Yesterday we were invited to a first media event at Vrede en Lust at the outskirts of Franschhoek, with the specific purpose to expose the wine estate’s ten white wines, making up about one-third of its production, given that Vrede en Lust is perceived as a predominantly red wine producing wine farm.
The origin of Vrede en Lust dates back to 1688, owned by French Huguenot Jacques de Savoye, who planted 10000 vines in 1691. The Buys family bought the farm in 1996, modernising it by building on its 320 year heritage. Former Nederburg winemaker Günter Brözel helped them build the cellar, and acts as a consultant when needed. About 36 ha of the 55 ha farm is planted to vines. They have recently bought Ricton close by, with a capacity of 60 ha. In addition, they own Casey’s Ridge in the Kogelberg Biosphere in Elgin, with 54 ha of vineyards. Vrede en Lust produces 30000 9 litre cases of wines per year, made from 800 tonnes of grapes. Of their production, 68% is sold via their Tasting Room and at shows, while 15% is exported. They have 1200 Wine Club members.
We met in the tasting room, having to do the tasting inside due to the unexpected rain and cooler weather. We were welcomed by Etienne Buys, brother of farm owner Dana Buys, who has taken over the management and viticulture of Vrede en Lust, so that Dana can spend more time with his first love, being IT.
Charming winemaker Susan Erasmus, expecting her second child in May and previously at Neethlingshof (and having done harvests at Groot Constantia, Zevenwacht, and St Emilion), was a confident presenter of her white wine ‘babies‘, although she used technical terminology at times, where some of us got lost. Interesting was observing the tastings continue in the Tasting Room, while we did our tasting around the massive central table, led by Tasting Room staff dressed in very formal long red dresses. Only in writing this blogpost did it strike me that the red dresses may accentuate the red wine association with Vrede en Lust amongst visitors to the wine estate. The outfits give the wine estate a classy touch, and Etienne was telling me what effect they have on some of their visitors, especially later in the day, telling me with a laugh that they may need to employ bouncers in future. It is the first Tasting Room in which I have seen a corporate dress code for staff. Over lunch Susan said that she tastes her wines and swallows too when she needs to, 3 – 5 units of wine per week being fine for pregnant women to drink. Two years ago Vrede en Lust featured in the ‘Semi-Soet‘ movie, tremendous marketing exposure for the wine estate, as most of the filming was done there.
We tasted the following Vrede en Lust white wines, all of which (with the exception of the Marguerite) come from their Elgin vineyard: Casey’s Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Semillon); White Mischief 2012 (a blend of 37% Chenin Blanc, 20% Semillon, 19% Pinot Grigio, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, and 4% Viognier); Barrique 2012 (they only produce 4000 litres per year, it spends 11 months in barrel, and is a blend of 64% Semillon and 36% Sauvignon Blanc); Viognier 2012 (with hints of cinnamon and coriander); Marguerite 2012 (named after the eldest daughter of the first owner of the farm, produce 10000 bottles, 12 months on the lees); Artisan Pinot Grigio 2013; Artisan Semillon 2013 (2000 bottles produced); Riesling 2013 (3000 bottles produced); Kogelberg Chenin Blanc 2012 (grapes come from a single vineyard block registered in Elgin); and CCV 2012 (a blend of 55% Chardonnay, 23% Chenin Blanc, and 22% Viognier).
After the tasting we moved across to Lust Bistro & Bakery, previously called Cotage Fromage, which was originally founded by Chefs Matthew Gordon, Duncan Doherty, and JP Smith. JP left first, and was followed by Gordon, leaving Duncan there until he too left about a year ago. JP returned, opening the doors to Lust, focusing on his first love, being baking, and we tasted his lovely breads, and were spoilt by a special lunch. He told us that the ethos of the restaurant is to keep his food as fresh and flavorsome as possible.
Eggs Benedict served on JP’s toasted sourdough bread was brought to the table first, as a surprise amuse bouche. His rye bread was brought to the table with butter and olive oil. This was followed by a beautifully presented watermelon, mango, pomegranate, and goat’s cheese salad, which Susan suggested should be paired with their White Mischief. This was followed by a sourdough pizetta (mini pizza) with fior di latte, fresh tomato, and basil pesto, which was paired with Pinot Grigio.
The presentation of the homemade gnocchi with asparagus, green peas, wild mushrooms, and a rather salty Gorgonzola was beautiful, and Susan suggested that we try their Barrique or Sauvignon Blanc with this course. My absolute favourite was the oven-roasted peach balanced on a pink peppercorn brioche, on which was placed a ball of the most delicious Syrah ice cream I have ever tasted, rich, smooth, and creamy, and its colour creating a beautiful visual effect.
Lust Bistro & Bakery sells charcuterie and cheeses; and offers breads freshly baked in the wood-fired hearth, including baguette, ciabatta, multigrain wholewheat, rye, sourdough, and croissants. The Breakfast menu options range from R35 for a three-egg omelette, to R70 for a full breakfast, and wild mushrooms on toast. The lunch menu includes salads in small and large sizes, priced at R45/R70; starters of salmon fishcakes, duck rillettes, and pan-fried polenta, ranging from R60 – R70; and mains of lamb burger, fresh fettuccine, crispy-skinned chicken breast, and 250g beef rib-eye, in a price range of R90 – R150. Charcuterie, cheese, and Ploughman’s platters are available, at R70 for one and R130 for two persons. One can make up one’s own sandwiches, ordering the butter, bread, spreads, cheeses, meats, and salmon to add, paying per item. Pizzas are charged at a base price for the base, and one pays per topping added, a novel approach. The dessert list is short and sweet, their ice creams costing R15 a scoop, Tiramisu R45, and Tarte Tatin R50. The wines offered are understandably those of Vrede en Lust, while its MCC offering is Graham Beck Brut and Graham Beck Brut Rosé, both at R240.
We enjoyed our tasting and lunch at Vrede en Lust, a professional operation with very friendly staff, good quality wines, and excellent food, much improved from its Cotage Fromage days.
Disclosure: We received a bottle of Vrede en Lust White Mischief 2012, Casey’s Ridge Kogelberg Chenin Blanc 2012, and Casey’s Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2013, as well as a lovely bread, a chocolate brownie, and a jar of honey butter with our media pack.
Vrede en Lust, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 874-1611 www.vnl.co.za Twitter: @VredeenLust Monday – Sunday 10h00 – 17h00.
Lust Bistro & Bakery, Vrede en Lust, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 874-8155 www.lustbistro.co.za Twitter:@Lust_to_Eat Monday – Saturday 7h30 – 17h00. Sundays and public holidays 8h00 – 16h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage