The Garden Route is not traditionally associated with great wines, but that’s all changing fast. A number of top-class estates are producing wonderful wines here. The cool, wet winters and temperate summers along the coast are good for the cultivation of red, white and rosé wines, with the Plettenberg Bay area specialising in some rather classy sparkling wines.
The rugged interior of the Klein Karoo lies between spectacular mountain ranges, and its vines are mostly grown on the valley slopes or in the fertile alluvial soil along riverbanks. The climate is drier than most other wine regions, resulting in healthy vineyards, many of them grown organically. Various microclimates enable Klein Karoo winemakers to produce a wide variety of quality wines, including dry wines, pot-stilled brandies and fortified wines such as South Africa’s champion Muscadels and Cape Port-style wines.
MOSSEL BAY TO GEORGE
This stretch of the western Garden Route has a number of fine wineries, including ReedValley and Cool Bay (near Mossel Bay), Houtbosch (in George) and Herold Wines (on Montagu Pass north of George). We visited Jakkalsvlei in the foothills of the Langeberg Mountains.
This is a family owned winery situated 50 kilometres northwest of Mossel Bay. The vines are planted in a variety of different soil types – clay, shale and sandstone – producing 13 different wines, ranging from a zesty Sauvignon Blanc and fruity River Cuvée white blend, to dry Pinotage Rosé and a natural-sweet range of white, red and pink Moscato.
In 2014, a state-of-the-art tasting venue (the mountain views are spectacular) was opened, allowing visitors to enjoy Jakkalsvlei wines combined with cheese platters, build-your-own pizzas or beer platters served with Jakkalsvlei craft beer.
The area around Plett is a hotbed of new wineries, many of them making a splash in the South African wine scene, such as the likes of Lodestone, Bramon and Newstead Lund (near The Crags), as well as Luka, Plettenvale and Packwood (near Harkerville). We visited Kay and Monty in The Crags region.
Kay and Monty is a boutique wine farm of just five hectares under grape located some 25 kilometres northeast of Plettenberg Bay. It produced its first wines in 2012; the following year its 2013 SAV won gold at the Old Mutual Wine Show and its Champu MCC has been awarded four stars by Platter’s.
Kay and Monty’s old orchid greenhouse has been converted into a charming tasting room. It’s spacious, elegant and open-planned with a deck for hot summer days beside the farm dam … and there are two large fireplaces for cold winter days. Pop in for coffee and something sweet or enjoy a languid lunch. There are delicious platters of cheeses and meats paired with locally sourced artisanal breads … accompanied by a glass or two of the vineyard’s finest, of course.
BARRYDALE TO OUTDSHOORN
The R62 wends its way through the breathtaking, arid landscape of the Klein Karoo. The variety of terroir, ranging from rugged red soils to shaded kloof areas, infuse complex flavours into the area’s many cultivars. There are plenty of good wineries here, ranging from the likes of Joubert-Tradauw (near Barrydale) and Hillock (near Ladysmith) to Boplaas and half a dozen others in the Calitzdrop area; further east there’s Karusa, Domein Doornkraal and Excelsior Vlarkeplaas in the Oudtshoorn region. We visited Grundheim.
This wine farm, situated 14 kilometres west of Oudtshoorn on the banks of the Olifants River, is set on 25 hectares and harvests 350 tons of grapes annually, producing Cape Ruby Port, potstill brandy, a variety of liquers, red and white Muscadel, red Jerepigo … and a legendary witblits that will knock your socks off (in a good way).
The grapes are ripened on the vines, which makes for a unique character and flavour, and there’s no added sugar or artificial colouring in the wines. Grundheim has a historic cellar that’s more than a century old, and is famous for its fermentation process in open tanks. The tasting room is warm and rustic, the staff friendly and welcoming. You can happily lose a whole afternoon here…