Whilst the chirpy African drummer drumming the djembe frantically, chanting the catchy motto repeatedly and leading us through the vineyard; VINDABA, the inaugural 2012 South African wine tourism show is officially launched. We are a large contingent of 50 odd international travel, food and wine writers and buyers that had been invited to the Welcoming Lunch at Spier wine estate in Stellenbosch to kick off this special event.
"My culture, your culture... Our culture!"
Vindaba, which marks a new spirit of collaboration amongst tourism bodies, it is South Africa's first specialist wine tourism exhibition intended as a launching pad to position South Africa on the world map of wine tourism and also as one of the world's top 20 travel destinations by 2020.
But the question for my fellow Australians,
how much do you know about South African wine?
Finding South African wine in Australia is almost like looking for a needle in the haystack. We Australians are spoilt for choice with good delicious local wines, so is totally logical and understandable why do we need to consider drinking wine from elsewhere other than local wines. I have to admit I have never tried any South African wines until this recent trip, my knowledge about them is zero to none. But that's okay, the two wine writers on the same media trip are actually also on the same boat, we are all here at Vindaba to learn and explore South African wine together.
But first thing first, let's get back to our Welcoming lunch!
Spier Wine Estate - Stellenbosch
Stellenbosch is, in the mind of many, the finest wine area in South Africa. With a list of more than 80 wineries and producers, Stellenbosch is claiming the crown of reds, pinotage in particular is a favourite by the locals. The Stellenbosch wine route, established in 1971 by Frans Malan from Simonsig, Spatz Sperling from Delheim and Neil Joubert from Spier is a world renowned and popular tourist destination and also the oldest wine route in SA.
Spier was established in 1692, and has a colourful history. As one of the oldest farms in the region, it has long been noted for its cultural and historical significance particularly of its Cape Dutch architecture, unique to the Western Cape area. And here at Spier, they have a total of twenty one Cape Dutch Gables, more than any other farm in the area, all beautifully preserved.
Guests are gathered at the cellar door where we are being treated to an array of delicious canapes including duck liver parfait on crostini, and asparagus with goat cheese on toast. Andrew Milne, the CEO of Spier welcomes us to the farm and informs us that the lunch will be a moveable feast so that we have a chance to explore the historical site on this farm. We are gradually following the sound of the drum, down the path through the tranquil garden to another gable.
The slave bell in the garden which was used to signal the start and end of the working day, now is a monument pays tribute to those who lives were once regulated by its ring. The manor house's centre gable is dated 1822, it has been beautifully restored to reflect the influences of the Dutch, English and French settlers who farmed the region. Now a national monument, it houses a priceless collection of antique furniture, art and ceramics.
Our moveable lunch brings us to the Spier Conference Centre, spacious conference rooms with a small collection of contemporary art on displayed. The glorious warmth of African sun is not going to be wasted as lunch will be taken place at the outdoor seating area overlooking Eerste River and the majestic Helderberg Mountains.
The lunch is prepared by the team at Eight restaurant at Spier. Eight practises farm-to-table dining experience where local, natural and organic produce is used wherever possible, and food grown on the Spier biodynamic farm is preferred. Our garden salad is a beautiful interpretation of this food philosophy where freshly vegetables were actually harvested from their own kitchen garden.
There is also a braai firing up outside, serving the traditional South Afrikan meal, pap, wors en sous, literally means sausage, porridge and gravy. Mini scrolls of fatty boerewors sausages are sizzling away on the bbq, served with pap the maize porridge and a tomato and onion gravy on the side.
Just when I dream about having an afternoon snooze after the scrumptious meal, the drum strikes again in the distance and is time to get up and waddle our way to the last stop where delectable desserts await.
'The dying slave' is an artwork by local artist Marco Cianfanelli, where nine columns aligned to form a mural based on Michaelangelo’s image of a dying slave – a male figure in the ecstatic throes of dying. It is constructed with 1,500kg of material and consists of almost 225,000 pieces of tesserae stones.
There are not just food, wine and art you can expect here at Spier, different walking tours (including with segway) are available in the farm, you can also visit the birds of prey at Eagle Encounters and learn about conservation. They even used to have a Cheetah enclosure at the farm but the project has been relocated to Somerset West in May 2012.
The moveable feast ends at the Spier hotel, mouth watering desserts are circling the floor, tempting the guests to have a bite on the financier with salted caramel, or the elegant choux pastry filled with amarula custard cream.
