See eight top wineries to visit in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, recommended by Lonely Planet in their new book Wine Trails.
Stellenbosch and Franschhoek: Wineries to visit
The historic estate of Kanonkop is a 30-minute drive outside Cape Town, at the outskirts of Stellenbosch, South Africa’s unofficial capital of wine tourism. The entrance is marked, rather ominously, by a black cannon, and the surprise as you drive towards the huge cellars through the vineyards that line the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain is that there are as many traditional free-standing bush vines here as the more modern Guyot. In fact, Kanonkop oozes tradition. The estate tour takes you into a hall of open shallow concrete vats used for hand-punching and fermenting after harvest, which the winemaker, Abrie Beeslar, claims is the secret of the high quality of Kanonkop’s wine. The Pinotage range is intense and tannic, taken from minimum 50-year-old bush vines and aged in French oak – certainly not to be drunk young.
www.kanonkop.co.za; tel +27 21 884 4656; R44, Stellenbosch, 9am-5pm Mon-Fri, 9am-2pm Sat
Under the guidance of master oenologist Miles Mossop, Tokara is the modern face of Stellenbosch winemaking. The winery is a stunning example of futuristic architecture, filled with daring contemporary art and sculpture. Mossop creates distinctive wines from three different vineyards, reflecting personality and characteristics of not just Stellenbosch, but the emerging regions of Elgin and Hermanus. Sadly, Tokara’s signature Pinotage will not be available for some time, as the majority of their ancient vines were destroyed in a fire. Still, don’t miss the straw-coloured Director’s Reserve White, a vibrant blend of Sauvignon and Semillon, while the Syrah, hand-picked on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, is incredibly intense in flavour and colour. The tastings here are free, a rarity in Stellenbosch, and afterwards, be sure to try the fruity olive oil made on their 60-hectare (148-acre) olive farm. There is also a casual deli and gourmet restaurant with spectacular panoramic views as far as Cape Town’s mythic Table Mountain.
www.tokara.co.za; tel +27 21 808 5900; Helshoogte Rd, Stellenbosch; contact for tastings.
03 Allée Bleue
Like many large Cape wine estates, Allée Bleue is owned by foreign investors who have transformed a fruit farm by replacing some of the orchards with 25 hectares (61 acres) of vines. And their vigneron, Vanzyl Dutoit, a beefy rugby-playing enthusiast, could not look happier, as he has been given carte blanche to create a state-of-the-art cellar. Allée Bleue is the place to taste Pinotage, South Africa’s most famous grape – a cross of Burgundy’s Pinot Noir with Chateauneuf-du-Pape’s Cinsault, or Hermitage – created in 1925 in Stellenbosch. The vines at Allée Bleue are young, aged in steel vats to produce what Vanzyl calls ‘our quaffing wine’. But their flagship, full-bodied and tannic Pinotages are made from grapes that come by lorry from 50-year-old vines three hours away, a method Vanzyl mischievously describes as ‘terroir by truck’. He pinpoints three key characteristics for Pinotage: ‘colour – a very deep, ruby red; a very intense nose, plums and cherry; and then there is the tannin, which the old-school winemakers prefer supple, aged in large old wood barrels, while the newer generation like me prefer to emphasise by using small new barriques.’
www.alleebleue.co.za; tel +27 21 874 1021; Intersection R45 & R310, Groot Drakenstein; 9am-5pm Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm Sat & Sun
04 Solms Delta
Winemaker Hagen Viljoen is only 32, but has strong ideas about the wines he wants to produce, and this is certainly a winery with a vision, making a concrete attempt to empower the cooperative black workforce, which has been given one-third ownership. ‘The owners are trying to address the post-apartheid heritage,’ explains Hagen. ‘The history of this farm goes back four centuries and we have a museum, housed in the original 1740 wine cellar, illustrating life here when all farms and wineries were originally worked with slave labour. The idea is to come to terms with the issue of slavery rather than brush it under the carpet.’ The choice of wines to taste are daring blends of highly concentrated Rhone varietals such as Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre, made essentially from desiccated grapes. And the estate’s restaurant, Fyndraai, is perfect for a wine-pairing lunch, with dishes such as smoked ostrich and fynbos greens or bobotie stew with fresh mango. Chef Shaun Schoeman uses herbs from his native African heritage and Cape Malay spices.
