Stereotypes are defined as “an idea of a particular type of person or thing that has become fixed through being widely held”.
Well, two wine routes are challenging the stereotypes that the media and consumers have about their products. It is “widely held” or commonly believed that Franschhoek is not a great place to produce red wine and that Wellington is too hot to produce wines of any great significance.
One of the attributes of South Africa which boggles the brains of visitors is the sheer geographical diversity of the country’s wine growing areas. Within 50 to 100km of Cape Town there are markedly different soil types, slopes, climatic conditions and rainfalls.
Over the years people have fallen into the trap of thinking that Wellington is hot. Make no mistake, Wellington IS hot. Summer frequently sees the mercury heading north of 40 degrees… but there are numerous little pockets where it is distinctly cool. This place, which used to be a ward of Paarl and which has now been granted independent district status (and thus equal footing with Paarl) is looking to improve its image and the appreciation of the quality it can produce. It’ll soon start defining a range of different wards within its own district. Let’s face it, Linton Park or Mischa’s experience of the growing season will be vastly different from either Hildenbrand or Doolhof.
Just last week Wellington Wine Route held its inaugural Quest for the Best. The highlights were that Chenin Blanc and white blends show great promise, as does Pinotage – but that’s hardly a surprise since Wellington is the home of ‘coffee Pinotage’! It’s exciting to see this area realising its potential. The ‘green shoots’ are there: whereas 15 years ago there were a handful of wineries now it’s easy to reel off a host of names – Schalk Burger wines, Linton Park, Doolhof, Nabygelegen, Bosman Family vineyards, Diemersfontein, Mont du Toit, Bovlei, Dunstone, Hildenbrand…. and the list goes on.
A day later, Vignerons de Franschhoek conducted a tasting of 16 wines for a few members of the media – 10 whites, five reds and the rather idiosyncratic grappa-fortified “non-Port” from Solms-Delta. The stereotype that winemakers of the Franschhoek valley have had to overcome is not only quality related, but that they can make good red wines from their own fruit, not just bought in grapes. There’s a delicious irony in the fact that Boekenhoutskloof Syrah is probably Franschhoek’s most critically acclaimed red wine – and the reason for its success is the fact that the fruit was originally from Wellington!
It was a delight to taste wines such as Chamonix’s Pinot Noir which is superb (as is the farm’s Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc Reserve), La Bri Shiraz/Viognier and a host of others. Also interesting to see that La Motte is garnering a huge amount of public interest with the opening of its new restaurant – and with its Pierneef red wines.
Both Franschhoek and Wellington are under 100km from Cape Town making it a comfortable drive taking less than an hour of travel, and both offer exciting and unique wines for enthusiasts to explore.