My recent trip to the Western Cape region of South was a fun trip that did not only allow me to experience harvesting of grapes and the winemaking process, but also one that took me to various wine regions in the country. South Africa’s vineyards are mostly situated in the Western Cape near the coast. Currently around 98 597 hectares of vines producing wine grapes are under cultivation over an area some 800 km in length. Under the auspices of the Wine of Origin Scheme, production zones in the Cape winelands are divided into officially demarcated regions, districts and wards. The South African winelands encompass 27 diverse districts and some 70 smaller wards in total. We managed to visit several Wine of Origin production areas; each offering interesting mixes in soil, weather, grape varieties and ultimately unique wines! The various regions produce characteristic wines and I took it all in, together with my colleagues from Ghana!!! DURBANVILLE The vineyards of Durbanville lie very close to Cape Town and border on the northern suburbs. Deep soils, cooling sea breezes, nighttime mists and close proximity to the ocean are beneficial factors when it comes to the quality of the grapes. Here, we visited Durbanville Hills’ winery where we tasted their iconic Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinotage in the Rhinofields and Durbanville Hills ranges.
The high-lying cool-climate Elgin district was traditionally an apple-growing region but the region now produces award-winning wine, showing exceptional fruit and elegance, with Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Shiraz doing particularly well in this later-ripening, cooler terroir. Paul Cluver hosted us to a group tasting which included other farms such as Shannon Wines, Oak Valley, Iona and Richard Kershaw. FRANSCHHOEK The district of Franschheok has retained its distinct French Huguenot character. The fertile Franschhoek Wine Valley is home to some of South Africa’s noble cultivars and classic styles. These range from superb whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Chenin Blanc, to the full-bodied reds of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot. The area also produces some of the country’s extraordinary Méthode Cap Classiques. We visited Solms-Delta, a wine estate steeped in history; where the experience was not just about wine. The South African roots of world-renowned neuroscientist Professor Mark Solms brought him back home in 2002 to revitalize the historic Delta wine estate, which has reshaped the Cape winemaking traditions in the process. The estate has tackled the social realities of South African agriculture; first establishing a trust that benefits the estate’s historically disadvantaged residents and employees.
The estate gave the trust an equal (one third) equity stake in Solms-Delta. From the profits, the farm residents enjoy new, refurbished and comfortable homes, and social programs that have greatly improved their health, education and general quality of life. The estate’s Museum van de Caab, which houses a treasury of artifacts unearthed at the estate, is a living testament to all who lived and worked there over the centuries. Solms-Delta is also supporting a musical heritage program – Music van de Caab – that preserves and celebrates the musical traditions of the Cape winelands. Our quick tour at the museum and wine tasting was proof that employees appreciate the module adopted on the estate. We later had a Franschheok group tasting at Holden Manz Wine Estate with Babylonstoren Wine and Rickety Bridge Winery PAARL The Paarl Wine Route, renowned for its rich, full-bodied, spicy red and crisp white wines, is the second oldest in the country. The area is best known for the quality of its Shiraz. Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinotage, Viognier and Mourvedre are increasingly well regarded in the region. In Paarl, we visited Laborie Wine Estate for wine tasting. Nestled in the heart of the Paarl Mountains, this historic, original French Huguenot wine farm, offers visitors an unforgettable experience. Laborie produces some of the best Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wines, an array of award-winning wines, an estate brandy and a unique fortified Pinotage dessert wine. ROBERTSON Dubbed the ‘valley of vines and roses’, the Robertson district’s lime-rich soils make the area suitable for winegrowing. Robertson is renowned for the quality of its wines and while traditionally considered white wine territory and known mainly for its Chardonnays and more recently for the quality of its Sauvignon Blanc, it is also the source of some of the Cape’s finest red wines, particularly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. While in Robertson, I did not only get to experience life on the farm during harvest, but also got to taste the wonderful wines from Le Grand Chasseur Wine Estate and Weltevrede Estate. We also visited Ashton Winery in the village of Ashton. Our visit to Weltevrede Wine Estate was particularly exciting. During Cape Wine 2015, we met the visionary Philip Jonker, owner and cellar master, who left an impression on me with his amazingly good heart. Weltevrede is a 4th generation family-owned winery. Celebrating more than 100 years of family farming, Weltevrede has been in the Jonker family since 1912. The estate’s wine label that bears the names of every worker on the farm is a human story that shows that indeed everyone on the estate is one big family! STELLENBOSCH The historical town of Stellenbosch boasts a winemaking tradition, which stretches back to the end of the 17th-century. The mountainous terrain, good rainfall, deep well-drained soils and diversity of terroirs make this a sought-after viticultural area. In Stellenbosch, we visited the popular House of JC Le Roux, the first and leading cellar dedicated entirely to the art of making sparkling wine in South Africa, is acclaimed for its passion, craftsmanship and expertise in making the finest vintage Methode Cap, and fun loving sparkling wines to suit every palate.
