Greg Landman meets the country’s top winemakers. This month he ventures to Ormonde.
Michiel was born in Bloemfontein, but grew up mainly in Postmasburg and the Strand, where his father, a member of the Defence Force, was posted. Visits to his grandfather’s farm led to an interest in farming, even though his first plan was to be a dentist. In his second year of a BSc at Stellenbosch, he was captivated by the winemaking idea. Soon he was graduating top of his class, and there was no stopping him.
Having grown up in Postmasburg, he felt quite at home when he spent the next three years at Orange River Wine’s Kakamas facility before joining Ormonde to create their new cellar almost 10 years ago. He and his wife Zia, Ormonde’s marketing manager, live in Darling, where they enjoy entertaining. “Zia is a great cook,” he says. “Just as well, because I can’t do a thing.” An avid golfer, Michiel has a 6 handicap, and Zia is a believer in exercise, so they complement each other ideally.
In the old days, the most exciting thing to happen in Darling, about 75km from Cape Town, was the explosion of colour as the spring flowers burst out. Today it is the home of the most famous ‘woman’ in South Africa, Evita Bezuidenhout, and her ‘alter-ego’ Pieter-Dirk Uys. There is also plenty going on in the town, not least an interesting, small, wine route.
At Ormonde you will find four ranges of delicious wines made by the talented, young winemaker Michiel du Toit. The Basson family, who own Ormonde, have 400 hectares under vines, and are in the lucky position to be able to sell the majority of their production to other areas where the Darling grapes are much in demand. The proximity to the cooling influences of the nearby Atlantic keep the grapes from ripening too fast in the fierce summer months, a most desirable situation.
With the help of viticulturist Theo Basson, Michiel can choose the finest grapes to use in making his wines, which are serious without being overwhelming, full of delicious flavour and made with care and knowledge. He says, “The hard work of Mother Nature should be reflected in the wine. I don’t believe in overworking it,” something that shows in the fresh appeal of his wines.
ORMONDE PRIVATE CELLAR, DARLING 022 492 3540 www.ormonde.co.za
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.