Sommeliers from Hakkasan, The Fat Duck and Aizle & Noto give us their top tips following their recent visit to the Cape.
South African wines are building their presence on restaurant wine lists. Sommeliers love the quality and individualilty of wines from the Cape and the winemakers are keen to let sommeliers have first hand experience of the variety and potential on offer from their country. Three lucky Sommelier Edit members got the chance to attend the first Sommelier Symposium, on the Cape, this year.
Exploring the different regions of the Western Cape and the wonderful diversity of wildlife, climate, grapes and people in a breathtakingly beautiful landscape
We spoke to Stuart Skea from Aizle & Noto, Edinburgh, Noelia Calleja from Hakkasan, London and Konstaninos Katridis from The Fat Duck, Berkshire, about the must-taste wines and wineries to visit if you get the chance to go to South Africa and you love good wine.
Love at first sight
Skea described his visit as “a trip of a lifetime”.
“Exploring the different regions of the Western Cape and the wonderful diversity of wildlife, climate, grapes and people was a treat. All surrounded by a breathtakingly beautiful landscape,” he says. “On our first morning we visited the spectacular setting of the historic Vergelegen Estate. The chardonnay masterclass in a rain soaked Elgin was special,” he adds.
“We enjoyed superlative Chardonnay and Pinot Noir tastings in a dreich in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley,” continues Skea,” and a very interesting regenerative farming masterclass amongst the vines of Swartland with Eben Sadie.”
The “breathtaking landscape” also swept Noelia Calleja away. “Vast!”, she says, “Wild; the mountains, the ocean, the elements… the soil! And… the winemakers: women and
men behind this array of unique wines and terroirs, ” she enthuses.
“A plethora of vines, some of them very old, to discover from the different producers. An array of varietals: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir…and many more. Diverse regions like Stellenbosch, Swartland, Paarl, Franschhoek, Hemel-en-Aarde, Agulhas, Elgin, Constantia,” were all highlights for Calleja.
The tour around the Vergelegen Estate “was amazing” for Konstantinos Kartidis too, “an absolutely unique experience,” he says, “My personal highlight from the trip would be the old vine project.” He explains that he was delighted by “our hosts at each winery. Very humble, polite with an amazing sense of hospitality. Such a passionate people: about the job and the wines. You can almost taste the love they put into each bottle!”
Whale-watching in a wind-battered Hermanus, great Braais in Franschhoek and Swartland are top experiences for wine loving travellers to look out for if you get to South Africa. Skea described, “a revelatory Cap Classique masterclass, a tour of Klein Constantia which is breathtakingly beautiful, and, of course, their sweet wines have long been a personal favourite but their dry wines proved to be a revelation.”
To which Calleja added, “Going out to South Africa gives you a deep knowledge on the current wine scene there, and to discover it at first hand makes sharing and enjoying together our passion for the place unforgettable.”