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Cradled by ruggedly handsome Cape Fold mountains, South Africa’s food and wine capital sits proudly, waiting to welcome both local and international visitors alike. With its elegant cuisine and vinicultural offerings, Franschhoek is an epicurean’s paradise. As part of a series on the Cape Winelands, I made three visits that should be on every person’s list.
Chamonix Wine Farm
Much of Franschhoek’s proud wine heritage is thanks to the French Huguenot influence. Escaping religious persecution in the 1600s, a diaspora of French Protestants was welcomed by the Cape Colony, and as experienced viticulturists, they soon set about planting. Chamonix holds true to this French heritage with elegant and structured old-world wines.
The tasting journey begins in an 18th-century blacksmith cottage, and since my visit was on a cold wintery day, the roaring fire certainly helped welcome me into this cosy space. Winemaker Thinus Neetling is a new kid on the winemaking block but has very quickly proved himself with a bouquet of exceptional wines, several of which have been awarded high accolades.
The wines are exceptional, and it was difficult identifying my favourites. The Pinotage ranked very highly: despite the dark fruit and full body, it was one of the more delicate Pinotages I’ve tasted, which Thinus told us was made in a more Pinot Noir style. The unwooded Chardonnay also bowled me over – as a result of a malolactic fermentation, the wine has rich and creamy texture, but all natural, and with no wood contact. For an intimate Franschhoek tasting experience, I’d wholeheartedly recommend Chamonix, which also offers safaris, and Ricine, an excellent dining choice.
Terbodore Coffee Roasters
With the emergence of artisanal coffee roasters in the past years, one brand has stood head and shoulders – or rather tail and paws above the rest – Terbodore. Although birthed in the KZN, Midlands, the brand is well loved in the Cape Wineland. Today, almost 6 years later, Terbodore in Franschhoek now has a custom-built café and roastery just up the road closer to town. The logo features Sultan the family Great Dane, and so it’s only apt that the new eatery is called the Big Dog Café. Although I knew the coffee well, I was experiencing the Café food for the first time and quickly converted. Once you’ve tasted the buttermilk fried chicken waffles you’ll never look back.
Saving the best for last, their new range of signature drinks, introduced to the Winter menu. The first of these is the Mexican Hot Chocolate. It’s a deliciously decadent delight: slightly spiced, a shot of coffee, dark chocolate and most impressively a layer of marshmallow foam. This small drink is a dessert in itself and will have me driving back for it alone. Also look out for their limited release flavoured coffees: Salted Caramel has been selling up a storm, and Sticky Cinnamon Bun and Pecan Pie are both on their way. Big Dog Café is a perfect halfway break between wine farms and essential on all Franschhoek itineraries.
The third and final stop for my visit was La Motte, a stately heritage farm. Although they excel at it, the focus at La Motte is more than simply making premium wines. They were the first wine estate to be awarded the coveted ISO 14001 Environmental Management Certification, recognizing their dedication to sustainable farming practices. More impressively, is the commitment to social responsibility: the Rupert’s humanitarian endeavours are wide-reaching. I was particularly impressed to discover more about Dennegeur, the staff village where various services are provided, and even transfer of home ownership to their farm workers.
Having visited the farm for a tasting before, I was excited to discover the Vinoteque tasting experience. Ushered through the cellar into an exclusive tasting room, I was then guided through a private tasting of a selection of vintage wines chosen by the cellar master. My favourites were contrasting the 2009 and 2012 vintages of the estate Chardonnay, and then the same vintages of the award-winning Pierneef Syrah Viognier. The tasting costs R200 per person – more than a usual tasting price, but there’s something invaluable about leaving the other patrons behind and being invited into one of the farm’s inner wine sanctum.
My time at La Motte also included a visit to the Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant. Expect classy country cuisine, inspired by the Cape Dutch heritage and the creativity of Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, famed South African artist after which the eatery is named. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store for the restaurant with new Executive Chef Eric Bulpitt, when it reopens 13th July. Before leaving La Motte, take a quick browse of the farm shop, a look at the museum with a permanent exhibition of Pierneef’s heritage collection, and in summer a five-kilometre hiking trail taking in the farm’s biodiversity and startling landscape.