Tasting at Hamilton Russell with Anthony Hamilton Russell
Landscape of L'Ormarins, Franschhoek, South Africa
Vineyards of Buitenverwachting
Tim opens a bottle for a picnic at Kirstenbosch Gardens
Lunch at De Wetshof
Penguins at the Boulders Penguin Reserve
South Africa Wine Tour
15 - 23 February 2014
The Cape is one of the most spectacular vineyard regions in the world. Our wine holiday in South Africa covers the best of the wine and some of the most beautiful sites. This year’s tour is an exciting new version of our long standing tour. We are still visiting many famous estates in the classic regions but are also exploring several new areas that have sprung to prominence over the past few years.
The Cape has a long tradition of wine production dating back to the Dutch settlers of 1652. When the British took over a new wealth was brought to the country and many of the gracious Cape-Dutch homesteads were built. It was hoped initially that the Cape would become “the vineyard of the Empire”. This happened to some extent, although quality table wine production didn’t catch on, Cape ‘Port’ and ‘Sherry’ became popular and ‘Constantia’ Muscat established a superb reputation.
Then came a downward spiral caused by the political situation, a partial boycott and bad publicity. At the same time European laws to protect names such as ‘Sherry’ came in and there was a surge in quality elsewhere in the New World. This led to a near total disappearance from international markets. Following the country’s ‘opening up’, exports and quality increased, and recently, soared to very highest levels.
We start our South Africa wine holiday in Cape Town where we stay on the lively waterfront. On the Victoria & Alfred wharf there are numerous restaurants, wine shops and even a brew-pub serving food. There are interesting shops and in-door markets to browse round too. Table Mountain, the Two Oceans Aquarium, a boat trip around the harbour and a visit to Robben Island or to Cape Point make it worthwhile to fly out a couple of days before the tour begins or stay on after!
On our first evening we visit Constantia for a comprehensive tasting at the superb estate of Buitenverwachting. The estate is renowned for its refined red wines, lively Sauvignon Blanc and its sweet Muscat desert wine.
We head north of Cape Town visiting first the cool climate Durbanville region that gets influence from both the Atlantic and Southern Oceans, this has turned out to be a very good spot for Merlot. Next we arrive in the exciting Swartland region with its Mediterranean climate where we stay for two nights. We look forward to visiting or meeting revolutionary, natural winemakers such as Lammershoek, Babylon’s Peak, Sadie and Badenhorst who are collectively perhaps the most exciting group of winemakers in South Africa today. We also visit the Allesveloren estate, who are doing interesting things here with Portuguese grape varieties.
Continuing east from Swartland, we taste in the Wellington wine region then cross the spectacular pass into the small Tulbagh region, which is almost enclosed by high mountains giving it a more continental climate of hot days and cool nights. We continue on to Worcester and Robertson. These were traditional ‘fortified’ regions but here we taste interesting exciting modern wines in Robertson with Excelsior and De Wetshof. Robertson was traditionally an average white wine region but it is now much better and increasingly known for Cabernet too. We stay in the small Victorian-era town of Montagu.
Down on the coast at Hermanus on Walker Bay we have a keynote visit and lunch with Hamilton Russell, pioneers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in South Africa and always one of the most enlightened of the Cape estates. Nearby the former orchards of Elgin are the latest cool climate quality hot spot. Here we visit one of the new star estate, Paul Cluver.
The Huguenot town of Franschhoek (literally ‘French Place’) is our next base. In Franschhoek we visit the Rupert family’s Antonji Rupert winery. The wines perform extremely well, in particular in the premium range. From Franschhoek we visit several estates in the nearby Stellenbosch wine region. Thelema Mountain has featured on every tour that we have taken to South Africa and we look forward to a private tasting of these sensational wines. Hopefully Gyles Webb the owner or Rudi the winemaker will join us, dependent on what’s happening with the harvest. We also enjoy an evening Snoek Braii (fish BBQ) with the masters of Pinotage, Kanonkop.
Annandale, owned by former Springbok forward Hempies du Toit, features for the fist time. This is a serious red wine specialist. Our last visit is to Jordon, one of the Cape’s outstanding quality estates who make some very good “Rhone-style” wines.
There will also be free time in the attractive University City of Stellenbosch, one of the best-preserved towns from the era of the Dutch East India Company who settled in the Cape in 1652. The town is famous for the Cape Dutch thatched and gabled buildings that line its streets. The tour ends with a visit to the magnificent famous botanical Kirstenbosch Gardens.
On this wine tour, unlike casual tourists in the wine lands, you receive personal welcomes from the wine-makers, great wine tastings and private invitations to lunch or dinner. The tour offers some fantastic scenery, fine food and glorious weather.
As well as being an up to the minute wine tour of an exciting wine country, it covers most of the Cape’s beautiful sites, a tour not to be missed! Read Laura’s blog from South Africa 2012 here.