The Cape Winelands revisited

The tasting room at Muratie

When living in Cape Town or indeed anywhere in the Cape, one tends to take the Cape Winelands slightly for granted. We are extremely lucky to have a beautiful city with the country’s top estates literally in our back garden. This might actually be why so many locals don’t visit wine farms because, well they’re not very far away, yes we do intend to go one day, and its not like the estate is going anywhere. In the end, we tend to miss gems that were always just beyond the back door, we don’t venture very far beyond, and instead while our time at less exciting city restaurants and ventures, that incidentally, aren’t going anywhere either.

In my quest to impress my Australian man with what the Cape Winelands have to offer, we had criss-crossed half of the Cape Peninsula by now, and I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even know where many estates were, never mind which wines they specialized in. After trekking across the Breederiver, Elgin, Walker Bay, Hemel en Aarde, Stellenboch and Helderberg regions, we found some fabulous wines and farms that were always out there, I just never seemed to take any notice of them. On the other hand, quite a few are pretty crap too, and could be passed. Sorry guys. Harsh but fair, as a colleague of mine used to say. But hey, had we not gone swilling wine all about the Boland, we would never have been impressed by Muratie, Bouchard Finlayson or Paul Cluver. In fact Elgin has been voted the winner region thus far.

Kanonkop, Simonsig and Warwick changed my opinion regarding Pinotage, and they all  had  similar (although unspecific – cagey even?) answers as to why their Pinotage was so different from many other farms in the Cape. Apparently gentle handling without over – extraction and careful vinification in general of the grape from vine to tank/barrel seem to all play a part. We were confused, but it still made sense that by not just dumping tons of it at the winery and instead processing it with care, there would be a difference.  This more conscious approach to handling the varietal seems to create a better product – it really does come across as more impressive, and produces a smoother, more integrated wine with few to none of the characteristics that have created the Anything But Pinotage lobby. But that’s just my snooty opinion, for Pinotage lovers out there, there will always be the Pinotage On Tap Weekend. Mmm.

One day out and about,  lunch was at Terroir on the Kleine Zalze estate just outside Stellenbosch, and very superb it was. Beautiful setting, beautiful service, beautiful food. My very seasonal starter of white asparagus and a poached egg was finished way too quickly, and the lamb dish I had after was almost too pretty to eat, and damn tasty. Desserts are perhaps most impressive – perfectly executed and once again, I felt bad wrecking the dish!

Lamb main course at Terroir
Baked custard dessert at Terroir

Ken Forrester FMC accompanied most of our meal – what an incredible wine, the only problem was that at lunchtime a wine with an alcoholic content of 14% (and a Chenin too…) knocks you for a six at 2pm. We even forgot to taste the Kleine Zalze wines, which is sort of what we went there to do. Um, yeah.  It was a bit of a meander back to the city, to say the least.

Next up – the Swartland, I can’t wait to taste Eben Sadie’s wines!

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