Welcome to the first installment of our Wine Town of the Month where visit the West Coast and fo wine tasting in Darling. Each month our resident wine writer Greg Landman will take us on a journey – with glass in hand – through the vineyards, cellars and tasting rooms of the Cape. We’ll be introduced to the wines of that area, what makes them different, what to do in the are and how to make the most out of your trip to wine country.
Where to Taste Wine in Darling
The town of Darling used to be a sleepy little place until Evita Bezuidenhout came to town and opened up her Perron on the Darling Station. Today the place is abuzz with more than the flowers that bloom in the spring. There are places to eat and shops to spend money in like Darling Meat Market with its famous butcher and popular confectioners Darling Sweets that makes delicious things to tempt the taste buds. But let’s be honest. We’re here for the wine route and its a well focused one with wines that have that quintessential West Coast flavor – a little wild, full of character and well-priced to boot.
Here’s where to go
At the home of some fabulous white blends, like the Lady Anne Barnard and the Lime Kilns, Darling Cellars’ winemaker Pieter-Neil Rossouw creates a vast range of well-priced wines that will appeal to all tastes and pockets. The tasting room is under the sure hand of Christine Fortuin and she and her staff will talk you through whatever you need to know. There are 33 wines but don’t miss out on the delicious Blanc de Blanc MCC, the intense Old Blocks Pinotage and the glorious sticky they call Skattie. When it all gets too much for you, order a cheese platter to help it all go with a swing. Tastings are R20 for 8 wines, which is waived on purchase.
Phone +27 (0) 22 492 2276; +27 (0) 74 683 4454
The iconic Manor House overlooks the estate as if benevolently guarding it. Here you will find some knockout award winning wines which are these days under the sure hand of the famous Rumanian and cellar master Razvan Macici, who guided Nederburg to great heights. The wines are marketed under three labels: Alexanderfontein, Ondine and Ormonde – each of which has whites and reds worth trying that are aimed at a particular section of the market. The most user-friendly of these are to be found in the Alexanderfontein collection with its noteworthy reds especially. Don’t miss the superb Ondine Cabernet Franc, and for something different book a chocolate or nougat tasting paired with suitable wines.
Phone +27 (0) 22 492 3540
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The Duckitt name looms large in Darling history with the legendary Hildagonda Duckitt having a major influence on what became one of the places to be. It’s not surprising, therefore, that we find one of the family members at Cloof Wine Estate. Peter Duckitt is a viticulturist whose role is pivotal at this ecologically sensitive farm. The wines here are so well priced that one almost doesn’t want to share this good news, but get here yourself and see what I mean. Try the Duckitt Bordeaux Blend – an NWC Top 100 Double Gold Medal winner – at R78. This Cabernet Sauvignon led Bordeaux style blend is a medium bodied knockout. Then there is their very popular Very Sexy Shiraz (R70), which is deep, dark and mysterious with a hint of spice – beguiling in the nicest way. A light lunch fare like burgers and wraps are available at the Cloof Kitchen, which go very well with sitting outside under the trees – a perfect escape to the country.
Phone +27 (0) 22 492 2839
Charles Withington opened this perfect little place a few years ago and now also offers his own wines side by side with the other famous Darling names. The idea is that if you don’t really have time – or the inclination – to go to all the cellars in the area, you can go to his shop and get their wines at cellar prices under one roof. Charles’ own wines include a Malbec, an unwooded Chardonnay and his Rhone style blend called Roan Ranger. This is made from Cinsaut, Grenache and Mourvedre, all from Darling fruit. It is at its best served slightly chilled, making for a soft and appealing beverage. His Chardonnay NBC is elegant, clean and packed with the flavours of summer fruit. He also has a gorgeous brandy called Voorkamer, which is a seven years old, pot stilled from Colombar and is delightfully nutty with some citrus undertones.
Phone +27 (0) 22 492 3971
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The Manor House here was originally the home of Hildagonda Duckitt with the date on the gable being 1702. Today it belongs to the Pentz family who were originally major players in the dairy industry. The restaurant in the Manor House and outside on the delightfully cool terrace is called Hilda’s Kitchen in honour of guess who? Food here is a delicious country fare with a twist, all under the sure hand of Debbie McLaughlin. The wines are the realm of talented winemaker Lukas Wentzel and they are superb with the most well-known being The Old Man’s Blend Red and White, named after patriarch Peter Pentz. The Kapokberg range of wooded Chardonnay, clean and crisp Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are knockouts. But don’t pass over the range of varietals, especially the whites, which are fabulous. The Brut Rosé NV MCC is one of my favourites, a cracker of a bubbly. Game drives here are a great extra feature but need to be pre-booked. There is a 10km good dirt road leading to the farm itself so bear that in mind.
Phone +27 (0) 22 492 2825
Want more wine? Then take a look at Greg’s list of bubblies for summer.
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.