This area of my beautiful country has very quickly become one of my favourite places on earth. It could be the fact that wine is available on tap at literally every corner or maybe it’s the fact that my lovely sister and her hubby live in this wonderful town but I think it also has something to do with the soul of the place… Not only is it absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful, the people are some of the most wonderful, down-to-earth, friendly, warm and welcoming people you are ever likely to meet! It truly is a very special place indeed!
We first encountered this amazing place in 2010 when we road tripped around the country for a month. On this occasion, we stayed at the beautiful Fraai Uitzicht wine farm which has a guest house attached to it and an award winning restaurant. We realised very quickly that we had stumbled upon a jewel within our own country!
My sister then moved to this area and got married here. Can you think of a more beautiful place for a wedding?
We now make a point to come to this valley every time we are home for a visit. I mean, this is your view in the morning!!
We took a drive to the top of a small “koppie” (hill) that has been set up for some great entertaining which boasts an enclosed boma, which includes a covered braai (BBQ) area, seating, hammocks and a deck. It was built by the farm owners and anyone living on the farm has access to it. We decided to go for some sundowners and all I can say is WOW!!! Well, look at the view for yourself!
Of course we had to take full advantage of the various wine farms while we were there and we indulged in wine tastings every day! Unlike wine farms in Cape Town, many of the wine tastings in this area are for free. We just passed through some of the wine farms and at others, we spent a good couple hours, tasting the different cultivars and partaking in some vertical tastings (this is when you taste the same cultivar just different vintages). If I am speaking gibberish, let me break it down for you…
Cultivar: This refers to the grape variety such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinotage etc. when you talk about the cultivar, you talk about the type of grape used to make the wine, hence the wine’s type.
Vintage: This refers to the year that the grapes were harvested hence the date on the bottle
So if you are doing a vertical tasting, you are trying the one type of wine (Merlot) but trying the different years (2012, 2013, 2014). Each year yields a different quality and quantity of crop which means each year the wine will taste slightly different.
Some of the wine farms we visited were:
Arabella Wines – My brother in law and I LOVE Chardonnay’s so it is always a given that we will taste at least one vintage of this but at this wine farm we also tasted the Shiraz Viognier Reserve and the Pink Panacea. I bought a bottle of the Pink Panacea and we all enjoyed it later that afternoon while watching the sunset.
Rietvallei Wine Estate – Here we tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz 2012 and the red muscadet which, might I say, was sublime. We bought a bottle of the Shiraz at the wine farm but we enjoyed a few bottles of their Merlot (very easy drinking, simple and delicious) which we bought in town.
Springfield Estate – We love this wine estate and the staff are wonderfully friendly. The last time we were here, Emily was just a baby but it is a wine estate that we keep coming back to. My Aunt adores the “Life from Stone” Sauvignon Blanc so we picked up a bottle of that for her while we were there. We also bought a bottle of the “Whole Berry” Cabernet Sauvignon and brought that back to London with us. This will be enjoyed on a summers evening in our garden. We were also privileged enough to try the Méthode Ancienne Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is produced from grapes harvested from some of their oldest vines. It is aged in barrels for 2 years and then a further 4 years in the bottle before release. It is simply out of this world!! You MUST try it!.
Graham Beck Wines and Esona Boutique Wines deserve blog posts of their own as we spent more time at each of these estates. I won’t go into these wine farms now but further posts on each of these wine farms will be up on the blog soon.
My tips on wine tasting:
–You do not need to be a wine expert to enjoy wine tasting. If your sense of smell and taste are in good nick, you will enjoy the experience just as much as anyone else.
–Enjoy responsibly. Use the spittoons provided and make sure you keep up with your water. Know your limits…
–Try the different cultivars, even the ones you think you don’t like. I never thought I was a Chardonnay person until I did a number of tastings.
–Let the staff guide you on the wine, they have the knowledge and experience.
–Don’t be afraid to politely say you are not that keen on a particular wine. Everyone’s palette is different and this feedback will give them the information they need to move you onto a wine that is more suited to you.
–Ask questions. Every wine farm has a special story and they are always eager to tell it.
I feel I have not even scratched the surface of what this amazing valley has to offer! There is more to the valley than wine but actually, wine is what ties the community together, it is their passion!
So much to see, so much to do and so much wine to sample!! With the beautiful surroundings, what more could you ask for, really??!!