Last week I made the pilgrimage into the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley to the ELL Eatery at Spookfontein – ‘ghost fountain’ if translated directly from Afrikaans – and got treated to a bonanza of ethical food and wine.
The cool coastal climate that blesses the Walker Bay wine district means there are some stunning and very distinctive wines coming out of the region. Varietals that typify France’s Burgundy region – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – are thriving here thanks to the cool ocean currents from the Atlantic. The region also yields their own very distinctive style of Sauvignon Blanc: earthy, floral, full flavoured yet fresh.
Spookfontein is different in that it doesn’t produce any white wines. Instead, they plant three red varietals and make five wines: Rose Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot (ideal for lovers of more aged wine), Cabernet Franc and Phantom, their Bordeaux blend.
Needless to say, it was the 2009 Cabernet Franc that went with lunch. Pure, elegant yet substantial and perfectly balanced, with a very satisfying metallic minerality alongside flavours of cassis, rocket and anise. This wine keeps opening up with every sip and glassful. And at a cellar door price of R80 per bottle, it is practically daylight robbery on the part of the consumer for a wine of such calibre.
You can do wine tasting inside the ELL Eatery itself, then buy whichever one you like best to enjoy with the restaurant’s wholesome and exciting menu – much more fun than simply pointing at a wine list! Home-made hummus, rosemary-salted crispbreads, cold beef fillet salad, abundant veggies, sizzling wood-fired pizza and fresh strawberry ice cream are just a few items on offer while you feast on the view from your table.
ELL is all about creating food that is seasonal, nutritious and ethically sourced. This mirrors winemaker Craig Sheard’s commitment to organic farming and natural winemaking. There are up to 200 chemicals that a winemaker is allowed to add to wine to improve its drinkability. Spookfontein adds nothing to their grapes besides small quantities of sulphur as a preservative and antioxidant. And now their Rose Merlot – a beautiful light-bodied and refreshing wine – is sulphur free (and also vegan-friendly).
It is worth noting that the legal limits of sulphur quantities in wine in South Africa are some of the lowest in the world, making the South African wines with the highest sulphur levels organic by French standards! Something the rest of the world can take note of…
Celebrate Halloween properly this year – visit Spookfontein.
Where Hemel-en-Aarde Road (R320), between Newton Johnson and Ataraxia
Trading hours Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 4 pm (for both the restaurant and tastings)
Contact +27 73 067 7936 (restaurant bookings), spookfontein.co.za
Photography Caroline Knight