South African Wine

Bartholomeusklip

Coming of Age

Cape Winelands

by Darren

This is truly the golden era of South African wine: never before has so much excellent wine been made by so many talented winemakers, all set against the backdrop of a stunning, majestic landscape. For the longest time the valleys of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek anchored all things that were good and great about the Cape Winelands, and rightly so. Over the last few years, the new kids on the block are having their moment to shine. For informed insiders, here are the finest components to showcase the best of South Africa’s emerging wine appellations:

Darling

The West Coast is Darling, literally and figuratively. The village’s eponymous wine store is the best spot to taste the most unique offerings from the region’s cellar doors. Beyond that the highlight is Groote Post Vineyards which produces some of the country’s best Rieslings. I always base myself at Strandveld Lodge in the charming, whitewashed oceanside village of Paternoster where, just this past week, one of my stock standard favorite restaurants – Wolfgat – was named world’s best. Talk about being plucked from obscurity, get a table while you still can. 

Wellington

Traditionally renowned for artisanal foods – all manner of preserves and dried foodstuffs, this agricultural town is also home to the nursery of the South African wine region. Almost 90% of all rootstock is grown here. There is a hidden corner of the appellation just below the Bains Kloof Pass that has to be one of the most beautiful wine meanders imaginable. Basing oneself at Grand Dédale Country Manor and exploring the handful of wineries along the river course is pure magic. Don’t forget the other gems – visit Bosman Family Winery & Druk My Niet on your way home.

The swartland

A revolutionary, transformative region…nothing less. Winemakers are pushing the envelope making all manner of single varietal and blended wines from Rhone-style varietals. Spending time with winemakers is a highlight. They are farmers and guardians of land and vines first, and this makes everything more real, more humble. Among my favorites are the wines from David & Nadia, Sadie and Porseleinberg, a velvet Syrah from Callie Louw. I always base myself at Bartholomeusklip, a stately Victorian era homestead with staggeringly good food, and  guests get to live every aspect of life that a 4,000-acre working farm offers – wheat harvesting, sheep shearing and cookery classes!

Hemel en Aarde

A contender for the most beautiful valley in the Cape Winelands, and that is saying something. The superstar here, and my favorite winemaker, is Chris Alheit. He has mastered Chenin Blanc in a variety of styles from decades old bush vines from obscure areas like the Skurfberg & Paardeberg, in some instances blending with Semillon. He is truly the thinking man’s winemaker. The valley has another 8 wines in close proximity…go on try them all in one day! Having lunch at Mogg’s Country Cookhouse is to appreciate mother and daughter cooking at it’s best.

EliM

This is slow time, personified. The most southerly wine appellation in Africa and in my opinion, Sauvignon Blanc reigns supreme. A visit to Strandveld Winery is a must, as is Sijnn. Technically the latter is in Malgas, but it is ‘an unmissable’ — a cutting edge experimental vineyard making wines that are a pandora’s box of varietals.  Both Elim & Hemel en Aarde are best explored from Grootbos, a vast nature preserve, showcasing the Cape floral kingdom and overlooking Walker Bay, which is home to the best land-based whale watching in Africa.

In closing, I really think the takeaway for lovers of gastronomy and wine is that South Africa truly offers an unparalleled opportunity to enjoy multi-day, multi-appellation itineraries and no two wine experiences will be the same.

My selection:

Alheit Radio Lazarus &
Mountain Mokstok Block Chenins
Strandveld First Sighting
Groote Post Riesling
David & Nadia Grenache
Sijnn Red
Bosman Optenhorst Chenin
Druk My Niet Invictus (red blend)