Wine Tripping the Olifants

You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy this adventure between Klawer and Doringbaai. This sneak peek at our February feature should whet your appetite to do just that.

Words and Pictures Ron Swilling

“You have a true terroir in the wine, it speaks from where it comes.” I looked around as the West Coast mist hovered in delicate puffs over the rustic Doringbaai harbour, and slowly understood what Jan van Zyl from Fryer’s Cove winery was saying, although the viticulturist vocabulary was still new to me and had me imagining robust bull terriers living Aladdin-like in the bottles.

Olifants River, Wine-tripping 2a

“It’s what influences your grapes and wine to give it a specific character,” Jan continued. I would hear about this West Coast character repeatedly as I explored the region, learning how the cool wind from the ocean lowers the temperature in the evenings, allowing a longer maturing time for the flavours in the grape to develop. In layman’s terms, it is perfect wine territory.

But my wine journey hadn’t started at the coast. It began when I turned off the N7 (with its roadworks and traffic) at Klawer, where the river hears the ocean and turns eagerly to the west to follow it. The Olifants River Valley is a surprise of lush vineyards (in summer) and wineries that fill the valley like it’s Bacchus’s well-kept garden.

This is the area where a local restaurant sports a sign on its counter that declares, ‘A meal without wine is called breakfast’ and, at harvest time in February and March, you have to dodge farmers on heavily-laden tractors on their way to the local cellars. It’s where an annual Oes Koors Fees (Harvest Fever Festival) has plenty of grape stomping and barrel rolling at Teubes Family Wines in Vredendaal.

‘Heaven-sent’, is how Joan Wiggens of Lutzville described her Seal Breeze wines, and indeed I found that several of the smaller wineries had a philosophy of sharing their bounty and blessings. Joan had returned to her childhood home with her diamond-diver husband and purchased a portion of land that was once in the family. For the first two harvests, Joan and her team picked and pressed the grapes by hand before she bought a press. At the time a novice winemaker, she was fast producing wines that competed favourably with the large established wine cellars of the region.

Where to stay

Where to eat

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Story continues in Feb. 2015 edition of Country Life…

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