Looking for a different day out in the Winelands? Take a turn through the vineyards cantering up the slopes of “horse mountain”.
While the Helderberg, Simonsberg and Paarl Mountain erupt from the landscape, grabbing your attention as you amble through the Winelands, the Paardeberg is easy to miss. But the mountain separating Paarl and the Swartland is home to some of the most exciting cellars in the Cape, both big-hitters crafting world-class releases and young estates with well-priced wines for everyday drinking.
Coming from Cape Town and the N1, a fine place to start is Perdeberg Winery. One of the larger producers in the area, the cellar has a few tricks up its sleeve in the form of the Vineyard Collection, a range of single-cultivar, single-vineyard wines crafted to show off specific terroirs. Look out for the Cinsault and Grenache Blanc in particular.
Just up the road, Vondeling turns out an impressive selection of wines, with unbeatable eco-credentials to boot. From Rhône-style blends to bold Bordeaux showstoppers there’s plenty to discover here, but don’t miss the two flagships: the Vondeling Babiana and Vondeling Erica. Both are named for rare fynbos species found on the mountain slopes.
Your next stop should be Doran Vineyards, which has found plenty of fans with its summer-friendly Rosie D Rosé and good-value Chenin Blanc. But also stop in here for a taste of winemaker Martin Lamprecht’s Incipio, an unusual blend of Chenin Blanc and Shiraz.
Chenin Blanc is, of course, the star of the Swartland, and in the northern Paardeberg you’ll find the Chenin superstars of AA Badenhorst (aabadenhorst.com), Eben Sadie (www.thesadiefamily.com) and David and Nadia (davidnadia.com). Tastings at these three producers are by appointment only, though.
If you haven’t called ahead stop in at Dragonridge, where winemaker Johan Simons keeps a close watch on his 16ha “dryland” (unirrigated) organically grown bush vines. The Pinotage packs in plenty of the mocha notes often found in this corner of the Winelands, but it’s the Cygnus Chenin Blanc that is perhaps the standout. Hand-picked from vineyards between 25 and 90 years old, it’s a delicious expression of Swartland Chenin with a good balance of richness and acidity.
Even though the herds of Cape Mountain Zebra that gave these hills their name may no longer roam free, there’s plenty of dazzle to be found in the wineries of the Paardeberg.
Words: Richard Holmes | Images: Supplied