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Alternate Routes · Africa · south africa · South Africa · Aigars Nords

About wine and art

Author: Aigars Nords0 COMMENTS

About wine and art

About wine

South Africa is a country of wines, surrounded by ocean on three sides. It adds a certain unique touch to taste of its wines as well. It's particularly true speaking of vineyards sited just 800 meters from the Atlantic Ocean, and Bamboes Bay is exactly like that. It is one of the few single South Africa vineyards, located about 300 km to the north from Cape Town. Producers of Fryer's Cove wine (, in their turn, have planted their vines in the very north of West Cape Province, approximately 3.5 h drive from Cape Town. The owner, a man of bright personality, will gladly tell you about his 5 ha land and the winery in every detail. It's a dream come true both for him and his brother-in-law, and they have invested huge efforts to harvests excellent grapes there. He tells how they had washed off the ocean salt from vine leaves every day and even hired a local guy to shoot greedy sparrows, threatening to peck up the whole harvest. Yet nowadays, they have given up a futile fight with salt, and a slight trace of saltiness is typical to otherwise excellent Fryer's Cove Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Merlot.

Lamberts Bay is another individual vineyard, just 10 km from there, owned by an equally progressive producer, Sir Lambert ( The whole 10 ha of his farmland are given to Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and closeness of the ocean (just 3 km) has certain impact on their taste, too. It is a fascinating experience to stay in a house in the middle of a vineyard, and, if you wish - there is a golf course, located nearby as well.

Summer is the best time to visit vineyards of this part of Africa, especially those of the scenic Oliphant's River Valley. In winter, the river overflows its banks and even winemakers themselves have no other choice but to cross their lands by boats. Winemakers of the area do not fret over this fact - it is part of their lives. They go by cars as long as they can, then swap them for tractors, and finally take boats. An overflown road turned into a trap for us too, and just the fact that solid ground is somewhere under the water didn't seem very comforting at all. Best of all rely on locals in such a case, even though they would decide to take you back onto dry land along the detour, clearly marked with a "road closed" sign.

You can get some amazingly good South African wines much closer as well - just about 15 km from Cape Town, in Constantia, the oldest wine region of South Africa. Vineyards stretch at the foot of Constantiaberg Mountain covering the whole of the beautiful valley - the cradle of this country's wine culture. Strange though it may seem, most visitors to South Africa stay unaware of its existence. Perhaps because it's surrounded by mountain slopes from all sides, and not many would venture to check what's behind them. Most tourists head straight to the Cape of Good Hope, without even realizing what a gem they are missing. And indeed, the landscape differs greatly from any other place in South Africa - with pines instead of palms, and a general impression that you are in France or Switzerland! Wines produced there are wonderful! Visit any vineyard of the area, and you will not be disappointed. Especially it refers to small ones, like Klein Constantia Estate, producer of the famous South African sweet wine, and Buitenverwachting, which was founded by a Dutch settler, Simon van der Stel. The greatest pride of Constantia are its fine white wines, excellent Sauvignon and Chardonnay, perfected over the centuries by winemakers of European origin.
Feeling hungry, you can stop at Kalk Bay fishermen's village on your way back, or, to be more precise, at the small seaside restaurant, White House, sited in the very harbor. Even though it may seem as a regular tourist-trap (as no other eateries are around and no choice available), it tunes out to serve fresh and decent fare, moreover, with the ocean splashing at your very feet. The owner tells that strong waves have broken glass of its large windows more than once already. Well, is how it happens there!

Western Cape Province has another treasure - Franschhoek Valley, one of the most beautiful wine valleys of South Africa, surrounded by mountains and a very European atmosphere. Particularly strong it is in the town of Franschhoek, which was found in the 17th century by French Huguenots. No sign of backwoods of the Black Continent!

There are several high-standard wine farms in the Franschhoek area:
Mont Rochelle ( - produces very good sparkling wine.
Môreson ( - features Bread&Wine restaurant, which makes an excellent lunch spot.
La Petite Ferme ( - another good choice to have a great meal.
Colmant ( - a truly fantastic discovery! Belonging to a Belgian couple, Jean-Philippe and Isabelle Colmant, the winery boasts some excellent Cap Classique sparkling wines, made by the traditional Champagne method. Fizzy and fabulous! Be sure to linger a little longer and have a lunch as well there - it's a great chance to savor a meal and a glass of sparkling wine to go with it, while your eyes can feast on wonderful views of Franschhoek vineyards.
Grande Provence ( - with vineyards stretching over 30 ha, the history of this winery dates more than 300 years back into history. A truly sophisticated destination - an impressive estate houses comprises not only a winery but also luxury accommodations, a superb restaurant and a contemporary art gallery.
Boekenhoutskloof ( - one of the leading wine producers in South Africa, definitely worth a visit!
Vrede en Lust (, or, to be more precise, sited there Cotage Fromage restaurant is worth a visit for lunch or breakfast.