The Vindaba welcoming lunch has been a promising start to kick off an exciting wine show, I am very much looking forward to be back in Cape Town for the wine exhibition at the International Convention Centre the next day.
Spier Wine Farm R310 Baden Powell Rd
Stellenbosch 7603, South Africa
P: +27 (21) 809 1188
Restaurant opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday for brunch from 10h00 - 12h30, lunch from 13h00 - 15h00, and tea from 15h00 - 16h30
VINDABA & Cape Wine 2012
Vindaba is hosted at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in conjunction with Cape wine 2012, a bi-annual wine show where a wide spectrum of South Africa's wines from over 320 wineries will be showcased to the international wine trade, from buyers to importers and sommeliers in the market. As we register for the trade show at the counter, each delegate is given a directory as thick as the phone book with over 500 (some says 800) wineries from all over South Africa listed inside.
Cape Wine trade show is a little daunting for me especially when you are totally clueless about South Africa's wines. On the other hand, Vindaba is in a much smaller scale, it presents itself as a perfect platform to introducing international visitors to the different wine regions around South Africa with up to 150 of their best wine will be available for tastings.
Cape Wine and Vindaba is considered the most successful international wine trade show in the Southern Hemisphere, on top of that, Vindaba is also being marketed as a "green" initiative with eco-friendly exhibitions, making use exclusively of recycled and recyclable materials.
Small paper pot plants of spekboom (aka Elephant's food) are given to all visitors as gifts. These small-leaved succulents are widely grown in the east of South Africa, they are exceptionally good at carbon fixation by producing twice as much oxygen than any other plants. As much as I would like to bring them back to Australia, it is not going to happen with Australia's tough custom regulations.
As soon as I walk in to the exhibition, I instantly recognised the man behind the M'Hudi (pronounced as moody) stand from the TV documentary series, WINE, on BBC Four. Diale Rangaka (aka Oupa), is the viticulturists and business marketer of a family business and the Rangaka family was known to be the first black family to own a vineyard in South Africa.
I walk up to him and have a quick chat to see how things have changed since the documentary aired back in 2009. No doubt the M'Hudi brand has became popular overnight and getting lots of media attentions. However, the popularity didn't translate into sales for the business, Diale reveals to me. Much more homework to do and Diale has his focus on China market, with leaflet translated into mandarin for the Chinese buyers.
Vindaba's project manager, SusannahHolz is kind enough to lead the media group on an impromptu tour of all the stands to learn more about the 17 wine routes in South Africa, from the more popular regions like Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, to the less frequented, up-and-coming areas; there are even 3 wineries in the harsh desert in Namibia to be discovered. The longest wine route in South Africa, Klein Karoo also known as the Wine Route 62, is also one of the longest in the world.
At the exhibition, a few wineries have caught my attention. Drawing inspirations from the African Wild Dog, the Painted Wolf wines is a dynamic and innovative wine company, and also actively involved in conservation of African wild dogs and their natural habitat.
KWV is no stranger in the South Africa, they are one of the leading wine and spirits producers in South Africa with head office located in Paarl. What I find fascinating is their recent venture, the KWV Sensorium, where wine is paired with not food, but a private art collection. They claimed to be the first who came up with this concept (Well, not really...), it is an innovative idea that I do believe will open the eyes of wine consumers and experience wine from a whole new perspective.
What wine would you pair with a Vincen van Gogh self portrait I wonder?
Solms Delta was another winery featured in the WINE documentary with an interesting story to tell. Mark Solms is a world-renowned neuroscientist who inherited the family business in 2002 to revitalise the historic Delta wine estate whilst addressing the pressing social and economic problems facing South Africa today.
A partnership between Solms and British philanthropist Richard Astor, they have established a trust that benefits the estate's historically disadvantaged residents and employees, improving the quality of life by giving them an equal share in Solms-Delta. The younger employees I've chatted to were also the recipients from the trust by receiving eduction sponsorship and now working as a professional chef at the Solms-Delta restaurant.
Vindaba is a great platform to provide an overview of what South Africa's wine is about, but the better way to really understand and experience it is to be in the midst of it all, and we did exactly just that for the next few days in Franschhoek.
L'Ormarins & Franschhoek Motor Museum
Franschhoek, the "French Corner" in the Western Cape is one of the oldest town in South Africa, only 75km from Cape Town, you will soon be surrounded by acres upon acres of well sorted, award winning vineyards. Franschhoek was settled more than 300 years ago by the Huguenots, who brought with them their age-old French wine and food culture and 300 years on, this valley is now rich in history but the picturesque landscape remains untouched, neither are the traditional food and wine culture.
