Our first full day got off to a fabulous start as we entered the quirky and fascinating world of Blankbottle. At the last count, owner and winemaker Pieter Walser was making 42 different wines using just about every grape variety planted in South Africa.
Furthermore, he owns no vineyards and rents winery space on a farm near Somerset West. Pieter is eclectic, very engaging and very passionate and focussed on what he does and we sat rapt in attention in a Withnail and I setting within his warehouse.
Tasting through 8 wines we explored his amazing wines – extraordinary labels and weird and wonderful names – there was a story attached to every wine. For everyone on tour this was the first time to taste a wine called Orbital Frontal Cortex made from a blend of Clairette, Fernandez Pires, Grenache Blanc and Chenin Blanc.
All the wines were 2016 and you have to see the list:
Moment of Silence
Orbital Frontal Cortex
Retirement at 65
It will require a small book to do justice to all the stories connected to the names of the wines….
From Blankbottle we headed into the hills and found the esteemed De Trafford estate. This is a premier league winery of just 12 hectares and we were very lucky to have owner and winemaker David De Trafford hosting our tasting. David is a very different character to Pieter so it made for a wonderful contrast in both presentational style and range of wines. De Trafford make primarily red wines from Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon but we kicked off with a stunning barrel fermented Chenin Blanc. A series of top class reds followed – understated but extremely high quality with great potential to age. We rounded off the tasting with a delicious sweet straw wine made from three different vintages.
After the eclecticism of Blankbottle, the wines of De Trafford told us a very different story – top class reds with serious ageing potential – an estate worthy of all the praise it has received for many years.
Now it was time to relax and head over to the historic Vergelegen estate for lunch. This is one of the most important wine estates in South Africa with its origins dating back to the 16th century. Manicured gardens, a camphor tree walk and the old Stables bistro where we settled down for a delicious lunch. With no more formal tastings we relaxed into an easy session of eight wines moving from entry level up to their top estate wines. Superb quality.
A superb first day that continued into the evening as we all headed into Wijnhuis in Stellenbosch for further research into the wines of the region