One of these future expeditions was the now confirmed Kalahari trip that left in three days time from a place called Upington in the far north, so we thought we’d just relax and hang around Stellenbosch in the meantime.
Strangely enough after a day just ambling around, we got bored! It’s not that we hadn’t been anywhere, we had visited the wine museum, a cheese factory and tried for the second time the main tasting cellar at the very inhospitable Die Bergkelder. It just seemed a bit dull! So the next day we upped the ante and hired a Volkswagen Chico, . This was our first introduction to this car. To describe it as small is an understatement. It’s tiny! But as you will see later on, its name would be immortalised in our memory banks forever.
We visited more wineries after a bit of hike in the Jonkershoek nature reserve, a mountainous area of small trees and scrub.
Generally the wineries in South Africa are of two worlds, there’s the breezy new world; similar to wineries in Australia with smiling friendly people, trendy cafes and restaurants with plenty of facilities for visitors or the dour starchy old world; whose employees obviously believe they have that rare skill in being able to weigh up potential customers by their dress.
These people are dinosaurs instead of seizing an opportunity to introduce new people to drinking wine they take the approach that if you don’t look like buying a dozen bottles you’re not worth the effort. Travelers dressed in shorts and a tee shirt obviously fit the mold, after all if you’re travelling on the cheap then you’re not going to buy more than a single bottle to drink with your can of baked beans that night.
The only thing that stopped us buying a couple of cases of wine and sending it home to Australia was the fact that nobody could tell us the actual cost supposedly on account of Aussie customs having a variable duty. Still the dinosaurs didn’t stop our enjoyment as we visited four wineries, two of which were standouts. Funny thing the friendlier the staff the better the wine. In the case of Hartenberg not only were the staff and surroundings excellent but the wines were also pretty bloody good too.
South Africa already has one own unique grape variety (cultivars in South Africa, varietals in Australia), called Pinotage that is well known throughout the world. Hartenberg introduced us to another but this time almost obscure unique South African red varietal called Pontac and it tasted bloody good!
As you can guess wine is one of my passions and given the platform I could talk about it forever.
My final comment about the South African wineries (they actually call them wine farms) is the amazing settings. Nearly every one of them has a mountainous backdrop, mainly because the Jonkershoek range cuts through and scatters itself around the whole area. It’s not particularly high, one of the highest is Twin Peaks (no, not the Twin Peaks) at around 1494 metres but they are dramatic, rising from the flat plains or in the case of the winelands, foothills covered in vines. And of course most of these wineries have positioned their cafés and restaurants to take full advantage of the location.
Having a casual meal with a good bottle or two with that sort of view is one of life’s great pleasures and temptations, which we didn’t unfortunately succumb too.
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