We hear a lot of stories from our customers after they return from holidays abroad – often from a visit to a winemaking country where they’ve done what we love to do: visit a winery and taste something straight from the barrel! We love hearing them. The whole magic of wine is where it comes from, and nothing beats going there yourself. Occasionally, we get to go too. A few years back I was lucky enough to visit South Africa with Rustenberg, one of our favourite South African estates, hosted by winemaker Murray Barlow and his family.
South Africa is an utterly captivating country, raw, vibrant, devastatingly beautiful, and well worth visiting. The main winemaking areas are within easy reach of Cape Town, making it a great place to start an adventure in South African wine. Many wineries also boast restaurants and have accommodation for guests, so if you’re planning a tour, there are many great options to choose from.
While you’re in Cape Town, if you find yourself in need of great food and wine, I heartily recommend a visit to Den Anker. (http://www.denanker.co.za/) It’s a Flemish Restaurant and bar down by the waterfront and is a brilliant place for a relaxing lunch, a Belgian ale – or indeed dinner. The best wine shop in town is Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar (http://www.carolineswine.com/
So, without further ado, here’s a quick rundown of vineyards I would recommend you visit. I’d suggest getting in touch in advance with all of them as a matter of course, but many you can just call in on. I find it’s best to let them know you’re coming as it means they can show you a bit more!
If you could only visit one estate, I’d make it Rustenberg (Stellenbosch, http://www.rustenberg.co.za/) – family owned and operated by the Barlow family, and resting on the side of the Simonsberg Nature Reserve. Rustenberg Estate produces some of my favourite South African wines, and the estate is home to beautifully tended gardens which are worth the visit by themselves. My picks to try (and buy) are their Estate Chardonnay, Buzzard Kloof Syrah, and their John X Merriman (Bordeaux varietal blend). If you have a sweet tooth, their Straw Wine is fresh, candied and utterly sublime. Look out for the Estate’s cat, who lost her tail but none of her sass, and if you bump in to Murray Barlow, tell him Ruari from Majestic says hello.
De Morgenzon (Stellenbosch, http://www.demorgenzon.co.za/) – the estate takes its name from the Dutch for Morning Sun, and when you see the estate you’ll get an idea why – some of the most stunning views of Stellenbosch and the Cape can be had from here. De Morgenzon produce – for my money – the benchmark by which all South African Chenin Blanc should be judged in their Reserve Chenin Blanc. They’re also quite quirky in that they play music to their vines with speakers running through their estate vineyards – they’re serious about it, but not without a sense of humour either. Highly recommended.
Close to DMZ is Jordan Wine Estate (Stellenbosch, http://www.jordanwines.com/)
Kanonkop (Stellenbosch, http://www.kanonkop.co.za/) – if you want Pinotage, there is no-one better than Kanonkop. They’ve made it their mission to do the grape properly, and you can forget the slightly burned, medium bodied wines you find in most UK bars. This is serious Pinotage for the long haul. Also good Cabernet Sauvignon – they specialise in red.
A bit further in towards the Hottentots is Franschoek. Before you reach the town, for the slickest of slick visits, you shouldn’t miss out on Boschendal (Franschoek, http://www.boschendal.com/) – the wines are good, the experience breathtaking. You can even book to stay in the recently renovated Rhodes Cottage – it sits beneath the striking Simonsberg.
You can enjoy some lovely walks at La Motte (Franschoek, http://www.la-motte.com/) before you get stuck in to the wines. It’s interesting as it’s one of the few estates to have more German than Dutch heritage in ZA, but the winemaking is definitely styled after the French – echoes of Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône.
A final wine tip is for Boekenhoutskloof in Franschoek. (Franshoek, http://www.boekenhoutskloof.
After your visit to Boekenhoutskloof, do not miss Reubens (http://reubens.co.za/) for some top quality food and wine from one of the region’s best chefs.
And if you fancy a taster before you go, why not join us in your local Majestic this weekend for our free South African wine tasting? You can find your local Majestic here.