A town where you’re more likely to find a wine farm next door than you are to find a shopping mall, the quaint town of Paarl is an underestimated treasure trove for wine tasting and tours. Founded in 1687, Paarl is the third oldest settlement in South Africa. Although having been around for so many years, the heritage and culture rich town is most definitely not a tired and slow destination. Paarl offers some amazing food, drink and accommodation of the highest quality for its visiting guests. We were lucky enough to take a trip to Paarl and experience just a few of the astounding restaurants and wines that are authentic to the small wine town.
Our first stop was the 5 star The Grande Roche Hotel. The country house style exterior of the hotel did not prepare us for the magnificent design of what was waiting inside. Mirrors along every wall reflected the glittering and hypnotising lights of the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. A crackling fireplace next to a lounge area of red and burgundy toned sofas welcomed us like a warm embrace as we retreated to the hotel lobby from the cold early morning. As we eased into our morning, we enjoyed a hot cup of coffee as we reviewed our itinerary for the day ahead.
After we’d finished our coffee and had thawed out next to the fireplace, we were welcomed to one of the top ten restaurants in South Africa, The Bosman Experience. We were seated at a long dining table adorned with roses and exquisite sets of plates and cutlery. We were then served a glass of champagne to start the day off, toasted to the day ahead and were invited by the hotel manager to help ourselves to the breakfast buffet just to the left of the dining area. We were spoilt for choice with an array of divine pastries like croissants, scones and chocolate muffins. More savoury (and healthier) options were available too, such as the classic choice of eggs and bacon, toast, fried tomatoes and the lighter alternatives yoghurt, muesli and juicy fruit.
Once breakfast had settled and we’d enjoyed some more warm beverages, we were given a tour of The Grande Roche Hotel by the hotel manager. The hotel boasts thirty various suites on the property with five additional suites available on request and the best view of Paarl rock. There are two pools, one open to the public and the other a private pool for hotel guests only.
The Grande Roche is currently running an unbeatable special for those who are yet to experience Paarl. The hotel is offering a night’s stay at The Grande Roche Hotel, a three course meal and a bubbly breakfast with oysters, all for R1 175 per person. Just another reason for you to make your way to Paarl and see all it has to offer.
With breakfast and a little bit of bubbly to settle the stomach, we headed off to the KWV Wine Emporium to experience more of what Paarl had to offer. We were welcomed warmly and ushered to a mini bus to take us to the House of Fire Tour. We entered the giant brandy cellar to be greeted by stunning interior and the distinct aroma of good quality brandy. Our tour guide began to explain the different uses for the various containers their emporium uses in order to make the perfect KWV brandy. He told us all about how brandy becomes brandy, from the very first grape, to the wine, to the heating process and storage.
After our tour, it was time to not only learn about the brandy, but to taste it, with chocolate too. We began our brandy and chocolate pairing with the youngest brandy at KWV, the 10-year, and a milk chocolate square. We learned that the younger brandies are slightly harsher, therefore we needed the smooth (and very tasty) milk chocolate to accompany it in order to tone it down. Only 2 years more mature, the 12 year was up next. With slightly spicier and nuttier flavours, an almond filled milk chocolate accompanied the 12 year brandy. The almond not only complimented the flavours of the brandy, but heightened them and made them particularly distinguishable.
Even smoother and slightly sweet, the 15-year-old brandy was up next. Paired with a 70% cocoa chocolate square to counteract the sweetness, the third brandy went down smoothly as we sipped, with the chocolate slightly melted. Our last tasting and the most mature brandy of them all was the 20-year. A sweet white chocolate was paired with this tasting and created a sweet, smooth and delectable combination of flavours on the tongue.
Having walked around the House of Fire and having indulged in our fair share of brandy throughout the tasting, it was time to eat. The Nederburg wine estate invited us over to join them for lunch at the estate’s restaurant, The Red Table, where we were served a delicious blackcurrant and red wine braised lamb shank alongside carrots, broccoli and green beans. Accompanying our meal was a glass of Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon, which went down perfectly after each mouthful of the tender lamb shank. The chef surprised us with dessert, his own creation of “milk tart pavlova”. A sweet creamy dollop of the classic South African milk tart mixture smothered the pavlova, with gooseberries and raspberries sprinkled on top of the different, yet heavenly combination of meringue and creamy sweetness. The estate kindly sent us home with a bottle of the same Cabernet Sauvignon we had tasted earlier, knowing we’d love to taste it again in the near future.
After bubbly, breakfast, brandy, braised lamb shanks and the best Nerderburg wine, we were in dire need of a pick-me-up. Our fourth and final stop was Giuseppe’s at Belair for coffee and biscuits. Arriving at Belair was something out of a movie – all the way up a dirt road, nestled in greenery and home-grown produce we found Giuseppe’s. La Spezia-trained chef Guiseppe Massolini himself welcomed us to his eatery with the same amount of gusto as if he were to greet a family member. We felt right at home as Giuseppe seated us and began pouring our coffee, after which he began to bring out the authentic Italian biscuits. Each batch was made according to the correct cultural Italian way, with perfectly crunchy almond biscotti and crisp chiacchiere. Guiseppe’s offers real Italian cuisine, but also informed us of how he makes his food with home-grown, healthy produce. Guiseppe made sure we followed through with a greener lifestyle, by sending us home with a sprouting Turkish Oak tree and a tomato grown from his home garden.
By the end of the day we didn’t want to leave, and with the array of wine farms and restaurants to visit, we probably could have stayed the whole weekend. It was a day well spent tasting the flavours of Paarl and we’ll definitely be back for seconds.
Photography GreatGrampops Photography