According to Salvador Dali, Great wine requires a mad man to grow the vine, a wise man to watch over it, a lucid poet to make it, and a lover to drink it. But what Salvador didn't say was the kind of man that tours the vineyards and tastes the wine. So, when our tour bus left the stylish Cape Town Crystal Tower Marriott Hotel where we had lodged, and headed to Franschhoek Winelands, we were full of expectations and excitements. The bus was full of curious, wanderlusting and wine-thirsty tourists about to explore the Winelands and taste the proverbial fine wine in fine wine skin.
The Franschhoek Winelands, in the Western Cape Province, is where some of South Africa's oldest and most distinguished vineyards and wine estates are located. In addition to worthwhile tours, Franschhoek Winelands offers tourists opportunities to delight in both horizontal and vertical wine tasting experiences. On your way to the Winelands, you may want to stop over at the Huguenot Monument in Franschhoek town built in 1945. The monument is dedicated to the Huguenots who emigrated from France to escape religious persecution and settled in the area between late 1600s and early 1700s.
The Huguenot Monument is full of symbolism. Here, you can spend some time and reflect on the three aches, the sun, the cross, and the female figure. The Huguenot Monument as well as the nearby Huguenot Memorial Museum are deeply symbolic and are a good place for religious tourism.
For most tourists, the Winelands tour and wine tasting kick off at the Haute Cabrière Wine Estate which is deeply rooted in history. Here, you may be lucky to be personally received by Takuan von Arnim, a second generation Cellar Master who inherited the wine estate from his forefathers. Located on the picturesque Franschhoek Pass, Haute Cabrière is committed to producing still wines and Méthode Cap Classiques exclusively from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Haute Cabrière is cradled by mountains in the scenic Franschhoek valley,and features an underground wine cellar cut into the mountainside. The range of Pierre Jourdan wines produced on the estate honours the memory of the French Huguenot Pierre Jourdan, who was granted the land on 22 December, 1694. The Cellar Master may perform the traditional wine opening ceremony with cutlass in your honour. Luckily, this was the case for us. And for us, the traditional wine ceremony by Takuan wasn't only exciting and symbolic, it also officially declared our Winelands tour and wine tasting open. And with that, our taste buds were set free.
Depending on what is available, at the Haute Cabrière wine estate, you can taste up different wines or even more. We had a taste of three: Brut (60 % Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay), Belle Rose (100% Pinot Noir), and Ratafia (100% Chardonnay), all from the portfolio of Pierre Jourdan. In case you didn't already know, in wine making, Chardonnay contributes elegance, while Pinot Noir contributes intensity and richness. In the final analysis, how the wines taste is something only your taste buds can tell, but there's no good or bad wine. Isn’t that what they say?
There is truth in wine, but no, you won't get drunk or intoxicated at the Haute Cabrière Wine Estate, or at any other, not even nearly. There won't even be enough for your taste buds and certainly not enough to get you drunk. It's only a sip of this and a sip of that. After all, it's wine tasting and not wine drinking competition. However, you can buy some wine for take-away at very discounted rates. But of course, they're not for sale to persons under 18. Pierre Jourdan wines are classical examples of fine wine in fine wine skin. They exude elegance and style while reflecting uncomplicated sophistication. You'll definitely love them!
If you're a picture freak, you'll definitely love it at Haute Cabrière. The giant branded picture frame is the icing on the cake and will help you take some of the most beautiful pictures you'll ever take in the entire Franschhoek Winelands. The picture frame can be rotated 360 degrees to capture different scenic backgrounds including the mountains and the valleys. And you can even share your memories on the go. Just keep your camera handy.
After the preliminary wine tasting at Haute Cabrière, you'll then begin the Winelands tour proper aboard the Franschhoek Wine Tram. The Tram is one of the major two ways to tour the Winelands, the other being the multi-coach tractor carriage. Luckily for us, we used both. The Franschhoek Wine Tram is a unique way to tour the wine estates by means of a hop-on and hop-off tram system which runs on a railway line built in 1904. With a glass each of welcome-wine handed to us by the Tram Attendant, we began our tour of the vineyards aboard the double-decker Franschhoek Wine Tram.
At the end of the second leg of the Winelands and vineyards tour, you may decide to pitch your tents at one of the wine estates for a gastronomic break. One of such is Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate where we stopped for lunch and even more wine tasting. The history of this classic wine estate dates back to 1694 when a French man, Pierre Joubert, with a Bible hidden in a loaf of bread, fled from France due to religious persecution. From the entrance, there are beautiful artworks strategically 'scattered' around this magnificent homestead. In fact, there's an art gallery here.
The Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate is one of the few places in Cape Town where there's a deliberate meeting of good wines, good food and good arts. Here, we tasted four more wines which included Chenin, Rose, Moscato and Zinfandel, all from Grande Provence portfolio. The wines were expressive with distinctive character. At the Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate, expect to wine and dine, in a literal sense. If you love good food, wine and art, then the Grande Provence should be top on your list of places to chill while touring the Cape Town Winelands.
The Franschhoek Winelands tour will literally take you through the length and breadth of the vineyards and offer you the opportunity to view the beautifully scenic and stunning views of Franschhoek valleys and mountain ranges. Having come to the end of the Winelands tour, you may choose to do the return leg on the multi-coach horse-drawn tractor carriage which actually offers an opportunity to observe the vines even more closely.
Admittedly, this was my first time of seeing a vineyard and the Franschhoek vineyards were just like the ones the Bible figuratively talks about. While on the tour, you can't afford not to be constantly reminded of the numerous scriptural parables citing the vineyard. Although it was November, and the vines were still tender and hadn't matured for harvest, seeing and observing them from a very close range, was a fulfillment of a long-time dream.
If you would like to see fully matured and ready-for harvest grapes, plan your Franschhoek Winelands tour in South Africa’s summer. You might even lend a hand in the harvest and join in the picking while immersing yourself in the aromatic smells of the grapes. I had always heard and read about vines and vineyards on the pages of the Bible, but here I was seeing them and even touching the grapes. The feeling was particularly gratifying.
By their very nature, all wines are full of reminiscence. And whether you want it red, white, rose or even sparking, the Franschhoek Winelands tour will offer you the chance to seek refuge in wine. That is, if that's your sort of thing. Touring the Franschhoek Winelands will give you the rare opportunity to be and experience almost all of the elements in the popular Salvador Dali's quote about great wine.
Franschhoek Winelands tour is a life-changing 'wine & dine' experience. You'll get to learn how a mad man grows the vine, how a wise man watches over it, how a lucid poet makes it, and how a lover drinks it. You'll in fact, have a perfect and once-in-a-life-time opportunity to discover wines from a different perspective. And if you happen to be at the right place at the right time, you might even get to watch as wine is processed in real time. And who knows, you might even taste some, fresh from the oven. Well, if you're touring the Franschhoek Winelands, you don't need to bring a glass cup, but you'll definitely need your taste buds. After all, good wine needs no bush.
The Franschhoek Winelands tour was part of an experiential fam trip sponsored by South African Tourism, for select SA Specialists from Nigeria and Ghana.