Wine tasting doesn’t need to be baffling or boring; on the contrary for the novice wine lover looking for an entertaining gourmet day out whilst in South Africa, then head to Haute Cabrière. Here you’ll find plenty of panache and style, with a backdrop of stunning scenery. What’s more this Cape Winelands estate is home to the country’s premium bubbly, the Pierre Jourdan Methodé Cap Classique; and who doesn’t love a glass or two of bubbles?
A little over an hour’s drive from Cape Town and just a few minutes outside the quintessential Cape Winelands town of Franschhoek, one finds the winery. The wine cellars and its acclaimed gourmet restaurant are built into the side of the Franschhoek Mountains and afford stunning views out across the vineyards and countryside of the beautiful valley.
Together with the towns of Stellenbosch and Paarl, Franschhoek , meaning ‘French Corner’ in Dutch, forms a triangle encompassing some of the best places to visit, eat and stay. Franschhoek is pretty much a one-street town, its main thoroughfare lined with boutiques, gift shops, and galleries. Yet it is considered to be the food and wine capital of South Africa, a foodie hub of creativity, where talented chefs, attracted by the region’s wine, natural produce and superior lifestyle have opened destination restaurants attracting clients not just from across South Africa but internationally. It’s also a pull for the rich and famous who have invested in staggering real estate, wine farms and posh resorts.
However Haute Cabrière remains very much a family affair, and the chances are that your host for a cellar tour and wine tasting will be with the charismatic cellar master and production director Takuan von Arnim, son of the winery’s founder.
I arrived just in time to catch Takuan wield a classic French cavalry sabre, theatrically slicing the top off a bottle of Pierre Jourdan bubbly! The art of sabrage is part of the unique identity of Haute Cabrière and reflects the passionate style of the place. After a welcome toast the morning wine tour begins.
Once inside the cool wine cellars built into the mountainside and decorated with works from the family’s private art collection, one quickly becomes embraced by the history of this family estate. Above me is a chandelier, and looking more closely I realise it’s made from empty bottles of Dom Pérignon. Takuan is an entertaining storyteller and confirms that the chandelier is made from the 30 or so bottles of champagne that were drunk by the Von Arnims whilst celebrating his birth! The tour has only just started but I’m already loving the family stories.
We kick things off in style with the estate’s flagship sparkling wine. Named after the 17th century French founder of the area, Pierre Jourdan, (a Huguenot who migrated from France), and made in the méthode champenoise (French champagne method), the Pierre Jourdan Cap Classique. The estate has a genuine French heritage, echoing that of the town, underlining the flair of this upscale winery.
Haute Cabrière grows Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, so it’s unsurprising that they have such a wonderful Cap Classique. Elegant, rich yet crisp, I could have just taken the bottle and enjoyed it on the terrace in the sun. But no; there was more to taste!
The next was the Pierre Jourdan Tranquille. It has a beautiful, light salmon colour much like a French ‘gris’. It has a fresh, fragrant nose, and on the palate delicious fruit – again I really enjoyed it. It is a glorious summer wine.
The Haute Cabrière Pinot Noir Chardonnay is next. Thanks to the buttery, heavily oak wines from the US, Chardonnay fell out of fashion for a while, yet this elegant wine from Haute Cabrière with its balanced acidity and zesty fruitiness is very much a contemporary Chardonnay.
The estate is also acclaimed for its Unwooded Pinot Noir. The grape is of course a red cultivar, but here Haute Cabrière creatively makes a light, accessible wine that drinks much like a white, yet has a brilliant, jewel red colour. It’s a real surprise; drinking is believing.
Wine tasting does sound a bit pompous and serious, yet that certainly isn’t the case as Haute Cabrière. Takuan and is family are all about the pleasure that wine and food bring to life; part of memorable times with friends and family.
The estate has a fascinating history. Takuan’s father Achim von Arnim founded the farm in 1982, and his children continue the family’s wine making tradition. The estate’s different soils and orientations ideally suit chardonnay and pinot noir, (the famous varieties of France’s Champagne region). The resulting wines are a real pleasure to taste for novices and wine aficionados alike.
After the morning tour and tasting we enjoyed lunch at the Haute Cabrière Restaurant & Terrace. The space is within the mountain, with vaulted ceilings – makes for a very atmospheric setting.
Lunch was off course pared with wines, and to finish a real treat; a glass of Pierre Jourdan Fine de Jourdan. It is 100% chardonnay, yet fortified with brandy, making it a unique wine, perfect for puddings or even starters.
During the season the terrace menu is ideally suited to a light post-wine tasting indulgence, such as a platter of local cheeses and cured meats, or a tasty salad.
The main restaurant has undergone some changes with the appointment of Head Chef Dennis Strydom. He is evolving the menu towards a more relaxed bistro-style experience, yet with a generous helping of culinary style. In addition to the a la carte choices including satisfying yet sophisticated interpretations of classic bistro fare – think mushroom risotto; Coq au Vin; fresh, homemade pasta – there is also a 3 and 6 course Tasting Menu. Unsurprisingly, all dishes are impeccably paired with estate wines by cellar master Takuan von Arnim.
Before heading back, you must take time to just enjoy the setting; the views over the valley, the countryside. It’s as seductive and intoxicating as the delicious wines.