www.solms-delta.co.za; tel +27 021 874 3937; Delta Rd, Groot Drakenstein; tours by appointment
Moreson is the boutique vineyard of Franschhoek mover-and-shaker Richard Friedman, who also owns the luxury Quartier Francais resort in town. But a visit to Moreson revolves around two men, the dapper Clayton Reabow, who became winemaker here aged 23, and grizzled Brit Neil Jewell, the mad master butcher and charcutier of the funky Bread&Wine bistro. It is a marriage made in heaven for wine pairings, with organic meats such as lamb prosciutto or the lethal Devil salami (25% chilli). You can begin with an aged blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, then light Pink Brut Rosé, and finish with Solitaire, blended from four different vintages. And Clayton has strong views on his barrel-aged Chardonnay: ‘We want to bring people back to a subtly oak-aged wine after the backlash of the ABC trend of Anything But Chardonnay’.
www.moreson.co.za; tel +27 21 876 3055; Happy Valley Rd, Franschhoek; book wine-tasting tours online
Glenwood is Franschhoek’s hidden secret, tucked away in a remote valley at the end of a dusty 7km dirt track. The domaine resembles the Big Country ranch, with vines dramatically enclosed by steep mountain slopes, a vast expanse once inhabited by herds of elephants. The genial cellar master, DB Burger, has been making award-winning wines here for 23 years, and suggests that ‘visitors give a call first, because our tasting is more personalised than most places, I hope. I try to be available, and there is not the feeling you are being told what to think by some student taster who is repeating comments that he has learnt by heart.’ He is most proud of his elegant Chardonnays, both the oaky Vigneron Selection and the crisper Chardonnay Unwooded, but the spicy Syrah is also excellent. Burger explains, ‘Franschhoek has metamorphosed into perhaps the leading Cape wine region. In my early days, grapes were just grown to be sold to the cooperative. Then winemakers started replanting vines that are only now growing into maturity, explaining the recent radical improvement in quality.’
www.glenwoodvineyards.co.za; tel +27 21 876 2044; Robertsvlei Rd, Franschhoek; 11am-4pm Mon-Fri, 11am-3pm Sat & Sun
Chamonix is a vast domaine encompassing a vineyard, farmland, and a sprawling game reserve with guest lodges surrounded by wildebeest, zebra and springboks. But the wines stand out, masterminded by dynamic young oenologist Gottfried Mocke, who is experimenting in the cellar, ageing in a mix of concrete tanks, steel vats, barriques, large casks and the latest trend, high-tech ‘concrete eggs’. The stars here are the Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and a supple Pinotage, made ‘passito’ style similar to Amarone. Gottfried feels that ‘Chenin was planted here in vast amounts 50 to 60 years ago, primarily to make brandy, but I think over the years the vine has mutated to our climatic conditions to become virtually an autochthonous South African grape.’ He is also trying to shift attitudes, promoting a luscious
2009 Sauvignon: ‘I’m holding back a small part of our production rather than sell everything quickly, so people can see how the wine develops rather than always drinking young.’
www.chamonix.co.za; tel +27 21 876 8426; Uitkyk St, Franschhoek; 9.30am-5pm daily
08 Haute Cabrière
It is worth driving out from the edge of Franschhoek and up the mountainside just for the views over the valley from the sunny wine-tasting terrace of Haute Cabrière. The estate was named in 1694 by one of the founding French Huguenot settlers, Pierre Jourdain, after his home town, when this area was still known as Olifantshoek – Elephant’s, rather than French, Corner. The present owners, Achim von Arnim and his son Takuan, are on a mission to produce highquality
Champagne-standard sparkling wines, and have planted Chardonnay on the sandstone soil on one side of the vineyard, and Pinot Noir on the stony clay terroir on the west-facing slopes. Yes, these are officially South African Methode Cap Classique, but it is difficult to tell them apart from a French Champagne in a blind tasting, especially over a meal in their restaurant, which overlooks the cathedral-like cellar.
www.cabriere.co.za; tel +27 21 876 8500; Lambrechts Rd, Franschhoek; 9am-5pm Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm Sat, 11am-4pm Sun
Reproduced with permission from Wine Trails, 1st edn. © 2015 Lonely Planet.
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