Travels in Wine / South Africa

New finds, old friends and new beginnings


Jo Locke Jo Locke / 25 October 2018

South Africa's glorious winelands and its people are such an inspiration and I never tire of catching up with old friends and making new ones here

Paul Boutinot and the successful UK and international businesses that carry his name have been pioneers in the new South Africa. Their Percheron wines have been a hit with us from first release and their family property Waterkloof is a new star in the Cape fine wine firmament, now fully organic and biodynamic.

Boutinot now has a stunning new home in the Franschhoek valley, a beautiful property christened Wildeberg ('wild mountain'). New vineyards have been planted which may one day produce something special for this impressive operation which sources widely and delivers consistently.

Miles Mossop sporting a new hair do. Miles is leaving Tokara after 18 years to go it alone
Miles Mossop sporting a new hair do.

After 18 years at Tokara, Miles Mossop is going it alone. He has taken on some consultancy work but his main focus now is on his own label, the three wines named after his three young children. On this particular visit, Miles had a striking (temporary, I think!) new look (all to do with a friend's birthday party, apparently) but I am happy to report there was no concurrent change in the wines!

Walker Bay Estate is one to watch. It's a beautiful spot, just outside the lovely village of Stanford. There are Brits involved, among others, very keen to make this rejuvenated enterprise work. Behind a renewed focus on both vineyards and winemaking is an ex-Boutinot winemaker who most certainly knows the ropes, so we can expect to see good things.

The spectacular backdrop to our tasting at Walker Bay Vineyards
The spectacular backdrop to our tasting at Walker Bay Vineyards

Thistle & Weed is a new venture and you might not yet find the wines in the UK, but hang on in there! The people behind these micro-vinifications are industry friends Etienne Terreblanche (viticulturist at Delheim) and winemaker Stephanie Wiid (Fairview). Seriously good wines in their tiny first-release volumes, this is a name – and a pair – to watch. The horticulturally themed labels are beautifully crafted too.

There are still surprisingly few certified organic wines coming out of the Cape but the hot dry conditions in Tulbagh make this an ideal spot to make them. Organic from the outset (first vines planted in 2000) Waverley Hills is a producer working to raise its eco-friendly profile with a more targeted, re-dressed range from its visitor-friendly site with cosy tasting room and restaurant. Off the regular beaten track but well worth the stop, and worth looking out for the wines we are likely to see more of in the UK.

The view from Pella Wines
The view from Pella Wines

Pella Wines was totally new to me, though its home in the Stellenboschkloof means it is not far from our old friends at De Morgenzon and Jordan. There are two ranges: Pella Coastal wines comprises single-vineyard wines from both Stellenbosch and Swartland, and Mount Sutherland Continental Wines are from high-altitude, frost-prone vineyards in the Karoo. This remote area rests on volcanic soils, a characteristic that drew (Liberator) Richard Kelley MW here, for the particular influence this has on the resulting wines. Richard works with the Cave Saint-Verny in the Auvergne (where the volcanic mountains have recently been granted World Heritage status) and felt sure he could find a similar personality in Mount Sutherland as in the Puy de Dôme wines we buy through him. We even tested the theory with a 2011 gamay kindly donated by a friend and a fascinating debate ensued! For me it's a textural thing, a sort of prickly, wet-stone minerality which certainly adds interest even if it's not your cup of tea.

Tasting with multi award-winning Bruwer Raats
Tasting with multi award-winning Bruwer Raats

One visit on this trip was long overdue. I have bought from Raats Family Wines on and off for years, met them but never visited them 'at home'. And in the event it was exactly that, as Bruwer Raats runs his business from his home surrounded like so many winemakers itseems, by an array of besotted canines! Famous particularly for chenin blanc and cabernet franc (making me – as your wine buyer for the Loire – predisposed to enjoy the wines of course), Bruwer is a charming man, another gentle giant, and though he certainly has a big personality he was super modest (and clearly super chuffed) about his Platter's Winery of the Year award 2018. The wines from those grapes were top notch (the 'little' Original Chenin is a benchmark), but I also fell head over heels in love with a dry muscat (another of my desert island grapes) which he makes with his cousin Gavin Bruwer Slabbert and goes under the B Vintners label.

Where to go next?

Members' Comments (4)

"Cape Wines are my favourite - I lived there for 11 years and know many of the wine makers - it is a pity that the great wines of Le Riche are never on the menu in the Wine Society catalogues. Some years ago another great winemaker Jan Boland Coetzee had his Vriesenhof wines on the list but they did not stay in the lists for some reason.
Le Riche makes a beautiful 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and also red blend and a delicious Chardonnay not overly... Read more > butter but very complex as all his wines are. Recognised by his peers as one of South Africa's great winemakers Etienne Le Riche (formerly successful winemaker at Rustenberg in the 70's) has bought more land and expanded from his boutique vineyard at Leef Op Hoop in the Jonkershoek Valley and now has a very useful fellow winemaker in the form of his son Christo.
Founder members of the Cape Wine Makers Guild (a group of winemakers among the best in the world) they are also passionate about their wines (always 4 & 5 stars in John Platter and Hugh Johnson's wine guides and often compared favourably to a good Chateau Margaux) and it would be fabulous to see the Society get some on their lists.

Mr Leslie Craven (27-Oct-2018)

"Sounds like two lovely trips. No mention of Ridgeback wines, an award winning winery in Paarl. The owner is my cousin, Vernon Cole, and I was impressed with the wines on my visit five years ago.

Mrs Jennifer Griffiths (27-Oct-2018)

"How I enjoyed reading Jo’s article on the Cape and how I envied her. For just about every year until this year, my wife and I have gone to the Cape. We stayed in a wonderful apartment high up in Constantia, just below Eagles Nest and overlooking Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia. Our favourite wine land is Stellenboch - great tastings, lunch at Delheims and a Port at Murjaatie’s. Unfortunately, with both of us now in our 80’s we cannot do... Read more > long haul any more but our love for the Cape is sustained by the increasing number of its wines and continuous high quality value for money. Thanks, Jo.

Geoff and Maureen Robinson

Mr Geoffrey Robinson (27-Oct-2018)

"Thanks for a very entertaining and interesting story of your trips to South Africa, it brought back fond memories of our own travels there.
We will be in SA for 6 weeks this Feb/Mar for the third year in a row and will endeavour to visit some of the vineyards you mentioned.
We always enjoy our holiday in SA (and our wines of course!) and will not be disappointed this time around either.
Keep up the excellent work!

Mr Paul Verhaak (27-Oct-2018)

Society Promise
Members before profit