Instead of begrudging the fact that your trip to Chianti or Provence has been cancelled (again), use these sultry summer days to seek out these Cape wine estates making waves.
In the historic winelands of Constantia you’ll find both iconic estates and boutique cellars. But set high on the slopes of the Vlakkenberg, Constantia Glen is something of a hidden gem in the valley, offering gorgeous views and remarkable wines.
Those come courtesy of winemaker Justin van Wyk, who recently walked away with the 2021 Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award for his elegant Bordeaux-style red blend, the Constantia Glen Five. It’s a wine that also bagged a five-star rating in the latest Platter’s guide to SA African wine, and neatly showcases Van Wyk’s skill in capturing the cool climate of the Constantia winelands.
In the airy tasting room, or out on the wide terrace, you can taste the entire Constantia Glen range alongside Van Wyk’s “Family Range” of wines crafted from vineyards scattered further afield. Dramatic vineyard views come standard and, with an extensive menu of light summery fare, it’s a fine destination to round off a morning of winelands exploring.
Or, take an hour’s drive out of Cape Town to the vineyards of the Elgin valley, where winemaker Jean Smit is tapping into unique pockets of the Cape’s terroir to craft his range of Damascene wines.
This partnership between Smit and David Curl, former owner of Château Gaby in Bordeaux, “is about seeking out memorable vineyards and sites that truly showcase the incredible diversity of terroir we have here in the Western Cape,” says Smit. “I spend countless days on the road, covering thousands of kilometres, visiting vineyards and farmers in search of special parcels of land.”
Fruit from those vineyards is vinified in his Elgin cellar, where the surrounding vineyards produce the grapes for his Moya Meaker Pinot Noir, a wine of “perfume, purity of red and black fruit, vibrancy and texture,” says Smit. They are all best discovered at the contemporary cellar, where tastings — by appointment only — offer a superb insight into Smit’s intense focus on channelling terroir into the bottle.
But not all cellars come surrounded by vineyards.
For a tasting (also by appointment only) at Savage Wines you’ll have to head for the gritty streets of Salt River.
It’s here that acclaimed winemaker Duncan Savage set up shop in 2016, with the raw industrial space belying the refined elegance of his wines. In the barrel room cast-iron pillars and heavy wooden rafters frame a room filled with oak foudres and barrels of Savage’s most recent vintages.
Savage sources his grapes from vineyards across the Western Cape, and alongside his flagship “Red” and “White” blends much of his portfolio is named for the stories, journeys and vineyards that inspired each wine. “Follow The Line” shows the best of Cinsaut and Syrah from the Swartland, while “Thief In The Night” comes from sought-after Grenache from high-lying vineyards in the Piekenierskloof. “Are We There Yet” shows a more elegant side to Touriga Naçional, these grapes sourced from Breede River vineyards.
It’s a region fast making a name for itself thanks to the wines of Sijnn, a cellar started by Stellenbosch architect and winemaker David Trafford, who stumbled on the potential of these riverine valleys while on holiday.
Trafford planted his first vines here in 2004, and today the focus under winemaker Charla Haasbroek remains on the Mediterranean varieties well suited to the warm and windy conditions. The flagship Sijnn Red and White blends are superb, while the “Low Profile” series offers a more pocket-friendly option. Visit the charming stone-built cellar on Saturdays (10am-3pm) for tastings, or by appointment.