"Le Marais" dates back to circa 1890.  Once part of a much larger working farm, producing grapes & other fruits, the property and the surrounding area has gone through major changes over the past century. "Le Marais" was once accommodation for the farm manager and a focal point for much activity, as can be seen in these old photographs of the house and the surrounding area.


Le Marais was part of the farm Belle Ombre, which was bought by Johannes Rathfelder from the estate of the late James Hutchinson in 1872. The farm was one of the original farms in the valley that was granted to Johannes van Helsdingen in 1706 by the governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel. Originally called Wit Sleezwyk, the farm subsequently became known as Goedgeloof before its name was finally changed to Belle Ombre, (in reference to the shade provided by the numerous silver trees), by its then British owner Hutchinson.

By the time Johannes Rathfelder died, the management and wine making had long since been passed on to his son, Emmanuel Otto Rathfelder. Otto was a talented winemaker who had trained in viticulture in Europe. He had built a new wine cellar where he made wines which won prizes on the wine shows in Europe and carried the name of South African wines forward to the commercial centres of the world.

The house was originally built for Johannes Rathfelder’s widow, Hermina, but she died before it was completed and it was passed on to her daughter Ethel Hermina and, later, to her grandson Eugene Marais. Eugene cultivated and harvested grapes both for export and the wine industry. The many acres of vineyards on the farm were referred to as “The Valley of the Vines,” by Eugene’s aunt, the author Joy Packer, in her book of the same name.

In addition, Eugene grew vegetables and bottled olive oil from the existing olive grove. Over the years, the Rathfelder family were scattered around the world and with nobody having a passion for winemaking, tracts of land were subdivided and sold.