright and fruit driven with fresh cherry and plum fruit. It’s pure and clean, with a bright finish. Lovely fruit here: Pinotage done well. 89/100

Bellingham The Bernard Series Bush Vine Pinotage 2020 Coastal Region
14% alcohol. Sweetly aromatic with fresh cherries, sweet plums and a touch of blackberry, with some fine spicy notes, as well as just a twist of leather and liquorice. The palate has a bit of sour cherry and a hint of Pinotage bitterness, but also lovely sleek, quite elegant ripe berry fruits. It’s really appealing: polished but with some personality. 91/100

Bellingham The Bernard Series Basket Press Syrah 2020 Coastal Region
14% alcohol. Four different vineyards, 70% Stellenbosch. Some Simonsberg Paal, some Darling. 40% whole bunch, from the Polkadrai component. This is really appealing with juicy cherries and plums, a touch of blackcurrant and even a bit of pepper. There’s some sweet fruit here, but also freshness and peppery detail. Very stylish and even a little understated. 93/100

Bellingham The Founder Series Pod 2020
14% alcohol. Shiraz and Pinotage. The Pinotage comes from Darling. 40% new oak. This is ripe and rich with sweet cherry and berry fruits, with some nice focus and freshness. There’s some spice and depth here with grippy structure and some woody notes. Bold, weighty and structured with nice intensity. 92/100

Older notes from November 2019

Bellingham Sauvignon Blanc 2019
Shale soils in Durbanville, harvested in 3 phases. Machine picked at night. 24 h skin contact.  Do six days at 6 C juice stabulation. Lovely passionfruit aromatics here: has a gentle green edge and then some nice chalky undercurrents. This is so fruity and delicious, with nice fruit. 89/100

Bellingham The Old Orchards Chenin Blanc 2018 Paarl
Fresh and supple with nice pear and apple fruit. Has a slight salinity. Lovely elegance and textured mouthfeel. Has a nice grainy structure and massive drinkability. 90/100

Bellingham Chardonnay 2018 Stellenbosch
This is from a few different vineyards. Half fermented in barrel (5% new oak, many of the barrels are 500 litre), half in tank. This is ripe and fresh at the same time with some mandarin, peach and spice, as well as fennel and pear skin. Juicy finish with nice freshness on the finish. 88/100

Bellingham Pinotage 2017 Stellenbosch
Malolactic in barrel, 7% new oak. Has a supple green hint and nice cherry and berry fruits with a bit of grip. A tiny hint of oak here. Tending towards elegance. 88/100

Bellingham Shiraz 2017 Paarl
Fresh, elegant and finely spiced, with lovely perfume. Shows restraint and drinkability with red cherries and berries. Subtle and delicious with good structure. 91/100

Bellingham The Bernard Series Whole Bunch Roussanne 2019 Coastal Region
All Paardeberg (Paarl) fruit. Unwooded, made in two different batches, one more Sauvignon like and one more Chardonnay like. Has 10% Grenache Blanc in the blend. Bright, lively and expressive with bright citrus fruit. Has some grapefruit and spice, with a slight salinity and good acidity. Very pure and chiselled. Such precision. 93/100

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2018 Coastal Region
Three or four vineyards, with about half the wine coming from a 38 year old vineyard in WO Cape Town (Durbanville). Lots of wild ferment. Complex and lively, with some spice (30% new oak, 30% foudre, 40% old barrels) and bright citrus fruit. Also use amphora (from Italy) and concrete a bit. Nice grip here with some grainy structure. Has lovely spiciness with the richness and finesse in balance. This 2018 is fresher than previous incarnations of this wine. 92/100

Bellingham Bernard Series Bush Vine Pinotage 2016
Three vineyards: Darling, Cape Town, Stellenbosch. Open top barrels and two ton fermenters for this vintage, but more recent vintages are fermented in concrete tanks.  Pressed off to barrels (40% new oak).  Cherries, plums, spice and some sweet berry fruits.  Nice structure but also fresh, supple, quite elegant fruit with some green framing. Some sour cherry, too. 89/100

Bellingham The Bernard Series Basket Press Syrah 2017
Three vineyards: two from Stellenbosch (Polkerdrai [peppery], Bottelary Hills [berryish]), and Simonsberg Paarl. 30% new oak. Juicy and spicy with nice supple cherry and plum fruit. Berryish and bright with good structure. Has a grippy edge with some firmness. Lots of flavour but shows some restraint and balance. Some pepper, too. 90/100

Bellingham The Founders Series Freda 2017 Coastal Region
Named after Fredagh Poldashuk, Bernard’s wife. This is the first release of this high-end white blend. 40% Chenin, 30 Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Grenache Blanc. It took four weeks to find the right blend. The Chenin is 35 years old in the Heldeberg (Stellenbosch), fermented in a foudre. Sauvignon was from Durbanville and Grenache was from Perderberg (both in barrel). Fresh and linear with fine spices and a touch of vanilla (in the background), showing waxy detail and nice tension. Structured with great acidity, and the potential to age for a long time. 94/100 (650 R)

Bellingham The Founders Series The Quintessential Couple Rosé 2018
Three barrels, 900 litres. Pinotage and Shiraz from old vines (1977, 1978; the only old vine rosé). Free run juice, lightly settled, goes to barrel and ferments with cooling plates. Bright and lively with crisp citrus and pear fruit, as well as a hint of cranberry. Good acidity with nice hints of fennel and herb. Gastronomic and complex with nice texture. Dry. 92/100 (650 R) 

Bellingnam The Founders Series POD 2015
70% Darling Pinotage, 30% Bottelary Shiraz. Pod was Bernard’s nickname. 40% new oak. Dense, spicy and a bit leathery, with a savoury, gravelly, chalky edge to the fruit. Shows freshness as well as concentration and nice depth. A serious, structured wine that has potential for development. Some oak evident, but it’s well integrated. 92/100 (R650)