The countdown to the World Cup has begun. With less than 100 days to go, the papers are working themselves into a different set of frenzies every day, hotel-owners are bemoaning their greed and the airlines are nervously wondering whether they’ve got their pricing right, but outside the Cape Town city limits, life and business pretty much carries on as usual.
On my visit to Clos Malverne last week, I asked owner Seymour Pritchard if he thought the World Cup was going to make any difference to him. His answer was immediate “No. Not at all. Why would it? We’re a small winery – not big and well-known like Spier for instance – and I can’t believe that all that many people are going to bother to look us up.’ Gazing at the view across the Devon Valley from the new restaurant stoep, it seemed to me that he might be selling himself a little short.
Clos Malverne makes wine very traditionally – using basket presses and open fermenters to make their award-winning Pinotages and Cape Blends – but it looks like this may be set to change. Winemaker Charl Coetzee (ex Kaapzicht) has been experimenting with the new, trendy incarnation of Pinotage – the chocolate/coffee mouthful – and admits to having some in the cellar as we speak. He was rather coy about it (says it needs more wood) but since both he and Seymour are keen to move with the times, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a new Pinotage later on this year.
We finished our mini-tasting with the current new wine in the Clos Malverne stable – the lightly-wooded Chardonnay. They have actually made vast quantities of Chardonnay over recent years, but all for the export market under the hugely popular Heron’s Nest label (best-selling South African wines in Ireland). The first vintage under their own label is a crowd-pleasing winner and Seymour confirmed that the feedback from restaurant customers has been overwhelmingly positive.
And speaking of the new restaurant – it’s very, very good indeed. The prices are extremely reasonable (all starters in the R40’s and all mains less than R100 – including fillet steak and duck) and I was impressed to see no mark-up on the wines whatsoever and all available by the glass. Our lunch was delish – highlights were the duck breast and the fall-off-your-chair gorgeous Chocolate Fondant (check out the gallery for drooly pics and Kerry's blog for her take on our day) and the wines were perfect partners.
I really can’t think of many other wine farms doing what they do so well, so honestly and so fairly. So I very much hope that overseas visitors don’t get too bogged down with all the big boys and the flashy estates and pay this estate a visit, because if they want to see a great example of South African hospitality, charm and style, but not feel ripped off by World Cup fever, then it’s all here at Clos Malverne.
My pick of the wines:
2009 Sauvignon Blanc – grown on a patch of land which consistently defies the norm by producing far better wine than the books say it should! Crisp and limey with richness and weight provided by well-judged alcohol. Very good food partner for gravadlax.
2009 Chardonnay – only 3 months in barrel for this wine and a wonderful example of how to handle the variety. Hints of creamy baked peaches balanced by refreshing acidity and citrus zing .
2007 Pinotage Reserve – everything good about this variety all in one bottle. Cherries, dark berries, supple tannins and very elegant mouthfeel. Knocked oursocks off with the duck and five spice and handled the oxtail pretty darned well too.