Without driving too far, you can enjoy the gems of Stellenbosch valley as well. A legendary name to be mentioned is Kanonkop (, the oldest producer of Cabernet Sauvignon in South Africa. Who knows, maybe you are lucky enough to get a bottle of the year 1990 wine, autographed by the producer himself.
Few more destinations of this neighborhood's wine route are the following:
Kleine Zalze ( - a wine farm famous for its gourmet restaurant Terroir.
Rust en Vrede ( - houses an award-winning fine dining restaurant, listed among the best ones in South Africa.
Waterford ( - features quite overpriced yet very good wines.
Rupert & Rothschild ( - dating back to 1690, it offers a truly unique winery experience! Guests are welcomed in a lavishly decorated hall by one of the family members and can sip some excellent wine at the same time enjoying a marvelous landscape of Simonsberg mountain slopes from perhaps the best sightseeing spot in the whole valley. Fantastic wines and very friendly prices!
Glen Carlou ( - a wine farm, located just a short way from Rupert & Rothschild, can hardly be called a small one. Instead of expected tasteless marketing machinery it turns out to be a very enjoyable wine route destination. Glen Carlou does not stand out with exceptional cuisine, yet it covers a wide spectrum of good wines, quite popular in Latvia as well. Sit back on the terrace, sip some wine and savor the fabulous landscape around you.
And finally, Hemel-en-Aarde valley - it is sited a short drive from a small whale watching town, Hermanus, with a scenic road from Franschhoek leading there. It's mostly Pinot noir producing region, the most outstanding representatives being Hamilton Russell (, possibly the best producer of Pinot noir grapes in South Africa, and Bouchard Finlayson (, boasting to be the South African Pinot pioneer. Outstanding wines!

About art

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Aside from its wines, South Africa has other treasures to reveal. The Black Continent is renowned for its rich and colorful artistic potential. Its artists have achieved both local and international recognition. Michael Stevenson Gallery, based in Cape Town (160 Sir Lowry Road,, is one of the brightest names on the South African art scene, well-known far beyond its borders. It's an institution of impressive scope - almost like a museum! The gallery features several spacious halls that host top-notch South African contemporary art collection, including the outstanding photo series "The Hyena & Other Men" by Pieter Hugo. The gallery is definitely worth a special visit. You can book a guided tour as well, which gives a chance to see not only all the currently available collections but also artworks stocked behind the scenes. Several hours fly by almost unnoticed!
Whatiftheworld gallery, in its turn, serves as a platform for young and emerging South African artists and their endeavors in a contemporary art field. It features crazy, yet quite intriguing works. Not for nothing it has been listed as one of the "Top 50 Emerging Galleries from Around the World" by London's Contemporary Magazine in 2007. Zander Blom, born in 1982, is one of the most colorful young talents presented there. The gallery displays his photographs of some peculiar installations, which he creates, takes photos of, and then destroys giving space to new creations, all of them being done in his own bedroom. The conceptual artist has managed to exhibit his works in Berlin as well. The gallery owners will gladly tell you about every work of art there. (208 Albert Rd., Cape Town,

About gastronomy

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Aubergine (39 Barnet Street, Cape Town, Phone: +27 021 465 4909, - it is one of the best restaurants in South Africa, listed among the world's top 100 finest dining spots, too. Set in a 19th century building, Aubergine surprises not only with its refined, caramel-color interior, decked out with minimalist dark wood furniture, but also its Terry Hall - an excellent Cap Classique sparkling wine. A sommelier, a lady this time, will suggest the best choice to go with your meal. Truly impressive wine list and amazingly acceptable prices! Be sure to try local antelope or kudu meat.
Manna Epicure (151 Kloof Street, Cape Town, Phone: +27 021 426-2413) - a very tasteful spot and an excellent choice for breakfast or lunch. It features a trendy, throughout white décor and amiable service. An elegant lady, bustling around the café, always has a friendly word with her guests, and many of them seem returning there again and again.
The Grand Cafe (35 Victoria Road, Cape Town, Phone: +27 021 438 4253, -the best way to start off your night at The Grand Café is to go straight up to the second floor, where everyone is met by a sturdy Afro-American barman, bursting with jokes, anecdotes and funny stories. He literally hypes you up and sets on the right wavelength for the whole evening. Fizzy champagne and a sparkling, joyful atmosphere!
Jardine (185 Bree St., Cape Town, Phone: +27 21 424 5640, is one of the best restaurants in Cape Town. It features excellent creative, fusion-style food with a touch of Africa, which includes game meat - antelope and zebra, and local fishes. It's a pleasure for your taste-buds and eyes as well, as you watch cooks bustling in the kitchen. Some tables are set upstairs, on the balcony. Jardine hosts regular presentations of local winemakers, each time featuring a different producer. Only production of a particular winery, Waterford, for example, is offered throughout the evening, brimming over with fine wines.
Belthazar (Victoria Basin, V&A Waterfront, - it is set in a prime shopping and entertainment centre of the city, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, and initially it may seem that a place, swarming with tourists, can hardly promise a quality meal. Belthazar is a huge steakhouse, yet it's worth going there not for meat alone. The restaurant features an impressive choice of finest South African wines, available by the glass. A great place to indulge oneself in some wine tasting! There is a very good book store, Exclusive Books, sited nearby.

Useful information:
 A great help in discovering South African wines is The John Platters SA Wine Guide 2009, available at Cape Town airport information centre - it contains addresses, maps, descriptions, etc.
 South African wine producers are more open to marketing activities than French, for example, and most wineries are open even without any prior arrangements.

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