Wine day!!! Mom woke me up at 6am and our first adventure of the day was figuring out how to make coffee. We purchased a bag of coffee grounds thinking we had a coffee maker, but alas it’s a grinder and an espresso machine. Google told me to make it on the stove and it didn’t turn out half bad, but was very strong.
Wine Flies tour picked us up around 9am for our tour, our guide was the amazing Kobus. I dozed for the 45 minutes to the first vineyard. Stellenbosch has about 200 wineries, some make wine from grapes from other vineyards whereas others do it all themselves. This tour focused on the Stellenbosch region, a region similar to Bordeaux in France. South Africa is the oldest New World wine country so this means they can plant whatever they want wherever they want. Wines in France, which is considered Old World wine country, need to be planted in a specific region. The wine is South Africa also tends to be higher alcohol because of the higher temperature, most being around 14-15% alcohol. Red wine should be served around 18-19 degrees Celsius (white wine closer to 12 degrees) because the colder it gets the less flavor it has, this is about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
We spent a little time in the vineyard before it started raining. The vines are taught to only grow a certain height and length for ease of picking and to prevent too many grapes from growing on one vine at a time. The more grapes the greater the dilution of the flavor. Interestingly, the roots of the vines are from America because they have a resistance to a certain parasite in South Africa. The roots and the vine are literally wound together.
First, we went to Mitre’s Edge, a wine boutique meaning that it makes less than 50,000 bottles of wine annually. Wine Flies tries to support the smaller vineyards since they too are a smaller company. Our tasting was in the home of the winemaker, a beautiful manor I would call it. This was my first taste of Petit Verdot, a wine that is often used for blending wines related to its acidity. In France sugar is often added whereas in South Africa acidity is often added. The sugar content is actually usually less than 6 g per liter.
Our second stop was called Villiera, a vineyard that creates wine on a much larger scale. It’s more known for its bubbly wine which cannot be called Chardonnay (because of the region it comes from) but is created in a similar way. Did you know the packaging on the stem of bubbly wine was done to cover up the empty space in the bottle where the yeast had been? Now there is a “filler wine” but the traditional packaging has remained. Here, we also compared Chenin Blanc unwooded and Chenin Blanc wooded. I could drink the buttery flavor of wooded Chenin Blanc all day long! It was delightful, so of course I bought a bottle.
Finally, it was time for lunch! We stopped at Middelvlei for a braai which is basically a barbecue. We enjoyed toasted sandwiches(tomato, cheese, and special sauce toasted on the fire), beef sausage, chicken, potato salad and green salad. I was so hungry after two wineries/vineyards and I actually had a few bites of raw vegetables.
Here we learned more about the processing of wine, Kobus studied wine making for 5 years at university! After harvesting, the grapes are de-stemmed. White wine grapes go directly into cooling pipes and to the separator while the red wine macerates for a bit. What this means is the juice seeps out to have contact with the skin which gives the juice color and more tannins (dryness that occurs when the sugar reacts with the proteins in your saliva). After all the juice has been separated from the skins it’s time for fermentation. The yeast is added and ferments the sugar in the juice into alcohol. Lees, known as dead yeast, gives some flavor to the wine. Red wine fermentation takes much longer because the tannins act as a preservative against the acetic acid.
After fermentation comes aging, with red usually in oak barrels and white in steel. Sometimes white is aged in oak barrels but not for as long as red wine, which takes its time absorbing some more tannins from the wood.
Did you know a winery is where they make the wine and a vineyard is where the grapes are grown so a winery and a vineyard are not interchangeable. And to be called a wine estate you must bottle the wine on your premises.
Our fourth stop was the DeWaal wine estate, home to the very first Pinotage. This is a wine unique to South Africa, a cross between Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Cinsault). Here we did a few blind tastings where we had a list of wines and had to guess which one. All day we had been working on our tasting skills and I’m proud to say I was the only one to name one of the reds, a 2017 Merlot. First you look at color (the younger red wines are more purple), then smell, swirl, sip and savor.
Our final stop of the day was a chocolate and wine pairing at Lovane Vineyard. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. At this point I wasn’t learning much because, well, I’d had about 25 tastings of wine...and I’m only just over 5 feet. I still ended up with a bottle of Cab Sauv, my favorite.
The ride home the back of the bus spent celebrating our win on the quiz. This girl is and A-student and took notes the whole day so of course we won. We shared a bottle of wine from Wine Flies and laughed and talked the whole way home. We made friends with an Englishman from Essex on holiday to see the sharks and a couple from Jo’burg on holiday for the wine, I believe. Such a great trip. One part I love about traveling is the people that you meet! Mom became known as the teacher who corrected everyone’s grammar and I became known as the dietitian and fielded questions about veganism.
Kobus dropped us off at Kloof Street House downtown, a restaurant I’ve had on my list for sometime. The atmosphere is unlike any restaurant I’ve seen before, very cultural and vibrant. I ordered double gin and tonics with The Bottanist gin (reminiscing, Jules) and we both got the burger. All I wanted after a day of drinking was chips (aka fries) and a juicy burger. Hit the spot! Getting WiFi at the restaurant was the challenge but an Uber home only cost me $2.40! I’d say that was a heck of a day!