First settled in 1685 by Martin Pouisson, a French Hugenot refugee from religious persecution, the title deeds were granted in 1707. Pouisson named the farm “Slent”. The meaning of the name is unknown, but we think that it is possibly an old form of “slant” or “aslant” , as the farm lies on the lower slopes of Perdeberg Mountain (Horse mountain, so named for the large herds of zebra that once roamed its hillsides and valleys).
Once a much larger property, subdivisions for younger sons or daughters’ dowries have reduced the farm’s size to 170 hectares (420 acres). “The soul of South Africa lies there”, wrote Sailor Malan, famous WW2 Battle of Britain RAF fighter “ace”, who lived on Slent for 9 years as a child. The farm lies on the gentle southern slopes of the mountain, with panoramic views across 50km of valley to Lion’s Head, Signal Hill and Table Mountain (recently voted one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World”) to the west. The southern aspect on a clear day includes the whole Peninsula chain to Cape Point, across False Bay to Rooi Els andthe Hottentots’ Holland mountains, Johnkershoek, Franschhoek, Groot Drakenstein and Simonsberg mountains; to the east the Klein Drakenstein, Wemmershoek and Hawequa ranges. The views are unsurpassed and always beautiful.
Slent has been formally conserved since 1993, when it was awarded recognition as a part of the Natural Heritage programme, updated to Conservancy status in 1999.
Slent has a healthy population of small game; grey duiker, grysbok, steenbok, porcupine, bat-eared and Cape foxes, caracal and scrub hares. But also – as we read in Malan’s biography: “In the higher reaches of the farm, which were too rocky and precipitous to be cultivated, there were still baboons. In hard seasons they had been know to raid the big fig tree at the back of the house. The boys’ dogs chased the baboons, the baboons chased the dogs, and all chased each other down towards the irrigated orchards of apricot, peach and plum. Where there are baboons, there are leopards. But they kept hidden in the kloofs, and the boys were never chased by them.”
The big old fig tree behind the house has gone, but there is now an irresistible Shiraz vineyard on the upper slopes of the farm. The baboons wait until the farm workers go home for lunch, and come down to enjoy the luscious black grapes. So nothing has changed- the baboons eat the grapes, the dogs chase the baboons, and the leopards still live up the mountain.
The property was bought by Slent Farms Company in 2005 from Chris and Judy New, and the Italian owners set out in a bold new direction. Attilio and Michela, with their partners – all Italian friends who love South Africa and have deep faith in its future – made the first Slent wine in 2005. The first day of the harvest was unforgettable, and it will be part of the Slent story for ever. The wine was named “AYAMA” – a Xhosa word meaning “someone to lean on” – as the owners believe their Slent adventure leans on friendship and love.