02 May The Plettenberg Bay Wine Route: A Worthy New Addition
When you think of South African wine country, places like Stellenbosch, Franschhoek or Constantia in Cape Town probably come to mind. But in recent years, there’s been an explosion of smaller wine-growing regions that are expanding further into the greater Western Cape area, and that are producing exciting new wines just as deserving of your attention as the established favourites. One such region is The Crags, the rural, mountainous – and incredibly scenic – area just outside Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route along South Africa’s east coast. Pioneering winemakers began planting vines here in the early 2000s, and the first bottle was produced in 2011 – which is about five minutes ago by South African winemaking standards. Seven years later, the area now features 16 boutique wine estates within a 45km radius in and around The Crags. Although the wine-growing region here is relatively small (just 58 hectares), the cooler sea air and rich soil mean it’s producing some superb quality wines that belie its size. In particular, it’s making a name for itself for its Sauvignon Blanc, as well as several styles of Method Cap Classique (MCC), the local bubbly that’s produced in the traditional Champagne method. But visiting the Plett (as it’s known to locals) wine route isn’t just about the wine: it’s also about immersing yourself in the unspoilt and peaceful surroundings of the green Tsitsikamma mountains and lush indigenous forests. The small community feel means it’s also a refreshingly laid back, unpretentious place to go wine tasting – and because the estates are situated close together, you really don’t have to travel far between them. Many of them also serve casual tapas-style food using locally sourced cheeses, meats and fruit, so you really can make a day of it while you explore. With that in mind, here are our top estate picks:
Bramon Wines. Set just off the main N2 highway close to the coastline and with sweeping mountain views, family-owned and run Bramon produces award-winning MCC bubblies and white wines by renowned winemaker Anton Smal. Sit in their farm style restaurant or at outside tables in between the rows of vines while you enjoy fresh salads, dips, cured meats, preserves and freshly-baked homemade bread. www.bramonwines.co.za; 044 534 8007Kay and Monty. Avid polo player Chick Legh bought the estate land in 2004 and converted it into a working polo estate before planting vines shortly after. Since 2012 they’ve been producing “SAV”, a zesty Sauvignon Blanc, and “CHAMPU”, a delicious MCC bubbly, both of which you can sample in their modern yet rustic restaurant and tasting room (an elegant conversion of the original orchid greenhouse). Watch the polo ponies grazing in the fields while you feast on charcuterie and cheese boards with artisanal breads and a glass in hand. www.kayandmonty.com; 044 534 8387
Lodestone. Owned by the Tonkin family, Lodestone estate produced the first Semillon in the region and also makes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and a dry rosé bubbly called Stonechat, named after a small bird indigenous to the area. Because it’s located higher up Redford Road, the estate’s hotter temperatures mean it’s conducive to growing olives as well as grapes. The olive orchard consists of six olive tree varieties, and in 2016 it produced its first extra virgin olive oil. The restaurant overlooks a beautiful lily-padded pond, and its wooden deck is the perfect setting to enjoy their simple ploughman’s and charcuterie platters. www.lodestonewines.com; 044 534 8015Newstead Lund Family Vineyards. Newstead was the second estate to open after Bramon, and it’s produced several award-winning wines and bubblies over the years. Like other estates in the area, it has an authentic, relaxed feel, and its gorgeous outdoor grass area with canvas umbrellas, tables and lounge area is the ideal place to spend a relaxed afternoon. The recently opened Bubble Bar serves MCC as well as craft beers, cocktails and botanical gins, and their deli-style food features locally sourced meats and cheeses as well as vegetables, fruit and herbs grown on the farm. www.newsteadwines.com; 083 616 0010
Interested in exploring the Plett wine route? Base yourself at this beautiful Plettenberg beach house (view home) overlooking pristine Robberg Beach. The upstairs living area boasts magnificent views of the bay, while the large adjoining patio includes outdoor seating and dining space. A swimming pool and deck area is contained in a protected courtyard.
By Catherine Black
Catherine is a business owner, marathon runner, mother and avid South African traveller who has lived in the USA and UK, but who now calls the thriving African city of Johannesburg home.