Wine tasting has become a major visitor attraction. Many wineries around the world have built beautiful tasting rooms that come with knowledgeable staff able to turn your visit into a real experience.
If there is one region that currently excels putting wine tasting to the next level, than it is the amazing South African Winelands. Nowhere else have I experienced wine tastings as unique and exciting as in this destination.
Off course, you can still walk in a tasting room and chose from a selection of excellent wines and quite often also order delicious food. However, these days many wineries offer a range of quite unique paring options. Think cheese, charcuterie and chocolate? You will find these too, off course. But this is just the beginning. Instead I am talking about a huge offer of unusual pairings, one that seems to increase year on year.
It’s safe to say there are wineries that have made bold choices in the food and flavours they are pairing to their excellent wines.
Recently, I had the opportunity to tick off some unique pairing experiences, which I had looked forward to try for some time!
Boschendal Angus Beef and Shiraz pairing
One of the oldest wine farms in the Cape (founded in 1685), Boschendal is well known as one of the Cape Winelands leading wineries.
The winery offers a range of different wine tasting options with the most unique being hosted in the beautiful manor house dating back to 1812. Here you will be met by one of the estates wine experts leading you through a fleet of wines paired with matching food.
The manor house pairing options are scheduled to take around one hour and are limited to a small number of guests by prior appointment only, as the food needs to be prepared on point for the various options.
Among the various options available, I very much loved the angus beef and Shiraz pairing. The farm today has a nearly 1,000 strong herd of Aberdeen Angus beef, so this pairing will be 100% locally sourced. The small samples of angus beef include a beef tartar, angus biscot (slow cooked over several hours in the hot oven), potted beef and grilled angus. They are paired with the winery’s range of elegant yet bold Shiraz wines.
& Boschendal MCC and Canapé pairing
Another exquisite pairing at Boschendal manor house I would definitely recommend trying is the MCC and canapé pairing. It includes four Methode Cape Classique sparkling wines paired with a slow steamed mussel in dill sauce, salmon trout, a Caesar salad with a twist that will leave you speechless and finally a totally delicious lemon curd meringue.
Cost from R 250 to R 350 per person according to the pairing option
Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm
Boschendal Estate, Pniel Road, Groot Drakenstein, Franschhoek
La Motte Food and Wine Pairing
If you wonder why it should be unique pairing food with wine, believe me when I say, this one is one of the ultimate experiences to make!
Thanks to an amazing collaboration between the estate’s Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant and cellar master Edmund Terblanche, expect to be treated to a mind-blowing pairing session. After all, La Motte produces award-winning wines and Pierneef has been constantly listed among the top ten restaurants in South Africa. In fact, the food and wine pairing itself was awarded with the prize for an innovative wine tourism experience.
Set in the beautiful glassed-in terrace of Pierneef, you will be met by the La Motte’s hospitality ambassador who will lead you through the session.
The food will be prepared by the restaurant according to what is seasonally available and the session aims to help you better understand how to select and pair food with wine.
The pairing session will actually kick-off with an introduction to sensory tasting based on the five taste sensations sweetness, acidity, salt, bitterness and umami paired with a glass of Chardonnay.
When moving on to the food, expect five bite-sized portions of haute cuisine paired to five of the winery’s highly rated reds and whites.
Our tasting saw the La Motte Sauvignon Blanc paired with citrus and fennel-cured Franschhoek trout with cucumber salad and mousse; Chardonnay paired to a roast vegetable tartar with potato crisp and egg yolk; Shiraz paired to an absolutely delicious Karoo lamb sosatie with fresh-style cheese and banana, and to finish La Motte’s Millenium (the Bordeaux-style blend) paired to a chocolate and berry tea cake.
This food and wine pairing unsurprisingly requires a good deal of preparation from the kitchen, therefore it is offered only once a week and you need to book in advance (at least two days).
You need to set aside two hours for the whole experience, but it is really worth every minute and if you only have time for one pairing, I would highly recommend to do this one!
Cost R 295 per person
Food and wine pairing exclusively on Friday, 10 am
General tastings: Monday to Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm
La Motte Wine Estate, Franschhoek
Eikendal Wine Estate Cheesecake and Wine Pairing
Eikendal Vineyards has been receiving awards all over the world for its innovative winemaking.
The winery offers an interesting range of unique wine pairings and continues to experiment with new flavour combinations throughout the various seasons.
However, I actually recommend their regular pairing option, the cheesecake and wine pairing.
Expect a zesty lemon cheesecake paired to a Sauvignon Blanc, a berry cheesecake paired to a Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay blend, and finally a truly delicious salted caramel cheesecake paired to the award-winning Janina Unwooded Chardonnay.
