* This article originally appeared here in Skynews (Cem Air Inflight Magazine)
Plettenberg Bay has been long known for its sun-kissed beaches that are a favourite with locals and foreigners alike. Just a few weeks ago Plett clinched the spot at the World Travel Awards for Africa’s Leading Beach Destination.
Much to some people’s surprise, the area is also getting some attention for something quite different. While the attention often goes to the Cape’s famed Winelands, an unassuming region outside Plettenberg Bay is quickly showing it’s worth its weight in gold. Double gold, in fact.
Plett’s wine region is barely a decade old – many people still don’t know that the region is producing some exceptionally fine wines. My initially curious (and possibly also a little sceptical) visit involved tasting my way through four of the estates, and I quickly realised I’d found a hidden gem.
Newstead Wines is the first in the strip of farms that you’ll encounter on the Redford Road, around 17kms outside Plett. Walking into the tasting room is an invitation to forget about everything else and be caught up in the Newstead charm. Each of the plush interior spaces have been beautifully curated – the hardest part is choosing where to sit.
Once you have chosen, it’s time to kick back and taste the wine. Through careful oversight from owners Doug and Sue Lund and the expert winemaking skills of Anton Smal, Newstead produces two Cap Classiques, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, and a Pinot Noir. Make no mistake the food is equally on point. Sue’s kitchen serves up a smorgasbord of tastes and persuasive eats that look as beautiful as they taste.
Newstead has been the recipient of some recent and rather well-deserved attention. Their Méthode Cap Classique Brut Blanc de Blanc has won the coveted top spot in the recent Amorim Cap Classique Challenge. Think of it as the Oscars of the South African Cap Classique scene. Since 2002 the Cap Classique Challenge seeks to celebrate the country’s top Cap Classique producers. Judging is conducted in July by a team of experts, with the competition results announced in September.
Understandably Newstead is beaming in pride from the recent win, and I took the chance to catch up with Sue, still fresh in the excitement of the accolade. I began by congratulating her on the recent win, and asked if the news had fully hit home yet?
“Well it’s been a few weeks, so in that sense, yes. But, to be honest, we still pinch ourselves when we get recognised like this. It has exceeded the expectations we had when we started out. So it’s very gratifying, but we try to keep ourselves honest and humble and to keep on doing things well.”
If you’re wondering what this winning elixir tastes like? The wine-gurus from the International Wine & Spirits in London had this to say: “Intense citrus, pears and green apples on the nose. The consistent fine mousse and zesty citrus flavours follow through to the palate, showing balance and youthfulness. The finish is creamy, long and fine – an absolutely stunning bubbly.”
As if it couldn’t get better, then came along the Platters 5* rating for the 2015 MCC Brut Chardonnay. This must just have been the icing on the cake? “Yes, it was extremely good news, especially coming so soon after Amorim and a really nice way to end a difficult year. The Brut Chardonnay has been good to us from a reviews and rating perspective.”
Newstead is clearly a point in case to never underestimate small beginnings, and in the most unlikely of places. To head up against some of the giants in the industry and come out tops is no mean feat. I asked Sue about some of the challenges Newstead has had to overcome over the last eight years of winemaking.
“Well, as you mentioned, starting something from nothing is hard; very exciting but very difficult. And then building and growing it – the tasting room, restaurant, events – they all come with their own teething problems. The challenging part is maintaining two things: One, quality – of the grapes, the wines, the experience that visitors and guests have; and two, maintaining the warm, welcoming, personal homeliness that people love and associate with Newstead. The more you do and the bigger you make things, the harder it gets.”
I’ve heard Sue say time and time again, that their intention is simply to make wines that they like to drink. To have the top judges in the country concur obviously means they’ve hit a winning formula. In only six years to collect six double gold medals, one Gold, one Platinum, and now the Amorim achievement. Newstead may be one of the new kids on the (winemaking) block, but these awards evidence that it’s no ordinary block at that.
Lastly, I asked what’s next on the horizon for Newstead? “That’s a good follow on question because we’re actually paring things down a little, going back to where we were a few years ago. We want things to be more manageable, and to keep things small, simple, special. It’s more true to who we are, and it’s what drew people to Newstead. We care more about quality than quantity.”
After three visits I can safely say, once you’ve experienced the Newstead magic, you’ll feel like you never want to leave. The good news is you don’t have to. The farm is home to two gorgeous suites, so you can indulge in the food and wine offerings without having to worry about driving off. A renovated farmhouse has now made room for two supremely spacious and oh-so luxurious suites. Find more information, and order your wines online at newsteadwines.com.