The R44 towards Stellenbosch is a playground of great wine farms with fabulous and different lunch offerings at every turn. I’ve visited a number over the years including the amazing Terroir and Rust en Vrede, but never ventured to the picnic lunch at Warwick Wine Estate.
A little about Warwick Wines: Norma Ratcliffe started Warwick Wines in the 1970’s and was one of, if not the first, female wine maker in South Africa. This, as well as her many awards and accolades, has garnered her the title of ‘The First Lady’ of South African wine. She and her family believe in quality, both with regard to the wines they create and the offerings that their estate brings: it’s family orientated, fun, casual and inviting.
The estate itself is stunning: set against trees overlooking the vineyards, a large, Cape Dutch building welcomes you with a tasting room that opens out onto a sunny deck, water fountains and an enormous picnic area surrounded by jungle gyms.
I would definitely recommend a wine tasting before heading off to eat – they have a beautifully diverse selection: The First Lady unoaked chardonnay and rosé are delicate and laid-back, the Professor Black Sauvignon blanc is a little more refined, their Trilogy red speaks for itself and their White Lady Chardonnay just won John Platter’s Wine of the Year, if that means anything to you. If you’re a wine fundi and would like a little more of an informative visit, they offer Big Five Wine Safaris: guided wine safaris on open-top, game vehicles through the vineyards, which is a fun little adventure suitable for both grownups and kiddies.
Let’s get back to the lunch: it consists of various picnic baskets that can be enjoyed on shaded blankets on the lawn, in secluded picnic pods for a more private affair and on either the deck or under the forest courtyard for something a little more casual. There is also a play area for children to run about.
We opted for the picnic on the lawn. The Gourmet Picnic basket comprises: beef fillet and various charcuterie, a Moroccan couscous salad with chickpeas, micro leaves, citrus and feta, a selection of local cheeses and onion marmalade as well as smoked salmon and biltong pâtés, all alongside a freshly baked ciabatta and pretzel bread. For dessert you’ll find a little packet of chocolate clusters and a bunch of grapes. For the kids there’s a stuffed croissant, a ‘chef’s packet of yumminess’, a bunch of grapes and an ice-cream cone. Vegetarians can enjoy the same style picnic basket but with various tarts, extra salads and vegetarian pâtés in place of all the meat offerings.
The food was scrumptious and homely; perfectly cooked fillet - medium rare and succulent, the bread was seriously fresh and just gorgeous, the salad lively and crisp, the cheese ripe and moreish and the pâtés were out of this world (they advertise having the ‘best ever’ biltong pâté on their menu and I have to say it is quite spectacular).
What’s fabulous about the setting is that you can while away the day without feeling rushed or pressurised to finish and move on. They don’t try to up-sell you in anyway and encourage you to make what you will of the day and the surroundings. They also place each picnic a good distance apart so you feel a sense of exclusivity and privacy.
My only negatives are that getting the waiters’ attention can take a little while – the seating area is so vast that they have to walk a good distance to each picnic spot so patience is important. I also wished the seating areas were placed facing in the other direction: each picnic spot faces the road (it’s still pretty, but the passing cars spoil it a little), the view towards the trees and vineyard is much lovelier – I understand that they’ve chosen this direction to avoid the sun creeping under the umbrellas, but I would suggest using more umbrellas instead.
I would highly recommend Warwick as the perfect family picnic lunch; there’s an emphasis on sharing, on fun and a celebration of the good life. The food and experience is well priced and the wine is sold by the glass or by the bottle at cellar prices. They’re also open 7 days a week, 365 days a year! So get there and lap it all up before the winter rains kick in.
- Kate Liquorish