From the majesty of Table Mountain and the magic of Cape Town Harbour, it’s only about 50 kilometres to South Africa’s premier wine region, Stellenbosch. With more than 150 wineries and estates, first-class accommodation and wines at very reasonable prices, the region offers great value for the visitor.
Stellenbosch is in a valley with a variety of soil types and a Mediterranean-like climate of hot dry summers and cool wet winters. The main wine varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and the unique South African Pinotage. Stellenbosch is where Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, originated. Bordeaux-style blends are also very popular in South Africa and account for a significant proportion of wine production in the region.
We visited three of the region’s iconic estates for what could only be described as some very lekker wine matchings. In case you’re wondering, lekker is a Dutch and Afrikaans word that means good, pleasant or nice. It can also mean ‘slightly intoxicated’ which was very appropriate in this case.
You walk into Delheim through blooming gardens and leafy trellises, and on a sunny day with a view down the valley there’s no better place for lunch or its unique wine pairing with cupcakes. Delheim says it’s a process of ‘spreading the love’ to pair four of its classic wines with some carefully crafted cupcakes. I know cupcakes have been a food fashion for some time, but I’ve never really been a fan. I must say, though, that a nice wine does wonders for the cupcake.
The pairings include a pomegranate cupcake, matched with Pinotage Rosé; a Rooibos cupcake infused with lemon and topped with a cream cheese and honey icing, paired with Chenin Blanc Wild Ferment; a pumpkin and vanilla cupcake infused with star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg, and topped with diced pickled pumpkin, paired with Delheim Pinotage; and a traditional African makataan (wild melon) cupcake, topped with makataan syrup icing, paired with Gewürztraminer.
I decided that I could get to like cupcakes and marvelled at the fact that Pinotage actually goes very nicely with pumpkin cupcake. A unique experience and very lekker.
South Africa’s first female winemaker, Elizabeth Catherine English, established Lanzerac in 1914 on land that had grown grapes since the 17th century. Lanzerac was the first vineyard to sell Pinotage commercially in 1961. Chocolate and wine may be a common pairing but Lanzerac has taken great care to match its wines with some beautifully produced chocolates. All chocolates are made by Marionette’s, a chocolate maker in Knysna, especially to go with Lanzerac wines, and with each vintage they look at the pairing to see if it still matches.
The 2016 Lanzerac Sauvignon Blanc is a tropical fruity wine with almond and peach flavours and gets a special lift paired with white chocolate. The 2015 Chardonnay is a light golden colour and coming out of nine months in the barrel, it pairs smoothly with a lemongrass/ lemon verbena flavoured chocolate. We also tried a 2014 Merlot 2014, 12 months on French oak with dark cherry and cigar flavours, paired beautifully with a 60% dark chocolate.
The standout pairing at Lanzerac was its 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon matched with a Cape Malay spice flavoured chocolate, combining cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. This was absolutely lekker.
You may not be able to go back to Constantinople, but the best thing is that Turkish Delight is now available all over the world, and Lourensford Winery in Stellenbosch is using it to offer one of the most unusual and ‘wow’ pairings I’ve ever tried. The Turkish Delight is produced nearby with flavours to complement some of Lourensford’s best wines.
Its MCC (Methode Cap Classique) is made by the same method as Methode Champenoise. This Brut style is in the bottle for 58 months and made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. This MCC has green apple and nutty undertones, which when paired with an almond Turkish Delight nicely picks up the nuttiness of the Turkish Delight.
Lourensford’s Rosé MCC is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir and having spent 36 months in the bottle, it has distinct strawberry and rose flavours. It was beautifully paired with a Rose Turkish Delight.
Lourensford has three wine ranges: River Garden (entry level); Estate Range; and a Limited Release Range, which is only produced in exceptional years. 2014 was one of those years and its Limited Release 2014 Chardonnay is a standout. Having spent eight months in 80% new oak, it was a sensational match with Orange Turkish Delight.
The most unusual pairing was with Lourensford’s Honey Liqueur. The bottle had been frozen, a technique that balances the sweetness of the liqueur, which is not fermented but is made from honey, spring water and added alcohol bringing it up to 24%. Lourensford produces its own honey and pairs this liqueur expertly with Ginger Turkish Delight.
Stellenbosch is a beautiful region with some excellent wines, attractive cellar doors and very good cafés and restaurants. However, if you are looking for something different there can be nothing more lekker than these fascinating wine pairings.