* This article first appeared here in Khuluma Magazine
As autumn begins to grip the country, South Africa still boasts warmer weather than most other wine regions around the world during a similar season, so why now use the opportunity to tap into an outdoors Winelands experience. Travel writer Jared Ruttenberg shares with us two of his favourites:
1. Vineyard Drive at Klein Constantia
For 337 years the Constantia vineyards have proudly been heralded as Cape Town’s vineyards, and with good reason: not only are they the oldest in the country, but also the Southern Hemisphere – or the ‘New World’ in wine lingo. In 1685 Governor Simon van der Stel chose prime Constantia land for his homestead, and almost immediately planted vines.
Klein Constantia forms part of Simon van der Stel’s first farm, and the offers a unique way to explore the historic property. By appointment only, guests can leave the tasting room and participate in a scenic drive through the vineyards in an open-top Land Rover. The tour lasts around 45-60 minutes and allows guests to drink in the landscape; picture it as a wine safari set along the slopes of Table Mountain National Park.
A highlight is undeniably the tasting stop en route. You’ll be treated to something that very few get to experience – sitting on a private deck alongside one of the farm dams, drinking in both the wine and sweeping views down the valley, all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s hard to imagine you’re only a 20-minute from Cape Town itself.
The tours are available all year round are seasonally tailored around what’s happening in the vineyards. You’ll soon realise that Sauvignon Blanc is where Klein Constantia rests their hat – over 50% of the estate vineyards are Sauvignon Blanc – and intentionally so. 40 years ago Klein Constantia had the vision to create a unique and world-class Sauvignon Blanc.
Four decades later their dream is realised as they present a wine with a sense of place and unique style – plus there’s a fresh new look bottle – but still, the distinct world-class wine, steeped in history and crafted with care. The Estate offering is a must-try, featuring 42 different vineyard parcels, each handled and fermented separately to amplify their unique characteristics,
If you’re taking some of the Sauvignon Blanc home, which I’m sure you will, the estate recommends the following as worthy kitchen pairings for the wine: seafood salad with lime and lemon juice, baked goat’s-milk cheese in a walnut crust, Calamari with Garlic and Peas, or penne pasta with greens, Lemon Zest and Pecorino.
Insider’s tip: since Sauvignon Blanc is the word of the day, when you return to the tasting room why not try out the dedicated Sauvvie tasting – a themed tasting offering four variations of variety – including an older vintage. Having visited all ten estates in the famed Constantia Wine Route, this is without a doubt the best way to experience the magic up-close and personal. Tours cost R450 per person, are weather-dependant, and are best booked in advance online to avoid disappointment. kleinconstantia.com
2. COUNTRY PICNIC AT MONT ROCHELLE
With Winelands picnic experiences abounding, end your search and head to the prestigious Mont Rochelle for an unforgettable alfresco excursion. The property serves as Sir Richard Branson’s private vineyard in South Africa and boasts some of the Franschhoek’s finest views, where towering mountains form a formidable presence in the background and the famed vineyards in the foreground.
Often touted as the food and wine capital of South Africa, the humble vineyard town grew in prominence with the arrival of the French Huguenots, known as renowned viticulturists. Three centuries later, their legacy lives on through the region’s premium wines. Just before turning off the main road to Mont Rochelle, you’ll catch sight of the monument to these early settlers, with the woman in the centrepiece casting off the cloak of French oppression with her feet firmly planted on the shape of Africa, on the globe on which she stands.
Adjacent to Mont Rochelle’s tasting room, the Country Kitchen Restaurant offers gourmet picnics. Once collected from the eatery, it’s a short and scenic walk through the vineyards to the dam, where a selection of picnic spots and tables are available. And since you’ll be greeted by such elegant surrounds, why not use the occasion for a little dress-up; we went back in time for a little Bridgeton-styled outing along the banks of the lake.
The baskets range in size with options from R140 to R590 and abound with persuasive nibbles. Picture a smorgasbord of culinary treats including South African cheeses and charcuterie with homemade preserves and chutneys, spiced lemongrass and tuna fish cakes with tomato relish, or Malva truffles with salted caramel sauce. Plus, there’s a basket designed especially for children and vegan/vegetarian options.
If you’re not sure which wine to pair with the picnic, why not preface lunch with a tasting of Mont Rochelle’s wines. The tastings are available daily from 10h00 until 18h00 and range from R60 to R120. You’ll meet winemaker Michael Langenhoven’s three ranges of elegant, old world-styled wines. My pick is the MIKO Chardonnay, which offers a beautiful balance between the oak and fruit notes. I’d suggest you buy two bottles – one for the picnic and then one for a couple of weeks later when you’re sitting at home and want to be instantly transported back to your Winelands experience.
Insiders tip: if you’re looking for an even more indulgent way to end your Winelands day out, book a treatment at the hotel’s spa. Under the team’s healing hands, I had one of my most memorable massages ever. Picnic baskets are available daily from 12h00 – 18h00; make sure to book online to secure your spot. virginlimitededition.com