This May our wine writer Greg Landman is waxing lyrical about Franschhoek.
Franschhoek is often accused of being too full for its own good but this is often tinged with a little bit of envy by those who are not. It is a delightful place to be any time of the year and has some of the very best tasting facilities in the Cape. And don’t get me started on the great restaurants. With a range from the very best (read: expensive) to those which will suit any pocket, Franschhoek is a foodie’s paradise. The views are to die for and the people are friendly. Very much like Madonna, it keeps reinventing itself and is as modern as tomorrow but with all the charm of yesteryear. If you want to take the strain off driving around, take the Franschhoek Wine Tram which visits some of these below.
Here’s where to go
1. Allée Bleue
The glorious Drakenstein Mountains gaze down on this beautiful estate which is situated just as you come in from the road that goes past Pniel and Boschendal. The friendly staff will guide you through the wines that Van Zyl du Toit makes so expertly, and there are various pairings available, some cheese, some charcuterie and even combinations of the two. Wines not to miss are the heaven sent and deliciously dry Alléwe Bleue Brut MCC, the vibrant and barrel fermented Allée Bleue Chenin Blanc, and the deep dark and mysterious Allée Bleue Shiraz. There is also a restaurant if you start getting hunger pangs and want to extend yourself. A jungle gym will keep the youngsters occupied and they will love the picnics if you want to sit outside when the weather conditions are no less than perfect in Franschhoek. Guest accommodation includes the Manor House and some cottages.
+27 (0) 21 874 1021; [email protected]
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2. Grande Provence
This is the home of the well-known brand Angels Tears. Under the sure hand of winemaker Thys Smit, this house wine range as well as the three other Grande Provence continue to grow in popularity. The red wines under the Grande Provence premium range in particular are worthy of praise like the Shiraz which is refined and rich with typical spicy notes, and the intense Cabernet Sauvignon. While a tasting room is as good a place as any to sample the wares on offer, try and get outside when the weather is good. Sipping on a glass under the venerable old oak trees while overlooking the tranquil mountains makes for a sublime experience – this is the way to unwind in style. Don’t forget to try the deliciously tangy bubblies – they are packed with plenty of citrus appeal. While the wine might be what you’re here for, Grande Provence is also a fun place to visit. Lunch at The Bistro or indulge in a more sophisticated dinner date at The Restaurant. Visit the the continually evolving gallery, go on a cellar tour, or join a food and wine pairing. There’s even a Helipad if you want to arrive in style. If you have some spare cash, there is fabulous accommodation at The Owner’s Cottage, a great experience.
+27 (0) 21 876 8600; [email protected]
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3. La Petite Ferme
With an unrivalled view right over the fabled Franschhoek Valley and all that very expensive real estate, this is one of the most upmarket tastings in the valley. The wines on offer are superb and include a Cabernet Sauvignon with floral nuances on the nose and plenty of deep dark red berry flavours supported by gentle oaking. There is also a barrel fermented Chardonnay that’s gorgeously tangy with plenty of marmalade accents, while the Merlot is a knockout with soft and rich flavours making it full in the mouth, think Christmas cake. Bookings are essential as space is limited. Be sure to stick around for a meal at the legendary La Petite Ferme Restaurant, a much loved and much visited dining spot in Franschhoek over the years. Linger a little longer and spend the night in their superb Manor House and Vineyard Suites accommodation, some rooms even come with private splash pools overlooking the valley.
+27 (0) 21 876 3016; [email protected]
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4. Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines: Leeu Passant
A perfect example of what the formidable combination of plenty of money and taste can achieve, Leeu Passant is a haven of sophistication and the perfect place to take visitors. The oohing and aahing will be plenty of reward. The venture is a partnership between billionaire Analjit Singh and husband and wife team Andrea and Chris Mullineux, twice winners of the Platter’s Winery of the Year award. Andrea is the winemaker and her wines are sublime. My favourite is the magnificent (and pricey) Mullineux Straw Wine, but a good place to start is with the delicious Chenin Blanc and an easy drinking red blend called Swartland Rouge both from the Kloof Street range. The Single Terroir range is fabulous with two silky Syrahs and two summer fruity Chenins that will satisfy any aficionado – dare I say masterpieces. There is an excellent restaurant called The Dining Room on the estate once you have worked up an appetite. Bookings are essential for the tasting as they are limited to the number of people they want to handle at any given time.
+27 (0) 21 492 2224; [email protected]
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5. Leopard’s Leap
From the minute you arrive here, with the very tall sculpture of the leopard high up on a branch to greet you, you know you are going to have fun. The Leopard’s Leap wines are well loved and equally well priced, delicious and very easy to knock back a bottle (or three). Be sure to try the red wines like the smooth Culinaria Pinot Noir that’s fruity and delicious, the Culinaria Grand Vin that’s a four-way Cab led Bordeaux style blend, and the deliciously rich Cabernet Sauvignon. Save space in the boot as you will definitely be taking home some of these. It’s also a popular spot for families that offers cooking demonstration where you can watch the chef prepare a meal and learn a thing or two to take home to your own kitchen. The very popular Rotisserie Restaurant, if it isn’t obvious, focuses on meat while also offering a harvest table of sides to make sure you’re getting all your five-a-day and a dessert table completes the balanced diet. Dine at the South African Table for a real treat. The menu features some well loved local classics with chef Pieter de Jager sharing the story behind the dishes. Booking is absolutely essential for all these culinary experiences.
+27 (0) 21 876 8002; [email protected]
Words Greg Landman
Photography Leigh Hermon; Supplied
As the wine writer for Country Life magazine for the last 15 years, Greg has met and interviewed more than 150 of the country’s top wine makers. His articles offer unique insights into where to eat, what to drink, and where to go all over the Western Cape. With his dining companion Beryl Ormsby Browne, he has also reviewed more than 60 country restaurants for the magazine and has been a reviewer for the prestigious Eat Out Guide for 12 years. His passion for everything the winelands has to offer has led him into the world of wine tours. To find out more, visit his website Magic Grape Tours.