For me, a visit to South Africa would not be complete without tasting some of the amazing wines that this country produces.
On this trip, I have been fortunate enough to be able to visit the Stellenbosch area – just north of Capetown – from where some of the best wines in the country are found.
After an early start in the morning, and a short detour through the frailties of yours truly the ‘map-reader’, we finally took the correct turning and made our way …… up into the clouds to the Uva Mira vineyard. Literally high up in the mountains, we were greeted by the piercing cold wind that had favoured us the day before at Cape Point and the much warmer greeting of the grand-daughter-in-law of the founder of this family vineyard. A lovely american lady, who was happy to help us with information about their – and others’ – wines. This was a gracious, but comfortable visit, with beautiful Lavender and Olive hedges all around. The interior was welcoming (and warm!) with good wines to taste, if a shade brittle to my taste. I want a Lavender and Olive tree hedge – almost halfway there now
A break from wine after that, to have a quick visit to Stellenbosch itself. Picturesque and set in a verdant valley, we stopped in Dorp Street outside Sammie’s shop to savour some of the sights and the heritage houses.
After that auspicious beginning we made our way – without further map-reading mishaps – to Tokara Vineyards. This was a more cultured venue, with a wedding taking place while we were there. There was an amazing entrance with a Wisteria made of aluminium hanging near the entrance with the history of the vineyard printed on the leaves, if one had the patience to read it. Inside were paintings and sculptures to match the quietly luxurious nature of the vineyard. I tasted a most beautiful Pinotage here – but at 265 rand for a bottle (about NZ$33), I was never going to buy it merely to drink alone in a hotel later in my visit. However it was unbelievably smooth – robust on the nose, full-flavoured with more than a hint of berry and a chocolate aftertaste. Absolutely wonderful wine! no I am not reading from any label…..unfortunately!
Then we made our way across the road to Delaire Graff estate. My word for this was pretentious. Met by somewhat unctuous uniformed ushers (You have to say it slowly and enjoy that assonance!), I came away with the impression that they were more interested in selling their diamonds than their wine. A beautiful outlook and a nice restaurant (in which we did not eat) and wines that were OK, but significantly over-priced in term comparison to others I know of in South Africa. Notably their best wines were sold out however – but priced at over 1000 rand (NZ$125) in some cases, we were never going to be interested in those. It was also the only place we visited, which charged for the tasting (10 rand per person). Apparently it is a favourite jaunt for the students at Stellenbosch university to go round tasting wines – a sort of Stellenbosch pub-crawl…?
Finally we arrived at the Hartenberg Wine Estate. This was a success from the very outset. A very long approach drive, led to a carpark, from which we descended to a beautiful heritage house and escaped the very strong cold wind by entering the restaurant, which had a large fireplace and tables. Apparently it used to have sofas, but I guess the demands of commercialism have hit and the sofas are replaced by the real money-earners. The food was well-priced – 90 rand – NZ$11-12 – for a Rib-eye Steak, chips salad and some beautiful bread and snoek paté (Snoek is a fish with very large bones apparently), which was ‘on the house’, plus a glass of their award-winning Shiraz!!! The wines – the reds in particular – were well presented, pleasing the palate and the eye. I took away some Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and cabernet Shiraz 2010. They have corks, so I might have some trouble to open them while on tour, but I will manage…I think the german word ‘gemütlichkeit’ is the best description of this visit to this family Estate, which dates back to the late 17th Century.
After the travels of the day, we returned home, tired but happy and then proceeded to enjoy the ABs/Springbok test match – along with the remains of our bottle of Hartenberg Cabernet Shiraz, which the waitress at the restaurant had given to Barry. Some trepidation ensued on my side, as the ABs took some time to control the match. I had even worn my AB tee-shirt all day, expecting some comments, but it was not until friends arrived to watch the match (wearing a springbok shirt), that the opposition began to warm up. However in the end the ABs won with some ease at altitude – like our first stop of the day among the wine with ‘attitude’