We can’t imagine why you’d need another good reason to plan a trip through the Cape Winelands, but if you’re looking for an excuse to hit the road this autumn, these historic brandy homes will do nicely.
OUDE MOLEN ELGIN
We know, we know. Size isn’t everything. But then, it’s hard not to be impressed by Big Bertha and Long Tom, the two enormous stills at Oude Molen distillery in the cool and misty Elgin valley. They are two of the largest copper pot stills in the southern hemisphere, and you’ll get to see them both on the two-hour tour that will have you tasting your way from the base wine to the range of matured brandies, paired neatly with Lindt chocolates.
There’s plenty of quirk to enjoy at Grundheim in the Klein Karoo, where six generations of the Grundling family have been farming and distilling since 1858. Today the brandy still is heated the old-fashioned way, over an open wood-fire, turning out impressive pot-still brandy, muscadel, homemade liqueurs and a fiery witblits.
VAN RYN’S, STELLENBOSCH
With its vast barrel-maturation warehouses framed by the Stellenbosch mountains, it’s hard to miss this century-old distillery on the outskirts of the Eikestad. The Van Ryn’s mantelpiece has no shortage of international awards for its aged brandies, but the visitor offering here is just as good. Well-informed guided tours lead you through the lengthy process of creating burnt wine, from crafting the base wine of chenin blanc or colombard to twice-distilling in the traditional copper pot stills. Then the spirit is off to the warehouse for years of ageing in barrels of Limousin oak. Van Ryn’s is also the only brandy distillery in South Africa with a working cooperage on site, and visitors can watch the master coopers at work, turning, scraping, and firing new brandy barrels. Finish, of course, with a tasting. The 12-year-old is superb.
ANTHONIJ RUPERT WYNE, FRANSCHHOEK
There are few more appealing places in which to sink back into a deep-buttoned Chesterfield with a glass in hand than the historic Manor House on the Anthonij Rupert Wyne estate. With its plush furnishings and yellowwood beams, it’s a glorious throwback to the genteel style of the Cape Winelands in the mid-1800s. And a fine place to discover the unusual L’Ormarins Sagnac. Just as brandy and cognac are close relations, sagnac has links to the French spirit of Armagnac, traditionally made in Gascony in south-west France. At L’Ormarins, as in France, it’s made from colombard, distilled once, and aged in oak casks to produce a richly flavoured spirit that’s smooth and complex. After your tasting, wander the immaculate rose and herb gardens, or embrace your inner petrolhead at the Franschhoek Motor Museum, home to the Rupert family’s collection of classic and contemporary cars.
In a town more famous for its fortified port-style wines, the Nel family maintains old traditions with their trio of award-winning brandies. Boplaas has been crafting brandy since 1880, back when the spirit would travel by wagon, train, and ship to reach the discerning drinkers of London. Today it’s easier to cruise along the scenic R62 wine route to reach the Boplaas tasting room and bistro, a fine place to discover the fine brandies double-distilled in a century-old still and aged for up to 15 years in casks of Limousin oak. “Our angel’s share is very high with the dry weather we have,” says cellar master and owner Carel Nel. “The angels are very thirsty and every night they have a party in our brandy cellar, but this helps us produce rich brandies.”
• From the April edition of Wanted, 2021.