The cultivation of virgin vineyard land on Fairview in recent years has led to the unearthing of prehistoric stone tools providing proof of the presence of hominids here at the foot of the Paarl mountain some 700 000 years ago. Centuries later, probably towards the end of the first millennium AD, these hills became home to nomadic pastoralists from the north called the Khoi. These peaceful people remained until the arrival of the first European settlers the Cape of Good Hope in the mid 1600s. The official demarcation of Fairview as a formal farm followed in 1693. A tract of land on the southwestern slopes of Paarl Mountain was granted to Steven Verwey (thought to have been one of the French Huguenots who fled Protestant persecution in Europe from 1688) by Governor of the Cape Simon van der Stel, a Dutch East India Company official instrumental in developing several of the Cape’s first and still finest wine ‘estates’.
Just six years later, in 1699, the first wine was made on the farm. Official tax records of the time reflect a farm ‘inventory’ which listed a few barrels of wine, among items ranging from bags of wheat to rifles and slaves. The farm had previously been known as Bloemkoolfontein (‘Cauliflower Fountain’). Jests current owner/vintner Charles Back II: ‘I’m pleased that someone had the foresight to change the name!’ Up to about 100 years ago, the farm had a chequered history: it was part of no less than eight insolvent estates. Quips the incorrigible Charles again: ‘I’m doing my best to break the habit!’
In fact, the farm’s star started rising from 1937 when Back’s grandfather, Charles Back I, bought the property from the Hugo family for the pricely sum of £6 500.