Whilst I have driven past De Grendel a few times, I have never stopped there. Ten days ago I attended my first dinner as a member of Gastronauts, a food and wine appreciation society consisting mainly of hoteliers, to which I was introduced by Angelo Casu of Grand Dédale Country House, and was a winetasting and a dinner at De Grendel. It must be the wine estate with one of the most beautiful views in Cape Town.
The cellar is set high up on a hill on the wine estate, and has the most beautiful view onto Table Mountain. We watched the setting sun after a thunderstorm, and the view surpasses the postcard stereotype of the mountain usually taken from Blouberg.
Charles Hopkins is the Cellarmaster, and he talked us through the wine estate and its wines. Charles studied at Elsenburg, and has worked in California, Bordeaux and other local farms. Elzette du Preez is the winemaker. Hopkins explained that De Grendel, meaning latch or lock, is 350 meters above sea level, giving them a cool and moderate climate. He said that the ocean and the altitude affect temperature, and this in turn affects the grapes, and thus the wines they make. The land De Grendel van de Tijgerberg was awarded in 1720. Originally they used the land to breed Arab horses. They also breed award-winning cattle and sheep, and also farm with grain. They have been making wines since 2004, and the cellar was built a year later on Feng Shui principles. They produce 27000 cases a year, and about 75 % of the sales are local. Wine to the value of R160000 is sold through the De Grendel tasting room in the cellar building monthly, Hopkins said. He talked about two approaches to winemaking, one being to only make wines from one’s own terroir. The other is to make the best possible wines, and to buy in grapes to achieve this goal, which is Hopkins’ winemaking approach.
De Grendel has been owned by the Graaff family for three generations, and they have had strong political leadership. Sir David Graaff is the current owner, and is a retired politician. We started the tasting with the Koetshuis Sauvignon Blanc (R85), for which 52 % of the grapes come from Darling and the balance from De Grendel. It was a very fresh wine, with capsicum, asparagus and gooseberry flavours. The 2010 Winifred (R85), named after Sir Graaff’s wife, is richer, and is a blend of semillon, chardonnay, and viognier. The 2006 Shiraz has won double gold at Veritas, spent 13 months in the barrell, with pepper and spice flavour, and has sold out. We tasted the 2007 vintage (R85), with red fruit and vanilla, and is full-bodied, suitable to drink with beef and venison. The Rubaiyat is a very special wine, and was made by Hopkins in 2007 when Sir Graaff asked him to make an ‘icon wine’. The name comes from a collection of 1000 Persian love poems from the 10th century, written by Omar Khayyam, and some of these poems are on the back label. The grapes come from Firgrove and are small berries. The wine was matured in new French oak, and is a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend. This special wine, which has layers of black fruit, violets, chocolate, roasted nuts and vanilla, sells at R 240. Other De Grendel wines are MCC Brut (R140), Pinot Gris (R75), Sauvignon Blanc (R65), Rosé (R45), Pinot Noir (R140) and Merlot (R85).
We were served dinner at the tasting room, which had been brought in by Banqueteurs, who do most of De Grendel’s catering. The starter was a selection of lovely breads, set out as a buffet on the tasting room counter, with snoek and chicken live patés, as well as hummus. The main course was beef, served with beans, asparagus and artichokes. The dessert was a fruit tart and ice cream. The lovely wines we had tasted were available to enjoy with our meal.
De Grendel wine estate, Plattekloof Road, Plattekloof, Cape Town. Tel (021) 558-6280. www.degrendel.co.za. Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday – Sunday 10h00 – 16h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage