Spring is here and summer is on the way!

A beautiful Spring blossom in the winelands

What that means for wine lovers in South Africa, is that it’s time to break out the cold and crisp white wine varietals again!

We thought we would give you a few facts about white wine in South Africa. I say South Africa, but most of the country’s wine is grown right here in the Western Cape, which is of course why we are based here. #wineloversforlife.

Of all of the vineyards in South Africa, the majority (around 55% in 2014) is white grapes and of that 18% is Chenin Blanc. This may seem like a little, but South Africa has more chenin blanc hectares under vine than the Loire Valley in France (weird, because that’s where the grape is form originally).

First known as Steen and later called Chenin Blanc, a much more regal name for a much more regal varietal.

So what is so great about the Chenin?

Mainly its versatility, the wine is known to produce all styles of wine, from bone-dry to luscious as well as sparkling wine and used in many blends, and although not a lot of new vines are beong planted, the older bush vines around are prized posessions to wine farmers.

Not all vineyards are created equal and even in a province as small as the Western Cape, location is everything.

This is because the type of climate differs over the province and that different climate transfers different characteristics into the grapes.


For instance:

Asara Chenin Blanc - a warm climate Chenin Cool Climate Chenin Blanc’s can be found in the Elgin Valley region, and along the coast. Ondine Chnin from Ormonde Estate in Darling – these wines tend to be unwooded and show a lime green colour with fruit aromas of Guava and Lees. The winemakers tend to go for a smooth creat palate whilst keeping a crisp acidity.

Warm Climate Chenin Blanc’s can be found in the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek region. Asara Chenin Blanc in Stellenbosch – This lightly wooded wine is a golden straw colour with tropical fruits such as pineapple and honeysuckle aroma’s. The palate is rich and slightly oily with a layer of stone fruits such as apricots and peach with a mouth filling acidity.



Just reading the two different tasting notes on two wines made from the same grapes in very different parts of the province you can see how different and versatile a this amazing grape can be!

So get out and get tasting some amazingly diverse Chenin Blanc’s that the Western Cape wine region has to offer!

Wine loving South African’s covet their Pinotage as much as the French cover their Cognac and Champagne. We love it so much in fact, that it has become the 2nd most planted grape varietal in South Africa. Although we have not gone as far as prohibiting the name if the wine is made in another country (I do think this has been requested though).

So where did it all start?

The whole story goes back almost 100 years to 1925 when Abraham Izak Perold crossed the Pinot Noir, the prince of Red grape varietals in France, and the local hermitage grape (also known as Cinsaut). Hermitage has never been characterised as a good grape varietal but it seemed to love the Cape climate and did very well under her harsh conditions. The hypothesis behind this was more than likely to get the taste and characteristics from the Pinot and the hardiness and survival capability of the Hermitage.

The man behind the Pinotage Grape – Abraham Perold

Perold cross produced only 4 seeds and instead of growing them on University land, kept them under close watch at his own home on Welgevallen farm. This move almost lead to the annihilation of the young varietal when Perold left Stellenbosch to work in Paarl and left the garden unattended for almost 2 years. When the university came in to clean up the now overgrown gardens, it was only by chance that a young lecturer cycled past the clean-up crew and remembered the seedlings.  They were taken back and kept under the watchful eyes of Professor Theron at a nearby Agricultural College. After some cultivation at the College, an excited Prof Theron showed his work to Perold and after much study of the plants, one varietal was chosen to become the “mother “of Pinotage and the vines were planted. By this time, 16 years had passed from the first seedlings to a vineyard capable of producing wine grapes. So when it came down to deciding who should make this historic batch as both Theron and Perold were not wine-makers, they turned to a colleague Mr CT De Waal, who became the first wine maker to produce a Pinotage wine. The result of the vineyard created very dark grapes that were bold and high in tannins, this tempted farmers to stretch out the wine as much as they could (which was quite a bit due to the darker colour) and the Pinotage name became a little soured as the wine produced were of lower standard. This luckily enough has changed and in the last 30-40 years the art of Pinotage has created some of the best drinking wines around.

