In the Cape Winelands

Tuesday, 15 December, 2009
Pietman Retief
Spring has been good for us in the Winelands of the Cape. I've been pretty busy with clients, mostly from UK but also from America, Canada, Norway and Germany.
The descent on the wonderful attractions in the winelands started pretty early this year, with plenty of tourists arriving at the various places of interest like the Stellenbosch Museum, the Huguenot Museum in Franschhoek, some of the wine estates, the 300 year old Camphor trees at Vergelegen and many others. Life&Leisure in Stellenbosch tells me about their excitement about all their early bookings for 2010.

Visitors that I entertained over the last two months were fortunate to experience a fantastic spring. After the disastrous fire we had in our mountains in February the veld suddenly exploded again with flowers that we have not seen for decades. I was able to take interested clients to see the purple and yellow and red spectacles following on after each other as the weather warmed up.

And even the heavy downpours we've had recently can become exciting if handled properly, like taking shelter with clients in a private home for a glass of wine in front of the fire before venturing out to wonder at the waterfalls in the mountains that are running again.

As many of you know, I never plan an itinerary for the day till I have met the clients and discovered more or less what they are interested in. As I know the winelands and its estates extremely well, including other places of interest like various museums, historical shrines, indigenous trees, birds, special architecture and chocolate box pretty sights - no two trips are ever the same.

A group of Norwegians were taken into a private home where the owner was in her kitchen preparing a meal for her guests, one couple ended up in the library of Vergelegen where Queen Elizabeth and President Bill Clinton spent some time, another group was more interested in the large collection of vintage cars at L'Ormarins, whilst others marvelled at the wonderful Auguste Rodin sculptures in this far-away spot in Africa.

As the only wine industry in the world that knows its exact starting date, we are this year celebrating 350 years of winemaking in the Cape. And, yes, they call us a New World wine country!! We also commemorate the 190th year of the abolishment of slavery, the 300th year of the oldest house in South Africa still existing in Stellenbosch.

But most of all, we all had another opportunity to taste the best of the Cape - the "best Blended Wine in the World" at Kanonkop, the best producer, as well as the Winemaker of the Year, according to the judges at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London. And several of my clients had the good fortune to meet the owner, Johann Krige, and winning winemaker, Abrie Beeselaar, and have a few words with him.

Pietman Retief
December 2009