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South Africa 2013. Part Two

Text and Photographs © 2013 Tom Cannavan

This feature is in three parts. This is part two.

Part 1 - Setting the scene for 2013 and Swartland
Part 2 - Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek, Tulbagh and Somerset West
Part 3 - Constantia, Cape Point, Elgin and Walker Bay.

Stellenbosch

map The thriving university town of Stellenbosch is the thumping heart of the Cape winelands. All around it are wine roads leading to some of South Africa's most ancient and iconic estates: Kanonkop, Rustenberg, Nederburg. It is also home to the industry's giants, particularly Distell, the brewing, winemaking and distilling business that dwarfs the rest of the industry, and KWV, once a powerhouse of the industry but now having to change and adapt.

But any notion that Stellenbosch is resting on its laurels is blown away by the realities on the ground: pace-setting, artisan, organic wineries like the much admired Reyneke or big, brash and super-confident big money start-ups like Delaire-Graff show that not only is this most traditional of wine regions moving with the times, but that it is doing so with confidence. And why not? It is home to some fabulous old-vine material and some of the Cape's most interesting winemakers.

Included in this section is Waterkloof, the only estate I visited in nearby Somerset West.

Stellenbosch producers and wines

Keermont Vineyards

Along with the de Trafford and Tamberskloof wineries, Keermont represents the Blaauwklippen Valley.

5 wines tasted

De Trafford Wines

The original Blaauwklippen farm still produces some of the Cape's most thoughtfully conceived wines.

6 wines tasted

Tamboerskloof

Direct descendent of a 17th century Cape wine farmer, Gerard de Villiers has set up his 'small and precious' estate.

5 wines tasted

Boschendal

The Boschendal, Bellingham and Douglas Green labels come together under the DGB group's banner.

24 wines tasted

Haskell Vineyards

Single vineyards and expressing the different soils and plots drives the thinking of this premium label.

6 wines tasted

Neetlingshof

Founded in 1705, now part of the giant Distell group's 'Cape Legends' portfolio of premium estates.

10 wines tasted

Cape Legends

A tasting of wines from four estates: Fleur du Cap, Lomond, Plaisir de Merle and Durbanville Hills.

16 wines tasted

Reyneke

The biodynamic vineyards of Reyneke represent a new direction for the traditional Stellenbosch region.

6 wines tasted

Mulderbosch

Confused? The Mulderbosch winery and vineyards have moved lock, stock and barrel under new ownership.

12 wines tasted

Delaire-Graff

Money is no object in this luxury winery and resort owned by British jeweller Laurence Graff.

5 wines tasted

Villiera

Villiera also run one of the most socially and environmentally responsible farms in the Cape.

10 wines tasted

Waterkloof

Nearby Somerset West is home to the ground-breaking new biodynamic estate owned by Paul Boutinot.

15 wines tasted

Tulbagh, Paarl & Franschhoek

map Though these three regions do not lie together geographically, on this trip I had only one or two visits in each so they are grouped together for convenience, all sitting north of Stellenbosch and Somerset West.

Paarl is part of the Cape's historical wine route, the vineyards sitting in the shade of the Drakenstein mountains. The first wine 'brand' in Paarl was the giant KWV, a cooperative cellar set up in 1918, though the nearby Nederburg estate is perhaps the best known Paarl name, famed for its annual charity auction. Both producers are included in my visit. A 30 minute drive north along the R45, through impossibly beautiful countryside brings you to the Franschhoek Valley (though a slightly longer route over the Franschhoek Pass is even more spectacular). Founded by Huguenot French settlers, Franschhoek still wears its Francophile traditions with pride in the names of streets, restaurants and some wineries. And indeed it is gastro-tourism that brings many people to this pretty town with its myriad fine dining and gourmet shopping opportunities. This is a world removed from Tulbagh, 90 kilometres north-east of Franschhoek. Nestled in the Tulbagh basin and almost entirely enclosed by mountains, Tulbagh is, and feels, remote. But despite its hot inland climate, cool air is funnelled through the mouth of the basin to give excellent growing conditions.

The producers and wines

Fable Wines, Tulbagh

Once known as Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards, the same winemaking team are charged with new responsibilities.

6 wines tasted

Nederburg, Paarl

The beautiful and historic Nederburg estate makes huge volumes, but the upper tier wines are excellent.

11 wines tasted

Solms-Delta, Franschhoek

Young winemaker Hagen Viljoen is newly in charge at this interesting and diverse empowerment estate.

7 wines tasted

KWV, Paarl

This important Paarl cooperative has struggled to find its feet in the modern era, but signs are hopeful.

12 wines tasted


Part 1 -
Setting the scene for 2013 and Swartland

Part 3 - Constantia, Cape Point, Elgin and Walker Bay.