Bespoke tour operating company Eye See Africa, invited me to a take a look at their recently launched ‘Sommelier Onboard Wine Tours’.
Find the article as first published here, and for your convenience as below.
The South African Winelands are a destination in their own right and no visit to the Western Cape would be complete without a slow-paced exploration of a few select estates.
Traditionally Stellenbosch and Franschhoek have held court with their historic vineyards and stately Cape Dutch homesteads, but areas such as the Hemel en Aarde Valley, and lesser-known Wellington and Helderberg routes, should not be overlooked in your pursuit of award-winning wines.
About Lara Jordaan
Born in Namibia, Lara discovered her love for wine while studying in Stellenbosch, going on to start her career in the wine industry in 2002. From there she gained experience at various top wine farms, including Blaauwklippen, Neil Ellis, Rust & Vrede and Delaire, before joining Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar, a highly reputed boutique Wine Store in Cape Town in 2007.
Lara, now a Sommelier with extensive experience, divides her time between La Mouette Restaurant where she oversees all wine and beverage selections, and La Colombe Restaurant where she assists with their wine lists and pairings. La Colombe was recently voted the country’s second best restaurant in the Eat Out Awards 2016.
Lara is the perfect match for Eye See Africa, who consistently strives to create unique and memorable moments for clients wanting to experience Africa on a more personal level. With Lara’s exceptional knowledge of the industry, her connections with various wine farms and her love for people, she takes wine enthusiasts on a personalised journey into the Cape Winelands, matching their interest and varietal preferences to the correct wine farm, where they will meet the winemakers or owners and be given an in depth understanding of the story of that vine.
These are Lara’s choices and where she recommends you visit to learn from the guardians of the land about the characteristics of the location, while you taste their finest wines and are mentored in the unique style and commitment of the winemakers.
The words Constantia are synonymous with Cape Town and her rich history of wine production, and Klein Constantia dates back as far as 1685 when the Governor of the Cape Simon van der Stel established the land.
But it was Hendrik Cloete who bought the homestead in 1778 and brought fame to the name with an unfortified wine made from a blend of mostly Muscat de Frontignan, Pontac, red and white Muscadel and a little Chenin Blanc. It became a favorite of European kings and emperors, and Napoleon is said to have requested it from his exile on St Helena Island. It was remarkable for a young country to produce a famous wine like Constantia in such a short space of time, bringing credibility to the craft and terroir found at the tip of Africa.
Often described as one of the world’s most beautiful wine estates, Klein Constanta is set amidst ancient trees on the upper foothills of the Constantiaberg, with views across False Bay, the perfect location for cool climate wines.
In May 2011 businessmen Zdenek Bakala and Charles Harman bought the estate and today as custodians of this historic farm have talented Winemaker Matthew Day and Viticulturis Craig Harris responsible for the immaculate care of the land and beautiful range of wines still upholding the name’s flawless reputation for quality. As they say – ‘We strive to use simple winemaking techniques to produce wines of high quality that express elements of elegance, minerality and balance.’ Which is exactly what they are doing.
Of course, no visit would be complete with a taste – or purchase, of Vin de Constance.
Where: Klein Constantia Road, Cape Town
Lara’s Recommendation: Vin de Constance Natural Sweet
Incredible views greet you at Waterkloof Wine Farm, which is perfectly perched on the slopes of the Schaapenberg just outside Somerset West with a cool sea breeze drifting over the vineyards. This is where owner Paul Boutinot found what he was looking for in 1993, after searching for years, and where he is living out his dream to produce truly fine wine with a defining sense of origin.
Waterkloof winemaker Nadia Barnard harnesses the qualities of the unique terroir and produces honest wines that have a truly defining sense of origin. Fortunate enough to have a vineyard capable of producing naturally balanced grapes, imbued with their own character and sense of place.
‘To respectfully transmit this character and balance into the bottle, we believe it makes sense to turn those grapes into wine with minimal intervention and maximum care. We monitor, we do not dictate.’
