Right in the heart of the Mother City’s CBD is a winery. Yup, an actual working wine cellar that turns grapes into wine. And pretty wine fine, at that.
Dorrance Wines is a pretty unique set up. Winemaker Christophe Durand – originally from Normandie in Northern France – takes grapes from three very distinct terroirs (Perdeberg, Elgin and Franschoek – where he has complete control of the viticulture) and brings them to the cellar in Hout Street to be fermented, made into wine and matured in French oak.
Christophe has been wowing Platters since 2000 with his Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Syrah (all dry, all wooded), and with the extension of the entry level range ‘Simply and the release of a Muscat d’Alexandrie dessert wine in 2016, it looks like Dorrance Wines is going to do a lot more impressing yet.
Heritage Square, shared by the cellar with some of Cape Town’s coolest galleries and restaurants, also happens to be home to the oldest fruit bearing vine in the Southern Hemisphere. Planted in 1771, Christophe now looks after the vine and will make up to 20L of wine with the Crouchen Blanc grapes this year. The wine will be sold at auction, with all proceeds going to charity.
Visitors to the cellar can see the barriques (oak barrels) and enjoy wine tastings as well as a selection of French delicacies alongside the wine. In addition to their own wines, Dorrance is the sole importer of several high quality French imports such as Christian Drouin Cider, Calvados, Cognac and Champagne – and there’s 15% off in the run up to Christmas! The cellar itself is available for hire in the evenings for functions or dinner, as is the tasting room.
Monday to Friday 12-6pm, Saturday morning by appointment. Open for special events for First Thursdays.
INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTOPHE DURAND
How did you get started making wine in SA?
Passion foremost, even if it sounds like a cliché. Back in 2000 the idea was to produce one or two barrels for friends and family of a wine that would suit my taste and palette.
That’s when it all started, and with dedication, intense travel across many wine countries, it became very clear that I had found my vocation.
What is your approach to wine making?
My priority is the vineyards. My wines are handcrafted, from picking to blending, bringing to the cellar the best fruits that my carefully selected vineyards can produce with a minimal intervention thereafter. Each wine must reflect their terroir, the true expression of the different soils. Our whites are all bunch pressed to retain the freshness and the fruit, with natural fermentation occurring in 100% French oak barrels. No acidic is added to the wines, and I use malolactic fermentation depending on the seasons, vintages and varietals.
Which is your favourite of your wines?
That’s a tricky question! I like the all three for different reasons, but I might have a little preference for my Syrah Cuvee Ameena, as maybe the most difficult to produce with consistency. It may also be the more complex wine as the two vineyards the wine is blended from are so different in so many ways: soil, climate, flavours etc…but the more rewarding when it turns out perfect after so much hard work.
Why did you choose to start a winery in the CBD rather than by your vineyards?
It’s always been one of my dreams. Having another home in rural Burgundy, I always enjoy visiting small producers, crafting their wines in their cellar under their house. I knew I wanted something similar in the CBD as it is unique and allows me to be closer to my customers as well as being around the corner for our tourists.
What made you choose Perdeberg, Elgin and Franschoek for your vineyard sites?
Those stunning vineyards have been meticulously sourced, for their soil, slopes and microclimate.
Some of them are 100 kms apart, coming to the cellar one or two months after each other and that’s what I enjoy – taking my time and certainly not being rushed!