This Free State girl is on a wild wine adventure. Since moving to the Western Cape in 2015, I’ve been trying to educate myself in the art of oenology. From the Winelands of Constantia, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Elgin and more, I’ve found the Robertson Wine Valley to be my favourite.
In December I had the privilege of welcoming my dad, who still lives in the Free State, and his wife to the Western Cape. They stayed with us on the farm in Barrydale and I had the opportunity to show them some of my favourite places. Early one sunny morning, I got everyone out of bed and into the car, on our way to Robertson.
I have to admit that I am not a huge Chardonnay fan. I love the tanginess of a Sauvignon Blanc, as well as a Semillon or Chenin Blanc, but I had not yet fallen in love with Chardonnay. That is to say, before I embarked on this Robertson Chardonnay journey. I was surprised by the characters of the different chardonnays, the depth of taste and complexity, and if you would like to get to know the art of Chardonnay – Robertson is definitely the place to go. The valley is well-known as the home of South African Chardonnay.
Any good wine journey starts with a hearty breakfast and my favourite spot in Robertson is the Four Cousins Restaurant that is right there on Route 60. The space is light and airy, and beautifully decorated – they have the dusty pink chairs that I just want to lounge in the entire day. The restaurant/tasting room / brewery stocks the entire Four Cousins range, as well as some of the traditional Van Loveren favourites.
Their menu ranges from a traditional English breakfast to eggs benedict, a salmon breakfast (my favourite) and a traditional Scottish breakfast (roasted kippers and eggs). This time around we gave their french toast a try, which was beautifully presented with some crème fraîche and maple syrup – yum!
First Stop: Springfield Estate
The Springfield Estate is well-known in the region for being ninth generation descendants of the original Huguenots that settled in the Cape area. Their approach to Chardonnay-making is in the ancient style of Burgundy. The process involves the addition of wild yeast, while no filtration is done during the winemaking process. Springfield has two different Chardonnays that you can try out, the first of which is the 2018 Wild Yeast Chardonnay which is an unwooded Chardonnay fermented in underground cement tanks for six to nine months. With a vanilla/butterscotch nose and citrusy finish, it is quite a well-rounded Chardonnay.
My favourite, though, is the 2016 Methode Ancienne Chardonnay. This wine is also produced in the Burgundy style with wild yeast and no filtration. The Chardonnay has also spent twelve months on lees, while the grapes were harvested at night in March of 2016. A distinct buttery popcorn nose, a creamy honey taste combined with a tangy lime – it is exquisite! Both these wines can be bought on the Springfield website.
Second stop: Bon Courage Estate
Next, we stopped by the popular Bon Courage estate. If you’ve ever been to Wacky Wine you’ll know that their lawns are annually filled with Blush enthusiasts, but actually, you cannot pass the estate without tasting their 2016 Le Terroir Chardonnay. This well-oaked Chardonnay has a peachy nose with a vanilla and lime finish. The wine was matured in French oak barrels for between seven and nine months to produce a subtle French oak taste.
This is not the only Chardonnay you can find at the Bon Courage Estate. We also tasted the 2016 Bon Courage Chardonnay Prestige Cuvée. With citrusy vanilla on the nose and a grapefruit lime in the mouth, this Chardonnay has quite the rich flavour with a fresh finish. This wine spent eight months in French oak barrels and has an ageing potential of between three and four years. Bon Courage’s wines can be purchased at their online shop.
Last stop: De Wetshof Estate
Arguably the best Chardonnays around is produced by this gorgeous estate. They have five different Chardonnays of which the 2016 Bateleur is their flagship. This Chardonnay has excellent ageing potential (between six and twelve years) and was fermented and matured in French oak barrels for twelve months. I found the wine to have a beautiful stone fruit nose and a gorgeous golden colour, with a full-bodied peach and nectarine flavour.
My favourite of Chardonnay selection is the 2018 Finesse. This wine was also matured and fermented in French oak barrels, for ten months, and has less of a strong wooded taste, giving way to a nuttier scent on the nose and palate. The specific vineyard harvested for this wine has clay and limestone properties that aid in developing the citrus flavours of the wine. On the palate, the wine has a zesty lime, pineapple and mango taste, with a subtle white peach on the nose. All the De Wetshof wines are available via their website.
And that’s about all the wine tasting you can do in one go. I have a very soft spot for the beautiful Robertson wine region and would certainly be returning soon for an even more immersive Chardonnay journey.
For more about the 2019 Wacky Wine festival, have a look here.