Know what to smell in your next glass of Pinotage

The first commercial vines were planted 2 years later and although these are not still around, we have tracked down the oldest Pinotage vineyards in the country (it wasn’t that hard, we just went straight to the source). The 65 year old vineyards planted on CT De Waal’s family farm in a spot called “Top of the Hill” are the oldest, and they still produce wine, De Waal Wines creates a single vineyard vintage each year.

You will find the oldest pinotage vineyards in the world at De Waal estate

These vineyards however, will not last forever and will sadly be removed eventually as the vineyard starts to produce less and less and production costs to produce wine become too high to be viable for sales but until then, lets taste as much of this beauty as possible

Join them this weekend on the Top of Hill Pinotage Walk or simply join our Platinum or Luxury Tours to taste this South African Great

Once upon a time, there was an amazing woman called Maria, who married a winemaker in Stellenbosch by the name of Charles Marais, they decided to start their matrimony as wine farmers and started production on a wine farm called Wolvendans (Dance of Wolves). When her husband died, she was left with the wine-estate and an unfinished Manor House. She took over the farm, completed the house with a feminine touch and expanded the property before to her son in law (Johannes Neethling) took over and the name changed to Neehlingshof. This wine farm is now known as Neethlingshof and located just off the R310 on your way to Stellenbosch . When driving into the estate, you wander back in time and can almost hear the horse drawn carriages that brought honored guests to the Manor House up a tree lined lane over a more than one kilometer long. The former Manor House is now transformed into a beautiful restaurant and the tasting room is attached to the wine cellar.

Neetlingshof Wine Estate
The Manor house echoes the Cape Dutch Architecture that Stellenbosch is so well kwon for

Neethlingshof, which is nowadays part of the corporate Distell Group, offers a variety of wines, divided in three different labels; the Short Story Collection, the Premium Red Wine Collection and the Premium White Wine Collection. As you wander into the tasting room and the friendly staff welcomes you, you can feel the presence of Maria which breaths through the cellars. Not only does Neethlingshof offer guests a wine tasting where you are able to choose between 15 different wines, a wine and food pairing can also be arranged. As our group today is are cold and hungry, we choose the second option and warm our bellies with a range of flavors accompanied by five different wines. The sommelier explains why the dishes on our plate are chosen: “As you can see, all the tapas are real South African dished, made of food that you buy in any grocery store. We want to show you that you do not have to be a chef to make the right choice of wine with your food.” Our five course tasting meal exists of Tomato soup, samosas with home made atchar, bite sized meat balls, a steak sandwich with caramelized onion and chocolate shavings and Malva pudding. – See our tasting review here Sitting close to a wood fire and gazing into the massive wine cellars behind us, the sommelier enlightens us about the story behind the Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Malbec, The Owl Post Pinotage and the Maria Noble late harvest that is named after the famous Maria.

Bikes 'n Wines Wine Estate History Bikes 'n wines Wine Estate History Bikes 'n wines - Wine Estate History Bikes 'n Wines Wine Estate History Bikes 'n wines - Wine Estate History

  “We nurture the spirit of the ‘first lady’ deeply, and therefore dedicated our sweet dessert wine to her. She is not only displayed by the picture on the wall, but will always be in our hearts when we drink her wine.” The sweet wine which contains more than 220 grams of sugar per liter, matches perfectly with the even sweeter Malva Pudding. The pallet of dried apricots, honey and peach is a perfect conclusion to the pairing. We leave the pairing more than satisfied and when we get back on the bicycle to peddle the long lane back to main road, we have a final look to admire the beautiful legacy that Maria Marais has left behind. Want to taste the legacy of Maria yourself? Join us on one of our tours and be inspired!

Post by: Myrna Van Pinxteren – Marketing