Fliss, Tim’s wife, is writing this week’s blog, what a ‘perk’ of the job!
For the majority of week 1’s group, there was just a day to recover and reset, and make the transfer from Stellenbosch to Franschhoek. A slightly different arrangement for accommodation, we are installed in a variety of guesthouses across the village. So it was very pleasant to greet old faces from last week and fresh arrivals as they strolled into the garden of Le Bon Vivant restaurant for a glass of fizz.
Our opening meal was truly spectacular. A tasting menu, of glorious combinations of local fish, meat and veg presented in the most exquisite style. The courses included a trio of tuna – carpaccio, mousse in a soy lollipop, seared, and the most delicate quail. Accompanied by some lovely wines, the highlight for most of us being the Bellingham Pinotage which was fragrant, elegant and delicious with our kudu main course.
On Monday morning we were on our coach by 9.15, and heading to Cape Town. We skirted the back of Table Mountain and arrived in Constantia, where wine has been made since 1685, which could qualify South Africa for Old World status!
Our first visit was to Klein Constantia, the original wine estate of Constantia and still the only maker of Vin de Constance, the famous sweet wine drunk by Tsars, Napoleon and even mentioned by Dickens!
Our host Alan, whose job was best described as general factotum, introduced us to the estate in the winery, introduced us to winemaker Matthew, and after picking our way through a maze of scaffolding (a new tasting room was under construction) we arrived in the Vin de Constance cellar, overlooking the winery, where we tasted their Blanc de Blancs MCC (Méthode Cap Classique) fizz, four bone dry Sauvignon Blancs, demonstrating both South Africa’s ability to produce great Sauvignon Blanc (though I’m not sure SA will take the NW SB crown from NZ in the immediate future), and the character bestowed on wines from specific terroirs, and we finished with the Vin de Constance, made from Muscat de Frontignan, which I thought was absolutely fabulous. Unctuously sweet, great acidity, flavours of honey, raisins, tea, nutmeg and a superb finish.
On to Constantia Glen, another exquisitely located estate, with vineyards climbing up the side of Table Mountain and views out to the Ocean. There another Matt, this time an American engineer, greeted us with the estate’s Rosemaria & Funa MCC Brut Rosé, served two whites – blends of Sauvignon/Semillon blend and Chardonnay/Riesling/Viognier, and a Cinsault/Syrah red blend with our lunch, and finally took us through a tasting of four of their ‘serious’ wines: another Sauvignon/Semillon blend, this time lightly wooded, a 96% unoaked Sauvignon, and two reds, a Merlot/Cab Franc blend, and a Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot/Merlot/Malbec blend which was my favourite. For those of us on our first full day of tasting it was the perfect start: looking out onto fabulous scenery (sadly it was a bit drizzly, so we couldn’t sit outside), discovering how much the quality of South African wine has improved (particularly since our tour in 2008), and enjoying a brief debate into the merits of whole bunch pressing and carbonic maceration (I would describe the score as home team nil, away team nil).
Back to Franschhoek in time to stroll out for an evening meal and enjoy the fragrance of the spring flowers.