Wine adventures in Franschhoek

In my book there’s no better way to start the day when on holiday than with a swim before breakfast! The pleasure is enhanced even more when you have the infinity pool to yourself and the sky is azure blue and even at 8am the temperature is above 20c!

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The Infinity Pool

Refreshed from our swim we just had time to head to the terrace of the Reuben’s restaurant  overlooking the infinity pool to get pole position from which to enjoy breakfast! I love breakfast and I often find it’s a great indicator of what else a hotel can deliver in the culinary department.

The buffet breakfast of fruits, juices, cereals, fish, oysters, hams and cheeses is augmented by an extensive a la carte offering and finished off with an in house patisserie making a delightful selection of pastries and breads.
The almond croissant had a nice frangipane filling and chewy texture!

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Fortified by breakfast and with our stomachs suitably lined, we braced ourselves for the day of wine indulgence ahead of us!

We headed out of Cape Town on the N1 by coach leaving the city behind us and  making good progress to our first destination Haute Cabriere in Franschhoek.

Franschhoek takes its name from the Afrikaans for French Quarter. This area of the Cape was settled by around 200 French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution under Louis XIV’s intolerant regime. Although French speaking died out within a generation under Dutch East India Company rules, many of the estates in this area are still known by their original French names.

I have it on good authority that they also throw a pretty impressive Bastille Day celebration in July!

In 1694 the French Huguenot Pierre Jourdan, was granted a piece of land in Franschhoek and decided to name it after his home town in France, Cabriere.

In the early 1980s, Achim von Arnim – then still Cellar Master at Boschendal – purchased a portion of this land and set about producing wines in the style of Champagne. He later had the opportunity to acquire some land adjacent to this with a terroir similar to that of Burgundy.  Over time he set about his dream of producing single varietal Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines in the style of the Burgundian area where he had studied.

The wines of Haute Cabriere were not to my taste but this took nothing away from what they do best which is put on a great show and wine experience from a beautiful location.

After a short tour of the cellars we headed to the impressive tasting room where we were treated to the highlight of the tour, which was seeing our host Eben demonstrate opening the Haute Cabriere MCC traditional method sparkling wine with a cavalry sword!

This looked like a scene straight out of a Lord Flashman novel and highly impressive! They even sell cavalry swords for those “Flash Harry’s” who can pull off the Sabrage stunt! (as this clip shows!)

The MCC Classic Brut is a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, not abundantly floral, dry and crisp and would be most suited to being an aperitif. 

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Tim and Eben in the Tasting Room at Haute Cabrière.

I also tasted the Pierre Jourdan 2001 Belle Rosé, made from 100% Pinot Noir with a nose of toffee and burnt sugar.

2013 Pinot Noir which was light and tasted of red fruits with the smokiness from the toasted barrels masking some of the tannins.

Last up was their Pierre Jourdan Ratafia which is a 100% Chardonnay fortified with Pierre Jourdan Fine de Jourdan (brandy). This can be either served as an aperitif or with starters like foie gras or as a decadent pudding wine with say vanilla ice cream! This wine has a thick honeyed flavour with a hint of roasted pineapple.

Already buzzing from our our first alcoholic beverages of the day we zigzaged back onto the coach for the short transfer to the next vineyard and it wasn’t even lunchtime!

Thankfully when we arrived at Grande Provence there was a tempting selection of cheeses and charcuterie to help absorb the preceding venues vino!

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The Cheese and Charcuterie welcome platters at The Grande Provence vineyard!

As we tucked into the delicious cheeses, a Brie style, a creamy blue and a goat’s cheese we looked ominously at the wine blending paraphernalia in front of us!

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Fraser and Judith with the Heath Robinson blending kit!

Our group of 40 or so were divided into 8 groups of 5 and we were introduced to the head winemaker at Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate. Our task was to take the 3 carafes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot and not only come up with a wine blend but also choose a name and design a label.

The finished article to be judged in a blind taste off!

We made a good start with our team of Judith, Fraser, Sarah, Gillian and I agreeing on 5% Petit Verdot with the balance split between the other too grapes. After 3 or 4 tweaks we thought we had a winning blend.

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Sarah measuring out our final blend!

So having come up with the name “Shooting Star” we headed off to lunch, al fresco in the gardens.

We enjoyed lunch with our wine blending team and snuck in a few extra wines from the Grande Provence estate. Sadly, we didn’t win the blending competition but we thought our blend was pretty good!

Over a two course lunch we tasted the following:

Grande Provence: 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. This had flavours of tart apples, with a hint of green melon. This was served with our starter of smoked duck and pork paté.

Grande Provence: 2015 Chenin Blanc (60%)/Viognier (40%). This had notes of peach and spice with a rich long finish, was not overly oaked and a perfect wine to accompany the pan fried sea bass.

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After lunch we had time to walk around the estate and it struck me that it was more than a coincidence that this place was called Grande Provence.

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This could be the Luberon but it’s actually the Grande Provence Estate

Check out the similarities to Chateau La Canorgue near Bonnieux in Provence! The other interesting wine factoid about this place is that the homestead here which now provides luxury hotel accommodation was once home to John Platter, probably the most well know South African wine author and inspiration behind the annual must have Platter’s South African wine guide for 35 years!

After our stroll it was down to a little cultural appreciation in the form of a Post Lunch Drumming Class !

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By 3pm we made our way back to the bus and to be honest before we’d even pulled out of the estate my eyes were closed and I’d drifted off into a nice post lunch nap!

I awoke just as we reached the V and A Waterfront and so we just had time for a quick swim before heading off on our next adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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