Day 18: Wine, Women and ... more Wine?


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April 25th 2010
Published: April 26th 2010
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Day 18: Wine, Women and ... More Wine?


Last night, an Afrikaans Wedding Reception was taking place, so the heavily advertised rules regarding noise and alcohol were waived. Apparently, the music was going on way past midnight, although I was oblivious! This morning, Sunday, the silence was broken at 07h00 by some Afrikaaner kid running around shouting “Get Up!”.

So, we did. Washing, dressing and, seeing as this was the last morning (for some) with the tent, brushing them out and letting them dry before packing them. Consequently, we were not fully packed until 09h15, over an hour longer than normal!

We drove the few short miles into Franschhoek, the town we'd not had a chance to view yesterday. Parking at the top of the town, we had the opportunity to walk down the main street at a leisurely pace. The French Corner came into being in about 1700 and at the head of the town is the Huguenot Memorial. Walking down the main street, in the already hot autumn sun, the French influence was all too clear, as was the opulence that wine making clearly brings.

Stopping for a strong coffee, the ambiance was only ruined by the poor service and the fact that the local motorbike club had ridden into town. Property prices reflect the status of the area although, by European standards, are still low!

Back in the bus, we bounced out of town and headed towards Stellenbosch. One of the earliest settlements, the wine potential was spotted very early on and some of the local vineyards were established in the 1680s. Passing such names as Warwick and Lievland, we pulled into Morgenhof, a French owned château-style complex with one of only four underground red wine maturing cellars in the world. The crisp white buildings stood out against the blue sky whilst the golden autumn colours hinted at what was on offer in those cellars. It was only 11h00.

Sitting in the rose gardens, we were welcomed to the estate by the maître d' who explained that we would be tasting five wines. Bringing four very large glasses, a big jug of water and a bowl of dry wafer biscuits, she apologised that one of the white wines had been finished and indicated that she'd be replacing it with a red. Shame!!!!

Firstly, Chardonnay 2009. Young with a definite pineapple nose. At R75, not cheap by South African standards, but very pleasant - if you like white wine!.

Next, Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. At R92, this should be good - and it was. Beautifully smooth, with a hint of blackberry and cherry.

The third wine, at R182, was by far the most expensive - probably going for about £50 a bottle in the UK. Although this was a blend, the Morgenhof Estate Flagship Wine was so silky that I had to check that I'd actually put some in my mouth! The cherry and chocolate flavours just oozed. No wonder this wine won 4½ Stars in the wine Bible, it was utterly delicious!

The Fourth wine, the replacement, was also a blend, but not a smooth nor as flavoursome as the previous.

Finally, Cape Vintage 2003, at 17%, this was going to be tough to stomach at this early hour on a Sunday morning! For my palate, this fortified wine was too sweet, although the cherry, liquorice and hazelnut flavours were divine.

There was no way I was going to miss such an opportunity (and I'd had 5 glasses of wine) so I went and purchased a bottle of the Morgenhof Estate Flagship Wine. With a further three weeks of holiday remaining, this is going to be saved for a night under the stars, around the camp fire, in the middle of the Namib desert.

Suddenly there was a shout and the three Dutch travellers disappeared. Willem and Hermine's daughter was 21 today and, as she was studying in Stellenbosch, had come down to see the family. Fortunately, this coincided with dinner which, after 5 glasses of wine, was not too soon in coming!

We were all ushered to a table under the oak trees in the formal gardens where, seated, we were offered bread rolls and water. Both of these were very much needed and I dare say that I probably took more than my fair share! Not having had enough wine, Willem ordered a bottle of champagne and the toasts began. Finally, the meal arrived - being Sunday, for me, a lovely lamb shank, in the French style, with a French Bean. Yes, a bean. Let's be honest, the food was delicious and looked good but at the end of the day, I'm going to eat it not frame it and hang it on the wall. I'm not convinced that a meal that advertises vegetables can get away with one French bean and a smattering of creamed potatoes as satisfying that description. However, it tasted delicious.

Meal over and no more wine, it was clearly time to go. At 14h30, we joined the main N1 and headed to Cape Town, our home for the next few days. With the World Cup only weeks away, it was disconcerting to see stadia that are far from complete and roads that may just be complete. South Africa needs a miracle if its infrastructure is going to be ready in time.

Heading towards the city centre, we had some tremendous views of Table Mountain. In the clear blue sky, it was missing its cloud table cloth but, being on holiday, cloud-free is all that matters! With our accommodation being in Sea Point, we drove around the city, passed a couple of (more complete) stadia, before arriving at a very pleasant little B&B. Welcomed by the host, we cleared the bus of our belongings, found our rooms, washed some clothes and had a shower. Missing my tent, I also unpacked my sleeping bag - to let it air.

In the evening, all 7 of us hailed a taxi and headed off to the Waterfront, where we sat outside eating fish and meat and drinking beer until it was way, way passed our bedtime. In the bush, our body clocks worked with the sun - up at 05h30 and bed at 20h00. Here, with electricity, we were still up at 23h00!


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Underground Red Wine CellarUnderground Red Wine Cellar
Underground Red Wine Cellar

Used for ageing the wines, which can be up to 10 years


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