The Simonsberg Heritage
Trailblazing this country’s cheese scene for many decades, we’ve been part of the journey that’s transformed South Africa into a nation of cheese lovers.
Today it’s hard to believe that there was a time when speciality cheeses were virtually unheard of here. Feta was first made here as recently as 1974, and white rind cheeses such as camembert and brie were still viewed as ‘exotic’ back in the 1980s.
But today all sorts of cheeses are much loved accompaniments to any meal.
Our cheese is made in Stellenbosch and the small country towns of Bonnievale and Ladismith. Many cows have been milked since the very first Jersey herd made its way here back in 1892, many full moons made of cheese have come and gone. But after all this time the rich, creaminess of the milk continues to inspire our cheese makers.1892
Alfred Nicholson establishes the now-famous Jersey herd on Schoongezicht farm near Stellenbosch.1940
The Barlows buy neighbouring Rustenburg farm with cows descending from the Schoongezicht Jerseys. Reg and Rachel Nicholson start a milk delivery route with a few milk cans in their small car, taking it to a few homes in town. Demand keeps skyrocketing and eventually the Schoongezicht and Rustenburg Jersey herds are joined under the name Simonsberg.1945
Peter Barlow buys Schoongezicht, extending the world renowned Simonsberg Jersey herd with the expert guidance of the legendary Douglas Houston.1960s
Leading Jersey farmer Douglas Houston joins Simonsberg to manage the newly formed cooperative with other farmers, and builds a world class Jersey herd.
Simonsberg expands even more, buying the Morgenzon’s Frisian milk with lower fat, forerunner to the commercial 2% and full cream milk. The Mariroux farm in Noordhoek is acquired, bringing knowledge on Italian-style cheese to the operation. Simonsberg Cheese (Pty) Ltd is formed and work begins on Simonsberg’s modern new cheese factory.1974
The qualified Swiss cheese maker Fritz Isch is appointed to oversee the cheese making at the new factory. The first feta is made.1975
The entire Simonsberg cooperative is sold to Peter Barlow and family. Altapol, a cholesterol free cheese is launched, establishing Simonsberg as a leading dairy innovator.1976
Peter Barlow dies suddenly. Simonsberg Cheese sets the pace for speciality cheese. Now owned by the Townsends (the daughter and husband-in-law of Peter Barlow) they appoint Mogens Nielsen from Denmark, bringing with him huge knowledge of speciality cheese.1978
Simonsberg goes ‘exotic’. Havarti, feta and tilsiter go in production, expanding the range.1979
Bringing the Wechmarshof cheesery into the fold, Simonsberg prepares to take white rind cheese to the speciality cheese market.1983
Simonsberg merges with Von Wechmars and begins production of white rind cheese.
A factory is leased and Vesta and feta are produced.1986
Another factory is leased in Sedgefield, and blue veined cheese goes into production.1990 – 2000
A new speciality cheese factory is constructed and is currently used to date. The Vesta factory closes and feta production is moved to Stellenbosch. Sedgefield operation moves to Stellenbosch.2000 – present
Simonsberg continues to lead the speciality cheese market with unparalleled quality, delicious flavour and style extensions to the range – consistently scooping local and international awards.
Today Simonsberg cheese is still being made in the winelands town of Stellenbosch.
Our multi-award winning cheeses are also made in the quaint village town of Bonnievale, as well as Ladismith, a rural town in the heart of the Klein Karoo.