Mphumeleli Ndlangisa is a man with an appetite for adventure. In 2014 he swapped spreadsheets for the cellar; giving up a successful career in the world of investment banking for the white-knuckle ride of natural winemaking under his own label, Magna Carta Wines. When he’s not rejuvenating his vineyards in the Paarl winelands or crafting small batches of organic natural wines, he’s likely hitting the open road in search of his favourite weekend getaways. We asked him where the GPS is pointing this winter.
You were born in KwaZulu-Natal, but your studies brought you to the Cape. Which province do you prefer?
I’m definitely a South African; I love all the provinces! KZN is where I was born, where my family and my heart are, but I live in the Cape. They’re both coastal provinces with big mountains. One is tropical and one is Mediterranean. There are a lot of similarities, so I feel at home in both. I have the best of both worlds.
If wine lovers are coming to Cape Town, where can they enjoy Magna Carta wines?
Because they’re made in such small volumes my wines are mostly sold in fine-dining restaurants; the likes of Salsify, The Test Kitchen, and Kyoto Garden. They’re also available at Open Wine and Leo’s Wine Bar.
Your favourite market for the weekend?
Most of the good vendors have moved to the Oranjezicht City Farm Market [in Granger Bay]. Markets are about fresh produce, so my wife and I go there to do our weekly shop; we always get the cultured ghee and butter from Maria van Zyl’s Cream of the Crop. But we also go for a drink and have a meal. A lot of the up-and-coming restaurateurs have a stall in the market. I really love the flammkuchen, as well as the Korean fried chicken from Sepial’s Kitchen, which also has a restaurant in Salt River.
If the market’s closed and I’m hungry in Cape Town, where should I go?
My absolute favourite restaurant is the Olympia Café in Kalk Bay. They change their menu daily, but it’s consistently good food. My favourites are the black polenta and the local mussels. Their seafood is fantastic, but the menu is not limited to just seafood. The wine list is also excellent: it offers value for money but strays off the beaten path and avoids the big-name brands.
Another hidden spot that I really enjoy is Love Thy Neighbour on Bree Street. From the outside looks like it’s just an outdoor beer garden, but they actually have some quite serious dining inside. They’ve also recently redone their dining room and it now looks like a proper New York bistro. What to order? They do steaks and whole fish cooked on outdoor wood fires, which is unusual for the city. The wine list is also quite good.
What’s your favourite corner in the Western Cape for a road trip?
The Cape has incredible scenery all over, but for natural beauty Clanwilliam and the Cederberg region are probably top of my list. I love how raw and rugged it is; it’s absolutely unique. It’s a desert area, but it has vineyards and rivers and fountains.
I’m very much into uncut beauty; the kind of beauty you find nowhere else in the world.
I enjoy minimalist and off-grid travelling; the rougher the better. So on our last trip we did one week of proper camping. But my wife is keener on the glamorous guest house style, so we also spent some time at Cederberg Ridge, which has a nice restaurant too.
Would you recommend travelling to Clanwilliam and Cederberg during the winter months?
Definitely. In the winter there’s a good chance the mountains will be covered in snow. So it’ll be cold, but beautiful. You can find a lot of cosy places. We stayed at De Pakhuys, which is close to the Pakhuis Pass out of Clanwilliam into the greater Karoo, but there’s also the very fancy Bushmans Kloof.
And for a quick weekend escape closer to Cape Town?
Definitely Swellendam and the Overberg. Swellendam is a really fantastic spot in the winter. It doesn’t snow, but the whole area is full of amazing protected valleys with really nice forest cabins and hiking trails; last time we stayed at Wolfkop Boerdery. I actually prefer winter for travelling; the rates are cheaper and it’s not as busy. I always travel with my wife, so it’s a very romantic time to travel. I love finding small, cosy places with fireplaces that offer peace and quiet.
If you could pour your wines for one local celebrity, who would it be?
I’d love to meet DJ Black Coffee. He’s also from Durban, but has become a worldwide icon. I knew of him before he became famous, but I’d love to just chat to him about growing up in Durban and now being known across the world.
That’s what I hope for my wines one day. My intention is to export most of my wines because I see such enormous opportunity in the rest of the world — for myself as a black winemaker and for natural wine as a category.