Should your visit fall into December, there is usually also a special Christmas wine pairing. It includes three of the winery’s major reds, Pinotage, a Shiraz, Petit Verdot and Sangiovese blend and a bold Cabernet Sauvignon which are paired to traditional Christmas cookies: a classic Lebkuchen, fruit mince pies and a traditional South African Christmas cake.
Tastings Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm
Eikendal Wine Estate, along R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch
Blaauwklippen Macaron and Wine Pairing
Founded in 1682 as one of the earliest wine farms in South Africa, the beautiful Blaauwkloppen Wine Estate is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading producers of Zinfandel. In 2007, the winery actually bottled the country’s first white Zinfandel.
Step into the estates historic manor house and you will be blown away by the beautiful spacious tasting room.
The winery offers a number of special wine pairings with knowledgeable staff making the introduction to the wine and flavour combinations. There is a wine and chocolate pairing too, however, make sure you come here for the flagship pairing: Macaron and Wine … believe me, you won’t regret it!
It might sound a bit on the sweet side but the flavour combination of five different macarons and wines are working nicely off each other. The macarons come in flavours of pistachio, rosewater, raspberry, salted caramel and dark chocolate and are paired with two sparkling wines, the Diva MCC and the Ons Sprankel rose bubbly, followed by a Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Cabriolet red blend.
Booking ahead is advised.
Cost R 150 per person
Monday to Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm; Sunday and public holidays, 9 am – 5 pm
Blaauwklippen, Strand Road, Stellenbosch
Clos Malverne Ice cream, Wine and Bubbly
Nestled in the beautiful Devon Valley close to Stellenbosch, Clos Malverne is renowned for its award-winning Cape blends.
The winery prides itself being the first in the Winelands to offer pairings with rather unique flavours. Though I am not in the position to confirm if this is truly the case, I honestly think the ice cream pairing at Clos Malverne was among the most remarkable tasting experiences I’ve ever had! It is not without reason the winery’s flagship pairing.
Flavours will change with the seasons and for our summer tasting we had the rather unique ones of spicy sweetcorn, chilli and coriander paired to the winery’s brut. Next up was a delicious banana coconut curry paired to Chardonnay; peppermint chocolate chip paired to the full-bodied Pinotage Reserve and to round off the pairing a really indulgent dark chocolate, coffee meringue and caramel perfectly paired to the Clos Malverne Le Cafe Pinotage with prominent aromas of coffee, mocha and chocolate.
Cost R 98 per person
Monday to Friday, 10 am – 4.30 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10 am – 1 pm
Clos Malverne, Devon Valley Road
Delheim Wine and Cupcakes
Owned by the Sperling family, the Delheim wine farm has an intriguing history. The farm was indeed one of the first established in Stellenbosch and at the time belonged to a member of the East India Company. Afterwards, the estate had various owners until it was bought by a wealthy German as his retirement home who also gave the farm its current name. He also planted the first vines on the estate around the early 1940s, and is also the one who convinced his nephew Michael Sperling (today’s patriarch owner) to emigrate to South Africa in order to take over Delheim’s wine business.
The winery is well known for its wine and cupcake pairing which they have offered for several years already. More recently, they have added in interesting twist to their original cupcake pairing: it now features fynbos cupcakes. The new range is an homage to the local fynbos vegetation. Fynbos means fine-leaved plants and it is a specific vegetation only found in a small belt within the Western and Eastern Cape of South Africa.
The pairing includes four different fynbos cupcakes, starting with a fynbos honey cupcake prepared with locally produced Cape coast honey and paired to the Delheim Merlot. A honeybush cupcake is based on fine grade honeybush tea leaves, paired to the Chardonnay; a buchu cupcake incorporating a highly concentrated herbal tincture pairs to the Delheim Gewurztraminer and finally a rooibos cupcake is paired to the Delheim Pinotage.
Cost R 120 per person
Daily 9 am – 5 pm
Delheim Wine Estate, Knorhoek Road, Stellenbosch
Zandvliet ClemenGold and Wine Pairing
Zandvliet winery is located near Aston in the beautiful Robertson Wine Valley, which is part of the wider Breede Valley along Route 62 heading into the Klein Karoo.
Founded in 1838, the winery is one of South Africa’s first leading producers of Shiraz.
In case you wonder what ClemenGold means, it is a special type of mandarin grown on the estate alongside vines and other fruits.
The pairing includes four wines: Zandvliet’s Estate Chardonnay, a Kalkveld Shiraz, a Vintage Liqueur Wine and the sweet My Best Friend Muscat. They are paired to ClemenGold marmalade, a dark chocolate, biscotti and a spicy panforte which all contain elements of zesty citrus.
Cost R 100 per person
Zandvliet Wine Estate, De Keyserhoeve Road, Robertson
Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm; Saturday and public holidays, 10 am – 5 pm