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When I received my itinerary for Vindaba, South Africa's first ever dedicated wine tourism platform, I gathered they continue to think that Indian wine consumers are complete amateurs and hence they've put me on an unknown, unpopular wine tour that would be fitting for a novice audience.
Not wanting to pre judge I decided to go with the flow and see what's in store. I did a fair bit of reading en route and discovered that this new route on the wine map, had 6 of the 45 five-star rated wines of the prestigious Platter's guide.
As we did a walkthrough of the boutique buyer-seller convention, we made acquaintance with Glynis Van Rooyen, author of the Overberg Wine Guide and our very knowledgeable and delightful wine guide through our stay in the region!
As a prelude to the wineland trail, I did a mini wine safari at the Cape Wine Convention organised by Wines Of South Africa, showcasing some of the Cape's most spectacular wines including wines from the Overberg region.
I soon realised that we were actually ear marked for the most coveted itinerary that will take us on a discovery of the most talked about and up and coming wine region in the Cape!
From indifference to being overcharged with very high expectations, my colleagues a Master of Wine in the making, an English gourmet travel expert and moi were braced for a scenic journey along the coast to the land of the wines and the whales at least in that order of preference for us! A very unique and unusual combination making it a highlight attraction for discerning travellers.
Our discovery of this jewel in the winelands of the Cape commenced befittingly in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley (Afrikans for Heaven on Earth). Our first stop was the trendsetting, eight year new wine estate Creation. True to it name, it was a creation of the sheer passion of its owners as they ventured out to grow wines in an erstwhile land of wilderness that had never seen vine plantations before and is today little 'piece of paradise' where undulating vineyards sprawl around its contemporary cellar at the epicenter of the estate. Highlights include its tastefull interiors, cutting edge technology and skillfully crafted cellars and impressive portfolio of wines. On the must do list is the walking safari of the vineyard as it takes you through the diversity of the indigenous fynbos, spectacular bird life and sumptuous wines including its Sauvignon Semillion blend, its very floral Viognier, a delectable Syrah Grenache among others. Creation is also famed for its food and wine pairings, chocolate and wine pairings as well as its very exciting 'make your own blend' activity that is a thrilling experience for wine enthusiasts.
On the heavenly trail is Sumaridge that nestles above the spectacular sea vistas of the engulfing Atlantic Ocean. The picturesque estate produces some fabulous Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs. The whole valley is very Burgundy style driven with the flagship varietals or cultivars as they are better known in South Africa of the region dominating the terroir. The scenic backdrop makes Sumaridge a great venue for picnic lunches by the lake or winter menus in its private setting at the cellar. It is also a great place to stay with private apartments and villas for independent families looking for a rustic getaway surrounded by vineyards as far as the line of sight.
The whole valley draws biblical inspirations for its names. Next on the route was La Vierge (French for Virgin). In a stupefying setting, temptation calls as a sinful spread of decadent cuisine and wine await you amidst breathtaking views and vistas.
The entire valley is home to come of the flagship Burgundy style wines and boasts some of the finest Chardonnay, Pinot Noir as well as Sauvignon Blanc in the Cape. The founder of the wine route, the Hamilton Russell wine estate has been dubbed as "the most Burgandian wine outside of Burgundy". The wines have won near cult status and the estate continues to exclusively make only two classic varietals of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir since its inception producing truly premium quality signature wines.
While the whale watching capital Hermanus is the most prominent on the Overberg wine route, the region is dotted with boutique private wineries that produce some premium quality wines and delectable local produce.
Some of the not to miss areas include the Botriver wine route only an hour away from Cape Town along the N2, lies yet another promising treasure for wine lovers. Tucked away in the winelands of Botriver is the spectacular estate of Gabrielskloof replete with a world class tasting room, a stunning Italian style courtyard, a restaurant and a quaint chapel, all boasting a 360 deg view of rolling vineyards. A great place for wine and olive oil tasting. Recent winner of the SA wine award, this estate makes some magnificent wines, its shale and sand stone soils add to the wines complexity bringing out some very interesting aromatic profiles as well as contributing to the minerality of certain varietals such as the Sauvignon Blanc.
My pick was the iconic BLEND 2010, a five way classic Bordeaux style blend, matured in French barrique for 14 months and then aged for a year in the bottle. A wine with elegant expression. Another very impressive wine was the Shiraz Viognier the Rosebud 2010 a luminous nouvelle pink exuding rose perfume aromas.
Another flagship estate in the Botriver would have to be the Beaumont Estate. A private family run "wine farm" as the South Africans call it, this farm has a 150 year old working mill to add to the gourmet delicacies. Dating back to the 1700s the family has restored the old world charm. The cellars are still in the authentic form, tanks are made of cement and guest cottages have open fireplaces adorning the erstwhile charm. Flagship wines include the Beaumont Ariane 2010 a Bordeaux style blend, the Shiraz Mouverdre 2009 a beautifully balanced wine with big yet supple tannins for a serious palate, the Vitruvian 2008 a unique blend of Mouverdre, Pinnotage and Shiraz making for a unique and well integrated wine. And of course the "Goutte d'Or" a delicious Sauvignon - Semillion blend dessert wine and the Cape Vintage Port 2008 blending the Tintabaraca and the Pinnotage.
While the Botriver may be a discovery for the international consumers, its estates date back to the 1700s and 1800s. Another such example would be the Wildekrans that goes back to the 1800s but has been through an intensive restoration and renewal programme. Sprawling over a 1000 hectare estate only 70 acres are dedicated to wine making on prime terroir producing premium quality wines.
Their signature Barrel Selection Chennin Blanc Osiris label 2010 is a big ripe wine with tropical characteristics and white peach and citrus notes. It has great complexity with butterscotch on the palate, and spiciness and herbaceousnes of the terroir.
Its Osiris Pinnotage 2009 is a Michelangelo double gold holder which is a more pinot noir driver style with raspberries and red fruit dominated flavors matured in new French oak barrels with a lot of finesse and major ageing potential. A very special Shiraz with a more faynbos driven nose with hints of blueberry and lavendar. The peculiarity of the region in terms of geographical setting and a variety of soil types provides for the perfect elements to produce some of the most distinctive expressions of the terroir.
The Overberg provides for an authentic, unexplored and delectable journey through some hidden gems of the Cape winelands showcasing unique, sumptuous and distinctive wines of the region.