With this in mind, all fruit is handpicked and hand sorted, the red and white grapes are treated differently, both with an equally natural approach.
The estate is proudly committed to biodynamic farming principles and in partnership with Onderkloof and Journey’s End estates, offers Walks for Wine, a beautiful hiking trail with tastings.
Try their fine dining restaurant, headed up by charismatic French chef Gregory Czarnecki, who is there purely to indulge your culinary pleasures, further enhanced by the European style homegrown wine list.
Where: Sir Lowry’s Pass Road, Somerset West
Lara’s recommendation: Mourvèdre Rose.
One of the most recognised of the Stellenbosch vineyards, Warwick Estate is a family-owned and run winery that has been nurtured by the Ratcliffe family since Stan bought it in 1964. Together with his wife Norma they soon realised the potential of the extraordinary property and began planting it to vine soon thereafter.
Norma became increasingly interested in the making of wine and a cellar was added as she began producing her own handcrafted wines using the Warwick grapes. A natural talent, her first Warwick Cabernet Sauvignon was released in 1984, and the Warwick Trilogy two years later, a Bordeaux style blend which has since become a flagship of the South African Wine Industry.
Now under the realm of 3rd generation Michael Ratcliffe, Warwick has consistently built on that foundation and continues to delight and impress with its annual releases. Today produced under the watchful eye of winemaker Nic Van Aarde and winegrower Ronald Spies who says – ‘The quality of our grapes has always been the backbone of Warwick’s reputation for excellence. Without great grapes we can never produce great wines.’
Having implemented an environmentally friendly approach Warwwick refrains from using pre-emergent herbicides in the vineyards. They spray once annually and mow twice a year, opting rather to concentrate on spot treatments in the vineyards. This careful approach can be tasted in the final product.
While there listen the beautiful legend of the Warwick Wedding Cup, found proudly depicted on their labels. It revolves around a beautiful Princess and her love for a young ambitious Silversmith, adding romance to the masterpiece. Enjoy lunch, wine adventures and picnics.
Where: R44 between Stellenbsoch and Klapmuts
Lara’s recommendation: Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon
Travel into the rather undiscovered Hemel-en-Aarde valley in the Overberg, where high up on a ridge and at the end of a long dirt road, is a piece of paradise that combines the rich gifts of nature and unique terroir. Here the dedicated team of Creation has worked tirelessly to create their award winning wines. In combining the rich gifts of nature and their unique soil properties with the considerable skills of a dedicated team.
When in 2002 Jean-Claude and Carolyn Martin took up the challenge of establishing a winery in a remote corner of the Walker Bay Wine Region they did so with the courage of their conviction. The 40 hectares of undulating land on the lofty Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge had never been planted to vines, but recognising the potential they set out with tenacity and determination to transform it into a model wine farm.
No easy feat, but then the Swiss-born JC and South African-born Carolyn née Finlayson, both come from wine pioneering stock spanning at least three generations and two continents and they could not be deterred. Since they have established a sought after destination with wines of great distinction and achievement, where their generosity of spirit is tasted in the results.
The winemaking team places great emphasis on working in symbiosis with Mother Nature, their sustainability and eco-practices are admirable, their philosophy and gentle considered approach to the land, admirable. There are owl posts in the vineyards and you may even spot a friendly fly-catcher chameleon living in one of the orchards in the restaurant. Creation is one of only nine wineries in South Africa to have received the coveted EnviroWines accreditation, something they pride themselves in.
Enjoy a food and wine pairing and be introduced to the subtle secrets of flavour and texture and how the inherent qualities of wine and food can combine to create the ultimate taste sensation. To demonstrate the huge impact that food and wine has on each other, a delicious array of canapés, each specially prepared by Creation’s talented chefs to match a specific wine, is on offer.
It’s easy to understand why this combined with the relaxed elegance and ambience of Creation draws people back to try the varied offerings. Oh, and the views of course.
