So I am in South Africa again. This time, I’m spending a few days in Franschhoek, with the aim of getting under the skin of this region. I’m staying with Kevin Swart of Black Elephant Vintners, a relatively new enterprise in the valley. I met Kevin through his brother Gary, who is a colleague of my wife’s (working in international aid and development) and who has been to dinner a few times at our place. Kevin has got together a few small producers who chipped in for my plane ticket, and I agreed to come here to take a look at a side of Franschhoek that most international guests don’t see. We’ll also be doing a technical tasting, and there will be a session where I’m asked to give feedback. This sounds interesting.
‘The advantage of this valley is that it is beautiful and it has lots of visitors,’ says Kevin. ‘The disadvantage of this valley is that it is beautiful and it has lots of visitors,’ he adds. If you can make wine here you can sell it. So is it true that Franschhoek is good for restaurants but not good for wine? Are the terroirs here suitable for fine wine production? Ask me in a few days and I’ll be able to give a slightly more informed answer.
This morning Kevin, his wife, Gary and I went for a beautiful 6.5 km run around the valley. It really is quite a stunning setting. Mr Singh (of Mullineux) has been buying up quite a bit of property here. Richard Branson has bought a wine farm. It looks very successful. It’s peaceful and there are no electric fences or razor wire. But I’m interested in the wine.
I arrived yesterday, and spend the day with Black Elephant. Kevin’s winemaker and business partner Jacques Wentzel joined us and we tasted through the range. So far so good: the Amistad Syrah, Amazing Grace Cabernet Sauvignon and MCC are all very impressive. They also do a Back Roads series of small production gems, and I tasted the 2015 Semillon, made from vines planted in 1905, which looks set to be a stunner. These are all Franschhoek wines. Today will consist of producer visits and then a braai, and the sun is shining. I’m hopeful.