I was lucky enough to go to the Cape twice in 2018 & I have to say I was feeling a little jaded on my first visit, but the delicious wines and passionate growers soon helped restore my missing mojo!
I've been lucky enough to enjoy so many great visits to the Cape Winelands over the years, and it is a joy to find that same enthusiasm and love rekindled on each new trip. So it was earlier this year when, after what seemed a particularly gruelling few months, I landed already exhausted and wondering if it wasn't time to think about hanging up my tastevin.
View from Eagles' Nest in Constantia – the beauty of vineyards like this keeps us tied, love-struck to our jobs
And then I was bitten once again, smitten-even, as each new visit to a grower, even those I already know well, is a new voyage of discovery. It's that combination of constant learning, the natural beauty of the world's winegrowing regions, and, in this case, the passion that pervades the Cape winelands that keeps us tied, love-struck to our jobs. Despite the challenges these winemakers face – severe drought being the worst until this summer, with continued social and political uncertainly a permanent undercurrent – they love what they do, and so do we!
I flew back from Cape Town reinvigorated, feeling at least ten years younger. Read on for just some of the reasons why!
Cape highlights: old friends and new finds
I have been to Iona before but this time I was introducing an old friend, Nick Clarke MW, who knew the wines but not the people, and there is always something special about sharing. With its stunning views over the beautiful Elgin Valley these high-lying vineyards have one of the longest hang-times in the Cape. So much so that they had only just finished harvesting the week before our April visit. Our host and owner Andrew Gunn took us through the wines with winemaker Werner Muller, formerly of Cape Chamonix, a passport which has proved its worth in spades. Iona is always a lovely place to visit but the welcome was so generous that tasting the stunning new 2017 vintage was just the icing on the cake.
Mont Blois in Robertson is now being run by a beautiful young husband-and-wife team, Ernst and Nina-Mari Bruwer, who have brought a new energy (in more ways than one) to this large sixth-generation family estate. On the day of my visit they had just returned from participating in an Ironman competition, a feat common to several winemakers I know and one which always astounds me. For many years the estate had been selling their very good grapes and wines to the large wine producers in the Cape, now they are keeping some back for themselves and have hit the ground running, and fast! Definitely one to look out for.
The Iron couple Ernst and Nina-Mari Bruwer of Mont Blois in Robertson
Sometimes it's the quiet ones that surprise us. Lukas van Loggerenberg is just such a man. Considered, gently spoken, modest, even a little shy, but when he talks about – and pours - his wines, you're hooked. Like so many young winemakers starting out on their own, Lukas is borrowing cellar space, in exchange for making the owner's wine. This unprepossessing 'shed' seems a strange place to taste some of the best wines to have ever come out of the Cape but that is all part of the magic. I have been here before but this year is the first in which Lukas has enough wine to offer us. Two wines I heartily recommend will feature in our November Fine Wine List: the old-vine cinsault 'Geronimo' and a new old-vine chenin called 'Trust your Gut' (yes, there's a story behind all Lukas' wines).
In total contrast to Lukas, there is André van Rensburg at Vergelegen. One of the Cape's great personalities, André is famously forthright but underneath a gentle giant of a man, who nurtures every wine in his impressive cellar as if they were his children. He was emotional and clearly humbled by the fire that caused so much damage here in January 2017. Yet there is great banter with the cellar team and a sense that everyone loves coming to work here (and who can blame them, on this stunning property with its beautiful old homestead and stunning gardens). The wines are not trendy, and currently not even fashionable, but they are exemplary.
One visit was for old times' sake, and for the sheer pleasure of it. I tried out one of the new guest chalets at Bon Cap in Robertson and enjoyed a wonderful supper with Michelle and Roelf who have bounced back from the challenges that led them to sell a chunk of the farm. Who knows, they said, maybe one day they will make wine again. But for the moment they are well, strong and as lovely as ever; they are arable farming and running a successful wedding and events venue. There are numerous dogs here, each as characterful as their owners, but one in particular rides high!
Roelf du Preez and favoured hound at Bon Cap
Where to go next?