TO PROMOTE THE UNIQUE POTENTIAL OF THE REGION, 11 WINEMAKERS HAVE BANDED TOGETHER TO HIGHLIGHT THE WINES OF THE AGULHAS WINE TRIANGLE
Written by Richard Holmes
It’s oh-so-easy to fall for the charms of the Franschhoek wine lands — all chic boutiques and charming bistros. So too the leafy streets of Stellenbosch, where vineyards come framed by a backdrop of Cape mountains. The Swartland? Less obviously majestic, perhaps, but with the swagger of the Swartland Revolution now mellowed into the quiet confidence of winemakers making magic.
But the windswept plains of Agulhas? Where frosty winds pummel rocky shores, and empty gravel roads lead to lonely vineyards? Historic homesteads are few and far between here, and fine dining doesn’t extend much beyond the day’s linefish at L’Agulhas Seafoods. Though the southernmost wine region in Africa may not inspire love at first sight, like all good romances it’s worth it in the end.
For starters you’ll need a few days, at least, to get to grips with the region. This is no morning out from the Mother City. Instead, you’ll hit the N2 out of town, curse the traffic in Somerset west, and finally take a long exhale as the wheat fields of the Overberg roll their way south beyond Caledon.
The region is perhaps most famous for the holiday towns of Struisbaai and Arniston, and the iconic point at Cape Agulhas, but it is also fast building a name for itself as a wine region for explorers. From the hamlet of Baardskeerdersbos in the West to Malgas in the east, the vineyards here are increasingly lauded for their unique terroir and cool-climate character.
To promote the unique potential of the region, 11 winemakers have banded together to highlight the wines of the Agulhas Wine Triangle. While some — like Land’s End, Trizanne Signature Wines, and Cederberg Winery’s Ghost Corner brand — only source fruit from the area, many have cellar doors well worth a visit.
One of my favourites is the low-key charm of Strandveld Vineyards, near the mission village of Elim. Here winemaker Conrad Vlok crafts a remarkable diversity of wines, from the Pofadderbos single-vineyard sauvignon blanc to The Navigator, a Rhône-style red blend that speaks to the ancient seamen who sailed this coast. His Strandveld Adamastor is also a superb example of a white Bordeaux blend, with tank-fermented sauvignon blanc melding beautifully with barrel-aged Sémillon. There’s a pair of farm cottages on-site if you fancy spending the night, with running and biking trails across the estate. Just watch out for those pofadders.
A short way back down the gravel road, Black Oystercatcher’s owner and winemaker Dirk Human is a dab hand in the cellar, with a particular focus on white varietals. His Reserve range includes a superb Blanc Fumé — barrel-aged sauvignon blanc — as well as a Méthode Cap Classique crafted, unusually, from merlot.
The estate is also a hub for tourists in the area, with an excellent on-site restaurant and deli, alongside contemporary farm accommodation. Dirk is also a driving force behind the Nuwejaars Wetlands, a remarkable conservation initiative in the region. Ask at the tasting room about guided game drives in the reserve.
Or, venture east, back through Bredasdorp and along the gravel road that runs alongside De Hoop Nature Reserve. Before long you’ll find yourself overlooking the Breede River, and the stony soils that first caught the eye of architect and Stellenbosch winemaker David Trafford.
He first planted vines on the banks of the Breede River back in 2004, and today the Sijnn cellar produces a superlative range of wines focused on hardy Mediterranean varietals. The flagship blends showcase what the region has to offer, but they aren’t cheap. If you’re counting your cents, look for the more affordable ‘Low Profile’ collection. And, in good news for road-tripper, the cellar is now open Monday to Saturday from 10am-3pm. If you’re looking for the perfect weekend escape in the Cape, head out of town for a sip of the Deep South.