Our trip continued with an enchanting day in the Paarl wine country. The region borders Stellenbosch to the south and is a mere 45 minutes’ drive from Cape Town, yet the growing conditions and resulting wine styles are quite different here. The town of Paarl itself is the third oldest European settlement in South Africa and the region has played a major role in the country’s 20th century history. On 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster Correctional Centre in Paarl, where he spent the last few years of his long imprisonment. His release signaled the start of a new era, and the end of apartheid. Today, a bronze statue of Mandela is proudly displayed in Paarl, a reminder that there is more to this scenic region than its viticultural legacy.
Vines were first planted surrounding the town of Paarl in the 17th century by Dutch settlers, who found the rich, fertile soil and benign Mediterranean climate favorable. The region has long played an important role in South-Africa’s wine history, the former Cape Wine Association, known as KWV, was situated in Paarl before abandoning their remit and being privatized. They used to control the vast majority of the Cape’s wine industry, (they still make the vast majority of the country’s brandy) before the rise of the private investor and the number of Cape wine farms subsequently trebled. Paarl is home to a wide range of fine wine estates, great restaurants and dramatic scenery.
We began our day at Glen Carlou where we were hosted by Georgie Prout, the knowledgeable and witty PR manager. She gave us a very nice private tour of the Hess Art Collection Museum, with its love it or hate it modern art collection. Unique it is. Then we met up with a group of wine and travel journalists from Germany and Holland and sat down to a superlative seven course food and wine pairing created for us by the winemaker Arco Laarman and chef Hennie van der Merwe. Highlights of this gourmet extravaganza included the Duck terrine with truffle buttered brioche paired with their 2011 Pinot Noir, the Skilpadjies and beef cheek ravioli paired with their Grand Classique and the Kudu (antelope) loin paired with 2008 Gravel Quarry Cabernet Sauvignon. The views form the table overlooking the mountains and vineyards was captivating.
We could have stayed there all day but had people to meet and more wines to tasted, next up: Painted Wolf wines. Wow, this was an unexpected highlight of the entire trip! Created by Jeremy and Emily Borg in 2007, this garage wine company have a lovely story behind the lovely wines. The African Painted Wolves are highly endangered hunting dogs, very few are left in the wild. The Borgs send funds from a portion of their proceeds to the research and conservation of this fascinating species. The successful social dynamics that these hunting dogs engage in were also an inspiration to the Borgs, and they structured their company with their own dog pack, comprised of passionate conservationists, grape growers, artists and friends. The result? Literally some of the best wines I have ever tasted!
They have a range of wines including “The Den” (easygoing young single varietal wines- Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon. Moving on up quality wise they have another range, my fave, called “The Black Pack”, again single varietal wines such as Chenin Blanc, Roussanne (to die for), Shiraz, Pinotage and Merlot. Another range is the striking “Cape Hunting Blends” with alluring African names such as Lekanyane (white blend) and Madach (red blend). Their icon wine is “Pictus” with only 5,000 bottles made and individually numbered bottles.
Do check out their Pedals 4 Paws initiative, and support it!
Supremely enjoyable visit with the charming Borgs and immensely enjoyed their wines. From their cozy house, we headed to the Rhebokskloof to taste some cheeses with their relaxed wines and have a digestive walk on the beautiful grounds, and then our final destination was the gorgeous, luxury Grand de Dale hotel where lord help us, a gourmet dinner awaited…