We experienced the way the bubblies are made and as well tasted the famous line including JC Le Roux La Chanson, JC Le Roux Pinot Noir Rosé 2009, JC Le Roux MCC Brut, JC Le Roux La Valleé , JC Le Roux La Vallee Rose Demi-Sec and JC Le Roux Scintilla 2011.
Award-winning winemaker, Kevin Arnold hosted us for a tasting at the Waterford Wine Estate. We experienced Waterford’s flagship red wine, The Jem, which was released in October 2007. Waterford’s ambition is to make the best possible red wine from their homegrown vineyards. The style of The Jem is based on combining grape varieties to show hints of spice and earthiness on the nose. On the palate, the wine has a very refined tannin structure with an elegant finish that releases spice driven flavours. We also had a wine tasting, and farm and cellar tour at the award-winning wine estate and 5-star hotel, Asara Wine Estate. Apart from tasting the Iconic ‘Avalon’ wine, it was amazing to see a female winemaker in action with her group of female workers, as well. The core of Asara wine range come with minimal cellar handling, carefully chosen fruit, usually single varieties with the exception of the Cape Fusion blend of Pinotage, Malbec and Shiraz. Asara’s specialty collection sees a combination of quality fruit and innovative winemaking to produce premium wines. Often employing traditional European techniques adapted to South African conditions.
There was more Stellenbosch wine tasting from Accolade Wines at Flagstone Winery. Here, we tasted the The Kumala Reserve range of wines, which are all single varietal wines, with grapes sourced from the best quality vineyards in the Western Cape. They include Malbec, Shiraz and Chenin Blanc. We also enjoyed wine from the Kumala Zenith range including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz. Great South African wines…it all starts with a great harvest!!! Another interesting bottle of wine was the Kumala Intulo White – white semi-dry wine made from grapes Chenin Blanc and Colombard, with a rich flavor with hints of tropical fruits and a great refreshing, balanced taste. Also from Accolade’s selection of wines, we tasted the Fish Hoek wine, which focuses on the highest quality 100% single grape varieties, allowing the purity of taste to speak for itself. Its Fairtrade certification also provides wine lovers with a simple way to help overcome complex socio-economic and environmental issues by contributing to the improvement of working and living conditions for farming communities in the Western Cape. WELLINGTON Wellington, which supplies over 85% of the South African wine industry with cuttings, also boasts some 26 wine producers ranging from historical estates to boutique wineries. At Wellington, we visited Bosman Family Vineyards. The farm produces wines for the local and exports market, and is home to one of the most influential vine nurseries in Africa. With one of the pre-eminent vine nurseries in the southern hemisphere and 3 different growing regions from which to cultivate their blends, the Bosman Family Vineyards have unrivalled access, knowledge, and expertise when it comes to crafting their wines.
A strict selection process in the vineyard and the cellar means that only the top 5% of the total harvest is used for production. The estate is also known for making wine in a 260 year old cellar. The Bosman family’s original 18th century cellar was lovingly and carefully restored in 2006, preserving much of the original features of the cellar in the renovation. In 2008, a landmark joint venture between Bosman Family Vineyards and the Adama Workers Trust saw the formation of the biggest Black Economic Empowerment deal in the South African wine industry to date, with eligible workers receiving co-ownership of 430ha of farming land. Many of the 260 full-time workers on the estate are from 5th generation families who together own 26% of the business. While at Bosman, we tasted a range of Bosman wines including Bosman BoVallei Chenin Blanc, Bosman BoVallei Merlot, Bosman Adama White, Bosman Adama Red , Bosman Optenhorst Chenin Blanc, and Bosman Twyfeling Cinsaut . So the next time you pick up a bottle of South African wine, check out the region it comes from and appreciate its characteristics even better! Cheers!!!]]>
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