Our first stop is at L'Ormarins, is now inherited by Johann Rupert, heir to one of the wealthiest Afrikaner South African billionaire entrepreneur, Anton Rupert who made his fortune from tobacco business. You may not have heard of the name Rupert, but surely you are no strangers to luxury brands such as Cartier, Alfred Dunhill and Montblanc, just a few business ventures over 60 years of his career.
L'Ormarins is the main estate in the group farms, vineyards are mainly planted on the slopes of the Groot Drakenstein Mountains with robust granite soils that produce expressive wines. Good soil or not, the mountains sure offer a dramatic backdrop for the farm.
If that's not impressive enough, the Franschhoek Motor Museum at the back of L'Ormarins estate will have your jaw dropped in awe. It is every man's dream, or woman's as a matter of fact, the museum has over 220 rare and exquisite automobiles in the collection, with more than 80 exhibits will be on view at any one time, displayed within the four long de-humified Cape Dutch buildings.
I will have this one, thank you very much!
The entrance fee to the museum is 60 Rand (AUD6.40), and no, it doesn't include a joyride in one of those cars.
L'Ormarins Wine Farm & The Franschhoek Motor Museum
PO Box 435, Franschhoek 7690, South Africa
Mon – Fri: 10h00 – 17h00
(last admittance 16h00)
Sat & Sun: 10h00 – 16h00 (last admittance 15h00)
The next wine tasting session is taken at Moreson Winery, remember how I fell in love with their Miss Molly bubbly from the lunch at La Mouette in Cape Town? This family winery located at the end of the aptly named Happy Valley Road, a tranquil paradise where you can really kick back and relax with a glass of Moreson's solitaire Blanc de Blancs, enjoy a meal at Bread & Wine Vineyard Restaurant, or perhaps a stroll and admire the flora at the Orchid and Exotic Plants Nursery at the farm.
The media group is treated to an intimate Charcuterie & Wine Tasting inside The Farm Grocer on Moreson. We try a few of Moreson's award winning wines with a variety of cured meat, paired by sous chef Shelvin Jacobs. Apart from the charcuterie, an impressive selection of breads are also freshly baked in house at the Bread and Wine Vineyard Restaurant.
The wine is something, but the charcuterie made by head chef Neil Jewell is something else!
If you get a chance to visit The Grocer Farm on Moreson, make sure to check out the huge cool room behind the counter where all the ridiculously sexy cured meat are hung. When Shelvin opens the cool room's door, an intense smell of meat fat waft through the air!
Boy, how I want to treat each long sausage like a baby and give them a hug, then follow by a big bite!
Môreson Farm Happy Valley Road, Franschhoek, 7690
P: +27 21 876 3055
Restaurant opens on:
Monday to Sunday: 09h30 - 17h00
The Rupert's empire doesn't stop at L'Ormarins, our next stop is at La Motte - a wine farm owned by Rupert's daughter, Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg, one of South Africa's leading mezzo-sopranos. A historic walk around the farm gives us an insight of the history behind the four provincial status monuments - the Manor House, Jonkershuis, Historic Cellar and the Water Mill which had been restored and is also the only working water mill of its kind in the Franshhoek Valley. Stone-ground flour from the mill are used for La Motte's farm-baked products.
There is also a museum at La Motte with displays depicting aspects of the Rupert family, history of La Motte and the Cape Dutch architecture. The largest room in the museum pays homage to the life and art of one of South Africa's greatest old masters, Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, which the restaurant at the farm is also named after him.
Pierneef a La Motte restaurant
Wine tasting since 9 o'clock in the morning can be dangerous, so we are glad to be able to sit down and have lunch inside the beautiful Pierneef a La Motte restaurant. The chandelier-like art installations hanging above head offers a dramatic wow factor to the dining room, I am amazed but scared to walk underneath it at the same time just in case one of the China pieces falls and hits on the head.
The entree is their signature Cape bokkom salad, flakes of salted and dried mullet meat are tossed with a bed of lettuce and snap pea shoots in an intense wild garlic dressing, topped with beet crouton that looks almost like a piece of prawn cracker. The bokkom (cured mullet) can be very salty on its own but works beautifully with all the components on this dish.
There is a choice of two options for the main, some opt for the almond crusted pan-fried salmon trout, harvested from Franschhoek. It looks like cooked to perfection resting on a bed of wild mushroom, pea and corn ragout.