Where: Hemel and Aarde Road, outside Hermanus
Lara’s recommendation: Art Chardonnay
L’Ormarins, established in 1684, is the primary estate in the Anthonij Rupert group and is situated in the Franschhoek area. Known for its combination of low-lying land and moderate to steep slopes that allow a variance to seep into the production and flavor, the vineyards are mainly planted on the slopes of the Groot Drakenstein Mountains where the granite soils have for decades produced robust, expressive wines.
Anthonij Rupert Wyne was founded on this farm and originally owned by the late Anthonij Rupert, with his successor and brother Johann Rupert taking over the property in 2003. It was Johann who constructed a state-of-the-art winemaking facility here, catapulting the farm into a prestigious wine estate and the beginnings of what is now a sprawling enterprise.
The company’s focus has always been on terroir specific wines, which has led to the brand being made up of an impressive portfolio of farms representing the best in grape producing locations. In the collective portfolio is L’Ormarins in Franschhoek, Rooderust in Darling, Riebeeksrivier in the Swartland and Altima in isolated Elandskloof. Individually each site offers specific growing conditions, allowing Anthonij Rupert Wyne to honour the requirements of their different wines.
The L’Ormarins Estate houses the impressive Terra del Capo machinery, gravity-fed cellars and a mechanical flywheel, the only one of its kind on the continent. Together with a team of skilled winemakers, this is where their award-winning wines are produced. The precision and sense of detail is carried on to two exquisite tasting rooms located on the estate, each one dedicated to one of the popular wine ranges.
Allow enough time to take a tour by tram around the estate, to enjoy the wine tastings that are presented in flights, visit the rose garden and spend time in the Franschhoek Motor Museum, home to over 200 cars. To continue with the decadence, you may even consider staying for high tea overlooking the Franschhoek Valley.
Where: On the R45 between Franschhoek and Paarl
Lara’s recommendation: Optima Bordeaux Blend
Since 1707, the Bosman family has believed in respecting the land and the people that farm it.
Found on a large farm outside Wellington, the rich history of Bosman Family Vineyards is a testament to the family’s commitment to people, the land, and of course, the art of wine-making.
Lelienfontein, home of Bosman Family Vineyards was originally issued to French Huguenot Philip de Royan in 1699. The first generation of Bosman’s arrived on the farm in 1798 and have since played a central role in community development and social upliftment in the area, living by the motto on the family crest – ‘faith, hope and love.’
In 2007, 8th generation Petrus Bosman, returned to the long-held family dream and released the first wines from their newly renovated 260-year-old cellar. Today, the descendants of Hermanus Bosman are proud custodians of both his land and his legacy, devoted to responsible, handcrafted winemaking with a strong emphasis on Fair Trade and were recently recognised for their ethical business practices, emerging as winners of the coveted ‘Ethical Company of the year’ award at the Drinks Business Green Awards in London.
This brings home the fact that the Bosman family is committed to more than just wine. The relationship between the family and their team is evident in the fact that many of the 260 full-time workers on the estate are 5th generation who have as deep a passion for winemaking as the Bosmans themselves, and are now co-owners of the 430ha of prime farming land.
Joining the strong family team is accomplished wine maker Corlea Fourie, who has added her craft and passion to further defining their success with her collection of beautiful wines and Method Cap Classique. A visit to the farm includes a cellar tour, the option of learning more about the vine nursery and a tasting of their range. Do enjoy a walk around the manicured lawns and remember to appreciate the added flavor that working with love and passion, has brought to this much loved brand.
Where: Bovlei Valley, Wellington
Lara’s Recommendation: Pinot Noir
Eye See Africa is a boutique adventure travel company that designs bespoke and unique travel experiences to Southern and Eastern Africa including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania and the Indian Ocean Islands including Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, Maldives and Reunion Island. For more information or to book your dream holiday, see www.eyeseeafrica.net and contact email@example.com
Read more of my Freelance Writing work here. All above pics supplied.