When you think ‘wine route’, Stellensbosch is probably one of the first places that comes to mind. And that’s fair enough, considering that the historical town is surrounded by some of the most famous wine farms in the country.
Some of you may say Franschhoek, just around the corner from Stellenbosch. This small town is known for its Michelin-starred restaurants, French street names, and rich array of top quality vineyards.
But there’s a not-so-well-kept secret about another wine region that’s fast becoming a favourite with oenophiles – the Hemel-en-Aarde valley
Located just outside Hermanus, the route boasts 15 farms spread over an easily-manageable 20 kilometres, boasting some of the most scenic views the Overberg has to offer.
Marriott International’s Area Director Marketing Africa, Nicholas Barenblatt, is both a seasoned leisure and business traveller. He knows the area well, and has these tips for making the most out of a day on the Hemel-en-Aarde wine route:
On your marks…
The moment you turn onto the R320 from Hermanus, your wine journey begins. Roughly 300 metres in, turn left into Hermanus Pietersfontein. The farm is named after Hermanus Pieters, who was one of the founders of the small fishing village, Hermanus.
The farm is known for having a fun, laid-back atmosphere, so it’s a great way to start the day. They offer a broad range of wines, from a rich Bordeaux blend, to a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. And if you’re there on a Saturday, be sure to check out the Food and Wine market, where you can sample all of their wines, alongside other delicious fresh foods.
Prize-worthy Pinot Noir
Heading up the Valley, make sure you turn into one of South Africa’s top wineries, Bouchard Finlayson. The winding road to the farm has breathtaking views, taking you all the way to the tasting room.
Surrounded by casks of slowly maturing wine, you’ll taste wines that’ll make you rethink ever sipping on plonk again. Their flagship wine is a Pinot Noir called Galpin Peak, which has won many of the top wine accolades.
But no one tastes just one wine… This winery is also known for its dedication to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines. And if you’re feeling peckish, try their cheese and deli meat boards with oven-fresh bread.
It’s pink, not rose
As you drive around a hairpin bend, you’ll see a wall of bright pink, not quite what you’d expect in the lush green surrounds. But be sure to pull into La Vierge though, to experience the dry-land vineyards, meaning no irrigation is used. It’s a technique they employ, to ensure the natural ageing of the vines, giving their wines a unique flavour.
And much like the flamboyant pink wall, their wines are also fabulously named, according to a ‘Garden of Eden’ theme. So be sure to try some Original Sin, or get lost in their Last Temptation, or be seduced by Jezebelle.
Heaven and earth – food and wine
If you’re on a wine tour, sampling some of South Africa’s finest, you might as well make sure that when you break for lunch, the tasting continues. Creation Wine Farms is perfect for this. The tasting room at Creation pairs all their lunch offerings with their wines. So, if you’re having the pork fillet, burnt caramel and sage, spinach, and king oyster mushroom, it will be paired with the Creation Reserve Pinot Noir 2015, described as ‘Gleaming garnet with an inviting bouquet of spice – peppercorn and clove – supplemented by a delicate whiff of dried apricot’. For the more adventurous, there’s an entire tasting menu where all of the courses are expertly paired.
And to finish things off, try the chocolate and wine pairing, combining two classic favourites.
It’s not over till the bubbles pop
An integral part of a successful wine tour is sampling some bubbly. Located at the foot of the highest mountain in the Hemel-en-Aarde ridge is Domaine des Dieux, the first wine farm on the route to create an award-winning bubbly in the MCC style.
The Claudia Brut 2010 is described as being ‘synonymous with the celebration of life, and should be there at every occasion, be it a milestone or the pure enjoyment of life’s pleasures’, and it’s also the perfect way to round off a trip up one of South Africa’s lesser known, but spectacularly beautiful and delicious wine routes.