Thursday, January 12, 2012

South Africa Day 6 - Wineries

After being greeted by a shining and candidly blue sky upon awaking we immediately partook of breakfast by the pool. After a genteel meander through our morning collation of croissants and pastries with the accompaniment of various delicate preserves, quietly rounding off with a robust coffee, we at last felt able to face the world.

Yes, we were about to enter the refined and exquisite world of the winery.

The wine region is split into five wine routes, which all told, encompass two hundred wine and grape producers that lie within the boundaries of the Stellenbosh Wine of Origin classification. We opted for the Helderberg route which is situated to the south of Stellenbosh and who’s farthest reaches border the Somerset West shoreline.

We hadn’t chosen this route for any particular reason except, much like a ripe red grape, it was a nice plumy purple colour on the little map we had. This is quite appropriate I guess, as I tend to choose wines on how appealing their labels look.

Without blowing my own trumpet, I’m unabashed to say that this is not a method of classification I have come across elsewhere, so I was looking forward to imparting my knowledge upon the estate owners we were about to meet, who I’m in no doubt, would be surprised, yet inordinately grateful for an opportunity to expand their understanding of ‘the Grape’.

After a bit of a tour around, including stopping at an estate that had its very own menagerie of wildlife, I took the opportunity to snap a few zebras with the lens I had hired for the safari part of the trip. Little did I know that this was the first and last time I would use it.

Zebras looking. Yes looking.

We arrived at the Vergelegen Estate which dates from 1685 and, after periods of contraction and expansion under various owners, is now owned by Anglo-American and produces some of South Africa’s finest wines. After having a coffee in the Rose Terrace Bistro, which unsurprisingly overlooks a rose garden, we explored the grounds, including a quintet of magnificent Camphor trees, all with a vintage of three centuries and are reckoned with a natural life of another 150 – 200 years.

Vergelegen Estate House
Camphor Trees in all their 300 year old glory
Vergelegen Estate, erm outer building, i'm sure it was important in some way.
After that it was on to the Octagonal Garden, one of 17 gardens the estate boasts. This one was full of colour, and tourists, getting in the way of my pictures. Have they got nothing better to do I sighed to myself, as I trousered my novelty sunglasses for the 100th time so I could get a better view through my camera, all the while flapping my sweat marked Hawaiian shirt in an effort to generate a small breeze under this damnably hot sunshine. Who knew 100% polyester would be so uncomfortable in such conditions? I imagine for similar reasons the socks, in my under appreciated and much misunderstood sock and sandal combo, weren't working as I’d hoped for either, maybe I should have worn white instead of black.

Octagonal Garden looking towards the house
Octagonal Garden flower vine type things
Looking from the Octagonal Garden towards the mountains
After popping into the Rose Terrace Bistro, and being welcomed back like old friends, for lunch, we carried on our way around the wine routes and stopped at Boschendal Estate one of the oldest in South Africa, for a few photos of its picturesque Cape Dutch manor house.

Boschendal Estate 
After that is was a quick drive back in Stellenbosh for a coffee and, if my memory serves me correctly, a piece of rather good cheesecake, while waiting for the evening light to emerge. Before long we were visiting such winerific gems as Hidden Valley and Uva Mira all of which were situated in some of the most striking locations to sip at a fermented grape beverage I have ever seen.

Mountain ranges and vineyards in the early evening light
Comely pines of the Neethlingshof Estate 
After getting a few snaps of the avenue of comely pine trees that lead the way to the Neethlingshof Estate we headed back to the hotel. Later on availing ourselves of a local restaurant where I had the most delicious warthog burger I believe I have ever had. It may have been the only one I’ve ever had, in fact it is without doubt the only one I've ever had, but that is not for one moment to negate its deliciousness. It’s safe to say I shall never look at a warthog in the quite the same way again, usually they are viewed quite unfairly with disdain purely because of their unpleasant looks, well not by me that's for sure.

I’ll be wishing it was dead, in a bun and on my plate.

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