If you want to know more about the contents of your wine bottle apart from what’s written on the label, a vineyard tour would be a great place to start.
Last week, on a visit to the Western Cape in South Africa, we visited several vineyards, and it was an enlightening lesson in all matters viticulture.
At the Avondale estate, proprietor Johnathan Grieve took us on a tour in the back of an open tractor-drawn carriage, as he explained the dymanics of organic and biodynamic farming.
He uses natural methods to farm, protecting the soil by growing grasses and nitrogen-producing plants, and using ducks to control pests.
The ducks are well trained, and even have their own duckmobile to transport them around the farm!
“The snails come out when it’s wet, and eat the new grapes. The ducks then eat the snails.
“We get day-old ducks in early April, and they work for about nine months to a year. Then we retain about a quarter of them, to teach the incoming ducks how to get on and off the duckmobile. The rest end up in our kitchen,” Grieve said.
And so the wines are aptly named Jonty’s Ducks.
At the Klein Constantia estate in Cape Town, they have a bigger pest to deal with—baboons.
Vineyard manager Craig Harris explained the situation as he drove us up the Constantiaberg mountain in his open safari vehicle to a scenic viewpoint within the vineyard.
“Those pops you hear...those are paintball guns. We use them to scare the baboons. For the birds, we tie reflective tape to branches. The movement of the light keeps them away,” he said.
We stopped at the block where muscat grapes are grown. The grapes were brown and shrivelled, like raisins, and tasted very sweet.
“The sweet Muscat grapes are used to make Vin de Constance, which was said to be popular with European royalty in the 18th and 19th centuries. It disappeared for many years because of disease, but some plant material was found and the historical sweet wine was recreated, and the first plantings were in 1982,” sales manager Jacqueline Harris explained as we sipped the sweet dessert wine, which is now their most popular brand.
And so we went off to L’Avenir in Stellenbosch, located in the valley below the Simonsberg mountains.
Coincidentally, the day we got there, they had just sent off their first batch of wines to Kenya for sale.
L’Avenir specialises in Chenin Blanc and pinotage, which we got to taste at the pinotage deck known as Leopard’s View.
And as wine is linked to romance, the deck is perfect for a sundowner marriage proposal. With views of gorgeous sunsets, she’s unlikely to say no.
After she says “yes,” you can enjoy a delicious braai dinner at L’Avenir’s Pinotage Lounge, accompanied by a selection of wines chosen by winemaker Dirk Coetzee.
I recommend the steak, done medium, with the 2019 Pinotage Rose from the Far and Near range. A match made in L’Avenir.