While farmers in Chateauneuf-du-Pape had to ban flying saucers from landing in their vineyards in 1954, similar landing restrictions are being considered for helicopters in Franschhoek after Ukrainian mining moguls took liberties at lunchtime earlier this month. Attendees at the annual Mining Indaba in Cape Town, their private jets clogged up Cape Town International worse than Arab Sheiks at the soccer World Cup in Durban in 2010.
Strange to report that with 6,500 big rollers in town and even more well-heeled camp followers in tow, the wine industry pretty much ignored the event. WOSA, the quango paid R35 bar a year to promote SA wines, were probably too busy planning their million rand bash to open Cape Wine 2012 in September. A self-indulgent show-and-tell for industry bureaucrats and media sacred cows that would ban mining megastars, anyway. So along with local mining magnifico Andy Rompel, I accompanied a bunch of miners on a one-day vineyard crawl through Stellenbosch. Here is Andy’s report.
While geologists and mining managers shared their exploration results at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town, we ventured to the wine lands to explore for gems of the liquid kind. We includes a bus load of Canadians, amongst them the president of the PDAC (the much larger Canadian equivalent of Indaba which takes place in Toronto in March), and a couple of local legends, including Neil Pendock.
Planned was a trip through Stellenbosch, working our way northwards from the N2 towards the N1. The first stop was Vergenoegd, a many centuries old farm, evident in the slave bell still intact. Vergenoegd always beckons a riddle: who can find out the particular special flavour of the farm in the wine. The farm holds back vintages much longer than their competitors. They currently sell then 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, which has obvious advantages. You do not need to store the wine for maturation. It is ready, or better perfect for drinking right now. The flagship Estate Blend 2003 and the Terrace Bay 2003 are also highly recommendable, the first for its classic Bordeaux style, the second for its price.
Two people on board our bus solved the riddle. As the farm Vergenoegd is close to the sea, the groundwater is brackish, and hence the wine is a touch salty. The farm is unquestionably worth visiting and has an own restaurant, if you wish to stay longer.
We ventured on to Rust en Vrede, one of the most celebrated estates in South Africa. We were treated to the full tasting course in their lovely garden, including the Single Vineyard Syrah and the top blend called 1694 (Shiraz and Cabernet), which is in the four digit price range. Lunch was booked at the R&V sister estate Guardian Peak which must have one of the best views in the Winelands.
We enjoyed the R&V wines so much, we got on the road late to our next venture, Glenelly in Stellenbosch, close to the Rustenberg Estate. The estate is owned by May de Lencquesaing, previous owner of the famous Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, who on her website explains to the reader that she believes in the soil, the micro climate and the potential for quality wines. The farm is very stylish, clearly a lot of money was invested, and tries to combine older interior decoration styles with modern ones, which leaves me a bit cold, certainly after having been to the classical Cape Dutch style of the Vergenoegd farm. We tried the Chardonnay and all the reds, which were from the outstanding 2009 vintage. They showed the austerity and reserve you might expect from a Bordelaise making wine in South Africa.
We didn’t hang around and hurried on to Kanonkop, our last stop. Just our luck that Johann Krige (the owner) was there, happily posing for memoir photographs with our Canadian friends. Even though the flagship Bordeaux Blend Paul Sauer was sold out, we got to taste all the others in their repertoire, including some old Pinotages, which were wonderful. Best of the rest is clearly the Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, which with its density, concentration and fine fruit rates amongst the top Cabernets in the country.