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An out of the way wine tour…

April 25, 2011

A couple of months back now (the life of an oceanographer is busy, ok?!) Lauren (dear facebook “wife”, partner in crime, fellow lover of good wine and phytoplankton) and I happened across an article shown on the front cover of a wine magazine. The picture was a smiling gentleman holding a bottle of shiraz and a baby piglet with a headline mentioning “Happy pigs”. Naturally, being as in to free range “Happy” produce (and wine) as we are, we read the article. It turned out that as well as producing a stunning shiraz (so La informed me) Luddite farm in Bot River were also growing free range, happy pigs! After 3 weeks of field work we decided we needed a day off so hopped in the car in search of this vineyard!

Unfortunately being used to the busy wine route areas around Cape Town we hadn’t figured that this small farm may not be open for us to poke around on a week day afternoon! However after reading the trusty Platters guide entry, we made a call and a lovely lady on the other end of the phone agreed to wait for us so we could pop in, try the shiraz and buy some as a gift for a wedding. Immediately impressed by this great customer service we hot footed it down to Luddite to meet the lovely Lisl. The wine and farm setting were simply stunning. They have a beautiful tasting room with a stunning floor with old wine barrels set in it. The views reminded me of those recorded from the set of Edoras in the Lord of the Rings, simply beautiful!

The shiraz for which Luddite is famous (in fact this is all it produces!) was great, we had the 2006 vintage but Lauren informs me the 2005 was also amazing if you come across it. Lisl was a charming host, inviting us to call back and arrange a proper tasting with Nils (the vintner) and lunch and a chance to see the happy pigs. She also recommended us to try a few of the other vineyards whilst were in the area, and so the trip began to spiral in to a day of utter wine indulgence!

Me and the most beautiful dog I've ever seen at Luddite wine farm 🙂

(As a side note I’d also like to thank Lisl for looking for my sunglasses which went missing that day, they were later found in Laurens car a month later(?!) but her time given to calling me back even though she hadn’t found them and remembering Lauren and I as oceanographers has lifted Luddite to the lofty heights of one of my top 5 favourite vineyards! Definitely a happy place).

On Lisls recommendation we drove back down the dirt track from Luddite to Beaumont. Another beautifully set and very personable vineyard. We spent about an hour chatting to the owners family and staff. One lady recognised us, we also recognised her but couldn’t remember where from. It turned out she knew my supervisor, which was interesting but didn’t really explain the recognition. We later found out that she’s apparently married to JP Roussouw, who Lauren had chased out of Mezzaluna to ask to sign my restaurant guide (see here) and this must be where we had seen her, quite glad we didn’t remember this at the time and come across like crazy stalkers! Beaumont offers beautiful, self catering cottage accommodation and after our little excursion I think this would make a great short weekend break away from Cape Town. Lisl had recommended the chenins at Beaumont and they did not disappoint, with the Hope Marguerite (2009) particularly living up to this excellent reputation (The 2008 received 5 stars from Platters). I relished the opportunity to try a Mourvedre, (fairly common in blends here, but rarely seen in isolation) a very nice, bold wine. My favourite of the tasting (and the one I bought) was the Vitruvian blend (4 and 1/2 star). I have really become a fan of the red blends in SA and this was no exception. Moving away from the standard variations on the Bordeaux style blends, this wine combines some of my and Bens personal favourites (mourvedre, shiraz, pinotage and cabernet franc) in to a stunning blend, which remains in my cupboard for a suitable occasion.

On to our third vineyard of the day: Elgin vintners. As we wobbled in to another lovely tasting room at this 6 farm collaboration we were greeted by a lovely lady with whom we spent several hours tasting the selection of wines. Their Agama wine (a cab sav/merlot blend) was very nice, as was the pinot noir. But my favourite wine of the day was tasted when wine maker Paul Wallace returned to the tasting room and allowed us a taste of his Malbec and subsequently gave me the rest of the bottle to join the one I bought!

Fantastic service from these wonderful folk at Elgin Vintners.

Having opted for a liquid lunch, Lauren and I were now starving and all credit to their fantastic customer service, our hosts produced freshly baked scones, preserve, crackers and cheese. A fantastic end to the day proving just how friendly and personal a visit to Bot River is. I heartily recommend getting off the Stellenbosch and Franschoek routes (which are also wonderful but maybe less personable) and visiting this area. We will certainly be back!

It's hard work all this wine tasting 🙂

A final note: For those of you interested in free range produce, Elgin chickens (who provide most of the free range chicken for Pick n Pay) are based near Elgin Vinters, I have seen reviews where people have visited, if you have, please let me know as I will be trying to do the same soon.

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