The Robertson wine valley is a wonderful treat for travelers looking for an authentic, ‘road less travelled’ experience, where you can visit stellar wine farms with a long family legacy. One such farm is Weltevrede Estate in Bonnievale, which has been farmed by the Jonker family for over a century.
In years gone by, before the advent of stainless steel, farmers would store their wine in underground cooling vaults. These vaults were dug into the ground at Weltevrede, cast in cement and then sealed with molten beeswax to prevent the wine from coming into contact with the concrete. Long forgotten, Weltevrede decided to once again make use of these underground vaults and have created the most extraordinary underground wine tasting experience enjoyed by candlelight.
Visitors are led by candlelight through a maze of dark, damp underground passages, creating a buzz of excitement and igniting the senses. The tasting is done in one of the vaults where your group will be seated around the edges of the small room; imagine cobwebs, oak barrels, and candles flickering as your tasting gets underway.
You can expect to hear stories about the history of the farm and its passionate cellar master Phillip Jonker. One of the stories I was told on a recent visit was to do with a project that Phillip undertook in honour of Nelson Mandela.
Seven ancient vines were discovered at Robben Island in the prison garden where Mandela had buried his handwritten manuscript of a long walk to freedom. Phillip thought it would be an amazing idea to try and nurture these vines back to health and with the help of the Weltevrede aansporings trust (empowerment trust) volunteered to be custodians of these vines.
It took three long years and several setbacks to finally produce its first yield in 2012. Every time Philip went to Robben Island, he would take different staff members with him, making it a real joint effort and an experience for many who had never set foot on the Island before. This historic wine was named, The Parable and presented to Madiba as a gift for his 94th birthday.
The wine is also wonderful and their portfolio includes three different Methode Cap Classiques of which I really enjoyed the Entheos a Chardonnay-Pinot Noir blend and the slightly more complex Blanc de Blanc named The Ring. You may recognise some of their wines from your Woolworths wine aisle, for example, the Vanilla Chardonnay and Cherry Choc Merlot. Also recommended for tasting are the Place of Rocks Chardonnay and the Bedrock Black Syrah. For those wanting to stay longer, they do offer accommodation and a restaurant on the estate.
To find out more on the latest and greatest wine farms check out Kim’s blog: www.boutiquewinerytours.com
Photography courtesy Kim Rabe