The second installment of our Wine Town of the Month feature is here and this month our wine writer Greg Landman has his sights set on Paarl.
Paarl is a town very much unto itself, where the oak tree-lined streets are steeped in character. Beautiful old churches take one back to a time when everything moved at a slower pace, while the scholars make their way home laughing and jostling each other on the way. The name Paarl comes from the shine on the famous Paarl Rock after the rain which reminded early settlers of the sheen on pearls. Well, I don’t get it but that is the story they tell. Way up on the approach to town you will find the Taal Monument pointing its finger accusingly at a serene blue sky slightly smudged with clouds – very picturesque.
The Suid Agter Paarl Road is lined with some gorgeous tasting rooms. The estates are strung along it like jewels on some dowager’s necklace, and very well worth a visit. Wine has long been integral to this area with some major players making their presence felt. Various tastings are available at varying prices so call ahead and check out what it is you would like to do. Most of them waive tasting fees on purchase.
Did you miss our last Wine Town of the Month? Take a look at Greg’s wine trip to Darling here.
Here’s Where to Go
1. Glen Carlou
With spectacular views right across the valley and the famous Paarl Rock in the distance, this destination features not only a great restaurant, excellent wines and friendly staff, but an art gallery packed with plenty of modern, thought-provoking installations. Don’t expect any Old Masters—it’s not that kind of place. Try their superb Quartz Stone Chardonnay, a lightly wooded charmer that’s rich and creamy, and the Gravel Quarry Cabernet Sauvignon, elegant and complex. They also now have The Welder which is a deliciously sweet Chenin with typical apricot tang. It goes perfectly with the Peach Melba dessert – irresistible. The four other Chardonnays in the four-tiered collection show how well they do with this particular grape, but don’t miss out on the reds, which are delicious.
+27 (0) 21 875 5528
In the mood for a Chardonnay? Take a look at Greg’s list.
This is the place to be in Paarl and the first thing that will knock you out are the views – spectacular. Of course the wine tasting is the main reason to be here but do not miss Red Hot Glass, the home of exquisite glass objects, many of which are surprisingly affordable. Then there is the Cape Brewing Company, De Villiers Chocolate, DV Café Roastery and Ice Creamery to help with the waistline, Wilderer Distillery‘s Grappa, Richard Bosman’s Quality Cured Meats, and the best in town pizzeria known as La Grapperia. If you don’t have fun here you aren’t really trying. The Spice Route Wines come from owner Charles Back’s Swartland farm and include some great easy drinking reds like a Carignan that’s perfumed and spicy, and Malabar – a knockout red blend that’s mainly Syrah – and a delicious Pinotage. The Chenin is exceptional with tropical fruit flavours and the sherry style Amos Block Sauvignon Blanc is very unusual and irresistible.
+27 (0) 21 863 5200
You also might like: Take a Breath at Paarl Arboretum
The goats that climb up the typically French tower are famous all over the world and the peacocks that strut around are spectacular. Kids of all ages just love it and with very good reason. Nevertheless there are other delights, like their famous cheeses which are sold at really good prices here on the farm. Try the superb Camembert cheese spread in a jar on hot buttered toast and live a little. If the olive oil is on special, grab a bottle or three – it’s that good. And lest we forget the wines. This is one of the best tastings in the area; it’s very well organised and user-friendly. If anything possibly a bit too successful for its own good, so try and get there early before the tempo builds up. Don’t miss the fabulous Italian style wines for which they are famous. The range is vast but the excellent staff will talk you through it perfectly. When all is said and done, take lunch in their restaurant, The Goat Shed, with some of the best bread you will ever taste anywhere.
+27 (0) 21 863 2450
How could we not feature the granddaddy of them all? The KWV Wine Emporium is a major player that has seen the town develop around it. You won’t experience sweeping views, but it’s a fantastic tasting room that’s nice and cool on a blazing hot day. Their excellent brandies have a tasting of their own paired with chocolate and, if they have them, ask to try the gin and vodka which are well worth sampling. Cellar tours here can be fascinating, so if you are up to it, book one and see for yourself. Their wines are marketed in categories like The Mentors, Cathedral Cellar and Laborie. In the Mentors range, try the two Cabernet Sauvignons, to see how different they are, and the superb Pinotage. The Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay is fabulous, lightly wooded and smooth, and the Cape Tawny will prove that we still make some of the best Port style wines in the world. If you have kids they will be bored out of their tiny little minds here so bear that in mind.
+27 (0) 21 807 3911
In the old days when flying around the bulge in one of SAA’s fabulous jumbo jets, passengers could take the edge off all that tedium by drinking Landskroon’s fabulous port. This was when we were still allowed to call it port and not Cape Vintage as it is today. Of course they still have it and it is wonderful with all the typical Portuguese varietals. Try their excellent reds like the Cabernet Sauvignon which us rich and complex, the Pinotage that’s juicy and appealing, and the Merlot which is vibrant and alive with smooth flavour. The whites are also worthy of your attention, especially the off dry Chenin that’s pairs perfectly with blue cheese, and the Sauvignon Blanc that makes a great sushi companion. There is also a kids’ play area, food pairings, and cellar tours, which have to be booked in advance. If it all gets too much for you, book their guest house and make a day worth remembering.
+27 (0) 21 863 1039
6. Noble Hill
Nothing much beats sitting outside under the shade of the trees on this delightfully laid back estate. Talented young winemaker Kristopher Tillery makes really great reds, like his fabulous Syrah that’s elegant and aromatic, and the Merlot which is packed with luscious red fruit. The Estate Reserve blend is a Cabernet-led Bordeaux style charmer that’s powerful and goes great with grilled steak. The dry and fizzy bubbly, all Chardonnay, makes a nice change in summer, while the Sauvignon Blanc will appeal to those who like well-controlled acids with the right food. There is a play area for kids, picnics to be had in a great country setting, and the added attraction of their superb Mexican style restaurant, Cosecha, with the guacamole made right at your table – yum.
+27 (0) 21 874 3844
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.