Unless you’re a serious wine buff, the Worcester Wine and Olive Route is probably not on your radar when it comes to casual vineyard visits and wine tastings in South Africa. And yet the strip is home to 13 vineyards and cellar doors who regularly rake up prestigious wine awards locally and abroad. But more importantly, all of them are crafting quality and affordable wines that are full of life and without pretensions, much like it’s people.
So when the team at Worcester Wine and Olive Route invited us to see, taste and explore what they have on offer it felt like venturing into uncharted territory. What we’ve found instead was a Cape wine region that is steeped in South African heritage and regularly rakes in critical and commercial praise for their Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties.
STETTYN FAMILY VINEYARDS
Our wine tour kicked off at Stettyn Family Vineyards, off the R43 between Villiersdorp and Worcester. Winemaker CM Crafford and his team set a tone throughout the entire day – unassuming, country hospitality. Crafford and his crew gave us a special wine tasting experience on the vineyard grounds surrounded by stunning views of the Stettyn and Klein Drakenstein mountains.
It is the winery’s prime position on the lower eastern slope of the mountain range that results in frigid winters and temperate summers, that lends so much character to their famous Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay wines.
Our visit wrapped up with a pairing of their Flowstone range with farm cheese and meat platter. Stettyn Family Vineyards also offers a laid-back outdoor tasting space, so make the most of it by planning a picnic date with the family or loved ones.
It’s always refreshing to see a relatively new winery making strides in the industry. Cilmor Winery was established in 1997 shortly after it’s founder Cecil Morgen passed away. And although Morgen may not have seen the fruits of his labour, today the winery stands tall with handcrafted wines and a commendable Fairtrade certification that proves they’ve moved along with the times.
The winemaking process starts in the vineyard and our passionate growers ensure that only the best quality grapes are supplied to the cellar.
The Cilmor Popular Range wines are carefully blended to ensure easy-drinking and lively wines for all occasions. The Cilmor Premium Collection wines are handcrafted to reflect the best characteristics of each individual cultivar.
Alvi’s Drift is perhaps one of the famous wineries in the Worcester Wine Route thanks to their wide distribution network in South Africa and abroad. As such, their wines are always bound to spark some strong talking points.
The wine farm itself is a little slice of the Meditteranean with bougainvillaea and washed walls, and perched on the banks of the Breede River.
Our visit uncovered the Van der Merwe family’s rich legacy in both wine and rugby since 1928. And the fact that the farm also produces milk and cheese on their 700ha wine kingdom.
The wine farm is currently run by power couple, Alvi (named after his founder grandfather) and Junel van der Mewe who share a dedication to the art of South African wine. Junel walked us through the history of Alvi’s Drift and, armed with her expertise as Cape Wine Master, hosted an educational tasting session with some of their wines paired with homemade treats made by herself. Wines included some of the value-for-money gems from their Signature, as well as their premium offering Reserve range.
AAN DE DOORNS WINE CELLAR
Every now and then you’ll come across that one underrated winery that produces exceptional wines, yet very few know about it. The highlight of our visit to Aan de Doorns Wine Cellar, just 8km from Worcester, was marked by rave reviews for all their wines on tasting.
Our group was even more amazed at the bargain-level price points, proof that affordable wine doesn’t necessarily mean low quality. A definite must-try and my new favourite is their Muskadel 2017 which also took home the Grand Prix prize at Michelangelo International Wine and Spirit Awards. Retailing at R55, the wine bursts with aromatic touches of raisin, vanilla, and spicy accents. One drawback though, their distribution is not that wide so you can only buy online or at the Cellar Door in Worcester.
Since its establishment in 1954, the cellar crafts their consistently good and pleasingly affordable wines from selected vineyards. What truly set Aan de Doorn’s wines apart is their forward-thinking and the ability to shift their goals always further has produced a success formula in excellent vineyard practise and quality winemaking.
A trip to the Worcester Wine route would not be complete without stopping by Nuy Winery. If only for their stylish and uber-modern Nuy On the Hill dining space, perched on a hill with a breath-taking view across the Nuy Valley vineyards between Robertson and Worcester.
Don’t leave without trying their carefully matched sweet and wine pairing. Nuy Winery’s wine tasting brings some of their world-class Inspiration, Mastery and Legacy wine ranges to the fore paired with saccharine treats such as fudge, chocolate brownies, and apricot sweets.
The restaurant is child and pet-friendly, and serves up tapas, woodfired pizzas, hamburgers and steaks, to a selection of banting dishes.
CONRADIE PENHILL ARTISANAL WINES
Worcester Wine Route’s signature hashtag is #ValleyofFriends, and our Conradie Penhill Artisanal Wines tasting captured the meaning behind that tag. Seasoned wine professional Lorraine Viljoen’s warm, intimate hospitality added a unique twist to the formal wine tasting session we’ve become used to.
Bare feet and in a relaxed, rose garden setting at Nuy Valley Guesthouse, Viljoen shared the forming of Conradie Penhill in a conversational storytelling tone, and with a decent dose of anecdotes and even some song throughout. As ardent arts and culture lovers here at What’s on in Cape Town, this was exactly the type of unique, curated experience we relish.
But it’s not all narrative at Conradie Penhill Wines. Their handcrafted wines won numerous awards over the years and can stand tall next to any Franschhoek wine. As with most Worcester vineyards, they do a top-notch Chenin that is crisp and bold with fruity tones of melon and tropical fruit. Perfect for those lazy summer afternoons.
Conradie Penhill Artisanal Wines is widely respected among the wine community and often hosts masterclasses and tasting event sessions.
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