As I was born in the most beautiful city in the world, Cape Town, I am totally biased writing this blog, but thought I would share some of the history of the South African wine trade and the joys of visiting the ‘Wine Farms’.
The South African wine industry was established back in the 17th Century when Jan van Riebeeck was the first European settler working for the Dutch East India Company. Cape Town was ‘discovered’ and made a supply station for the many European travellers to the Far East and hence the first vines were planted over 300 years ago.
It’s is known as the ‘newest’ of the Old World wines regions. A region that is classified as Mediterranean – a long, dry, warm season, helped by a cooling coastal climate. The only other Mediterranean climates in the world (apart from the Mediterranean!) are South Australia and California.
During the Apartheid era, there were so many rules and regulations set up by the governing body – KWV. Most grapes grown were put towards brandy production. A relaxation in the regulations have allowed wine makers to revert to the wine making ‘hey-day’ of the 18th century when the sweet wines of Constantia were world renowned. Varietals that have been crossed and unique grapes have been created, most famously is Pinotage – a cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir.
The wine growing regions all have different climate zones, and therefore different wine styles. Close to Cape Town city and the coast, you have the historical town of Stellenbosch which produces an array of warmer climate wines. The French settled town further in land of Franschhoek sees more cooler climate wines grown, as well as newer coastal regions to the east of Elgin and Hemel-en-Arde.
North out of Cape Town you have the hotter regions of Paarl and Robertson, which really show off the hotter climate grapes of Pinotage and Chenin Blanc.
Constantia is a wine region within the city limits and therefore takes advantage of its affluent local customers. All vineyards in South Africa are known as ‘Wine Farms’, and most will charge for a tasting – however the R50 charge per head equates to about £3! Most farms also have delicatessens, take advantage of the stunning vistas and offer picnics, or have world-renowned restaurants onsite – La Colombe being one of them.
On my last visit to SA, I had the pleasure of visiting a small family owned vineyard near Paarl called Mellasat. Their unique selling point was they were the only ones to make a White Pinotage (very interesting to taste!). They also have what is known as a ‘Cellar Cemetery’, where the owner is collecting old vintages that owners refuse to throw down the drain. In return for the vintage bottles, he offers bottles of his current wines, of which we list at One Great George Street the full-bodied ‘Revelation’; a Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo blend.
A stunning wine farm that opened 4 years ago, called Beau Constantia is located near the top of Constantia Nek. It is very much worth a visit, not only is the rosé the most ‘Provençal’ in style that I have found (and therefore loved!) they also house a stunning award-winning restaurant called the Chefs Warehouse, and have the most amazing loos with a view.
The only way to every finish off a visit to the Cape is going to Constantia Glen. On the warmer north-facing slopes of Constania Nek, Constantia Glen only grows the Bordeaux varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot for the reds and then Semillion and Sauvignon Blanc for the whites. They produce 2 high end red blends, the ‘Three’ and ‘Five’ of which we stock the ‘Three’, a wine that works PERFECTLY with our roast beef sirloin dish, or just as good by itself!