I choose the crown-roasted chicken breast, a breast fillet is roasted with nice golden brown skin but the breast meat somehow to be on the dry side, nevertheless nothing cant be save with a rich pan juices and thick creamy caramlised onion puree that works like a charm.
The dessert is a simple but delicious one, a honeycomb shard is sandwiched between iced hazelnut and dried fruit nougatine and a big scoop of honey ice cream, served in a bowl of milk pnch veloute. A little bit chewy and a little bit icy, the sweetness does make the teeth jittery by the time I finish it.
R45 Main Road, Franschhoek 7690
P: +27 (0)21 876 8800
Restaurant opens on:
Sat and Sun for breakfast.
Tue to Sun for lunch.
Thu to Sat for dinner.
Huguenot Fine Chocolates
If there is wine, there is Chocolate. After lunch is a little chocolate tasting at Huguenot Fine Chocolates on the main street in Franschhoek. Danver Windvogel and Denver Adonis, or Danver & Denver in short, are both Belgian-qualified chocolatiers.
The shop is small but inside is a chocoholic's wonderland. I dare you to resist the temptation from those delicious looking chocolate assortments behind the glass counter. We are eventually being dragged away from the counter and ushered to upstairs for a half-hour chocolate demo and tasting.
To be honest, during the half hour of history lesson and chocolate casing demo, nothing went inside my head as I was totally hypnotised by the chocolate tempering machine with velvety smooth Belgium milk chocolate flowing like waterfall. I am plotting an evil plan how to get my head under the spout and let the chocolate pour straight into my mouth.
But great mind think alike, the chocolatier let us have a taste of the chocolate by piping the chocolate straight into our mouths one after another! Oh yeah, that's how you do it! I fear for the lady who is wearing light cream blouse.
Huguenot Fine Chocolates 62 Huguenot Rd (Main Rd)
P: +27(0)21 876 4096
Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa
It has been a long day and finally we get to check into our hotel for a bit of down time. Le Franschhoek Hotel is located a little further north from town centre, surrounded by fog-capped majestic Franschhoek mountains. It captures the essence of five star luxury, retains its elusive charm with a contemporary Cape Dutch feel.
The tranquil setting at Le Franschhoek hotel offers a perfect getaway for couples or perhaps a big wedding function. Everywhere you look, is ridiculously beautiful! I am particularly impressed to see a small vegetable patch in the garden. "Bloody sorrel", must be bloody sour?
The Cape Dutch gables in the complex had been converted into luxurious hotel rooms, soft king size bed and free WiFi always get a big tick from me. Tonight we will be staying low key and have dinner at the restaurant in the hotel.
The Dish is a 80-seater fine dining restaurant, it is located right at the back section of the main building, after the lounge bar area. A very sophisticated setting with moody ambience, velvet-cushioned high back chairs, and tables are draped with double layer linen tablecloths.
A wine pairing dinner menu has already been designed by the chef for the media group this evening. The presentation of our first course is impeccable, a block of compressed pork is served with white bean puree, mustard and an toffee apple. As pretty as the toffee apple may look, it is the nemesis of any denture filling, the toffee is thick and extremely sticky, nevertheless the pork terrine is well seasoned and delicious with the mustard.
Second course is locally grown asparagus paired with ham tar-tar (I assume is tartare), with a herb-crusted soft boiled quail egg on the side. The asparagus are prepared in a way where there is still a slight crunch to it, the mini dices of ham tar-tar is salty, goes well with the asparagus.
The protein course is two halved slow cooked beef fillet, the pink red meat is perfect medium rare that is so tender and juicy; served with warm tomato spelt grains, crispy potato croutons and a tiny young carrot.
I almost regret, almost, that I didn't order the vegetarian option as it looks like a work of art on the plate. It is a colourful garden bed of countless flowers, leaves, berries and a lot more to be slowly discovered. Let the fork frolics through the secret garden on a plate.
Last course, the dessert is less adventurous than other course, two clumps of rich chocolate ganache are spiked with banana chips, honeycomb crumbles are addictively crunchy, served with blocks of hazelnut ice cream. It taste more delicious than it looks, a wonderful sweet finale to conclude our meal this evening.
By now, my body system simply can't handle any more alcohol. While some of the folks from our group decide to stay on and have a quiet drink at the bar, as much as I like to join, but my eyelids are already shut as I slowly stumble my way back to my room, I dose off like instantly with a snap of the fingers.
Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa Minor Road 16, Franschhoek 7690
P: +27 21 876 8900
[A Table For Two traveled to South Africa as a guest of South Africa Tourism]