January 2018 – so it must be South Africa – part 2


Thursday 18 January – ROBERTSON AND BREEDEKLOOF (incl MCC focus)

We left the Jan Harmsgat Country House, somewhere on the R60 between Robertson and Ashton to join a senior Brewer (Abri and Jeanette’s father?) at Springfield estate, close to the Breede rver, just south east of Robertson.

The boundaries of the various estates were marked by fine floral (Cannas) hedges – and it was hard to concentrate on the early morning tasting while hundreds of fish leapt around in the lake behind us

It was a very busy day! We were soon at De Wetshof Estate – producers of some of SA’s finest Chardonnays made by MCC (Methode Cap Classique – ie traditional method sparklers). Here Heinrich Bothman treated us to an outstanding if speedy tasting – and a quick tour of the winery as the first pinot noir grapes were arriving.

The elegant tasting building (shown above) is a replica of Koopman’s De Wet House still on Strand Street in Cape Town – designed by Louis Michel Thibault in 1791.

On to Robertson Winery where we were treated to a tour of the blocks (vineyards) which shouted heat and drought – before joining Jacques Roux for a fantastic explanation of their whole wine operation and a delightful light lunch. Brilliant!

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The afternoon was as full-on! Next stop was Olifantsberg wines, on the slopes of the mountains to the north west of Worcester, where we met the extraordinary Elizma Visser, the winemaker, working in a barely air-conditioned portakabin in temperatures in the high 30s. She drove us to her relatively high altitude blocks where the arid land seemed impossibly hostile – and so dry…

We drove south, towards the Slanghoek/Rawsonville side of the Breedekloof valley to the Ou Stokery bistro to meet Marietta (Stofsberg), Ivy (Jason’s Hill), and Melody Botha of the Breedekloof Twelve, for a tasting and early supper.

First we met Heinrich from the marketing department of UniWines, and Taye, who explained Fairhills Estate’s educational and training projects for local workers and their families.  We then ate a protein-led supper of enormous barbrcued spare ribs while overlooking acres of vines, accompanied by wonderful examples of wines from this adventurous group of small growers from these historic, established farms.


We spent the night in Paarl’s Laborie, a beautiful former estate whose traditional white buildings form a square around the main house. David was ill in the night  but fully recovered by morning (digestion affected by absence of a gall bladder?)


Friday 19th January 2018 –  SWARTLAND

We drove through miles and miles of harvested wheatfields and bone-dry plains on a fiercely hot day. But first we met Charles Visser at his office at the Vinpro nursery in Paarl who provided fascinating, technical viticultural information.

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Nicola Tipping of Mullineux and Leeu at Roundstone, who was flying to New York that very afternoon, generously gave us two valuable hours as she introduced us to the particular challenges of Swartland (notice the Fynbos and the bush vines) and explained the explosion of its wineries and their rapid success: indeed a revolution

We moved on through the baking landscape with views stretching miles in every direction to the Lammershoek Winery for a tasting hosted by Schalk Opperman followed by an impromptu stop at Huis van Chevallerie on the Paardeberg to taste the old vine Chenin used by Christa von La Chevallerie in her sparkling Filia (MKK)

As the sun dipped we drove east from these vast plains of Swartland, dropping down to the Royal hotel for dinner on the verandah with Kara van Zyl of Riebeek Cellars,  the heat abating in the ever-present strong winds of Riebeek Kasteel.

Saturday 20th January 2018 – DURBANVILLE AND CONSTANTIA 

From Riebeek Kasteel we drove south east towards Cape Town to Durbanville (just north of Belleville)  with its fine views of Table mountain and the city. We enjoyed a tasting of the Durbanville Group’s wines with Angela Fourie, and in the company of one of the first Cape Masters of Wine, keen to explain all.



Ronnie then drove us round the eastern outskirts of Cape Town, past the airport and the vast Nyanga, Gugulethu and  Khayelitsha townships (home to 1.4 m people, a third of the population of Cape Town) and on to the coast for a glimpse of False Bay and the rolling turbulent seas, at the point where Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.


We arrived at Steenberg winery, just below the Silvermine dam, with spectacular views to the east over the Schaap Kraal, the wetland reserves and dunes to the sea.

Natalie hosted lunch and tasting in its stylish and busy contemporary restaurant

followed by a fantastic tasting at Klein Constantia hosted by Jacqueline Harris and Riandri Visser, the impressive new young wine maker at Cape Point Vineyards

Ronnie drove us back to the Oude Werf hotel in Stellenbosch where we were granted 36 hours rest. David immediately began working on the local culinary possibilities….

See January 2018 – so it must be South Africa – part 3 for the final instalment of David’s research tour of South African wines…


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