These KZN wineries are proving fine wine isn't only made in the Cape
Better known for its babbling brooks than its sauvignon blanc, a handful of wineries are flying the flag for fine wines made amid the rolling green hills of KwaZulu-Natal.
The lush hills of KZN are not an easy place to grow grapes though, with searing heat and summer rainfall at harvest-time bringing the chance of downy mildew, and hailstorms threatening to hammer the fruit off the vine.
On the plus side, the soils are fertile, water is plentiful, and the rump of the Drakensberg allows vineyards to be planted at altitude.
Cathedral Peak Wines takes full advantage of its location in the Central Drakensberg, with cabernet sauvignon, pinotage, merlot, petit verdot and sauvignon blanc vineyards planted more than 1,100m above sea level.
The first vineyards took root here in 2007, and today cellar master Flip Smith crafts a compact range of wines offered for sampling (R10 per tasting) at their charming tasting room. Their pinotage is particularly good, with a clutch of gold medals from the Michelangelo Awards.
In the heart of the bucolic KZN Midlands, a pair of wineries adds yet another reason to meander your way through the region.
At Highgate Wine Estate, which began 22 years ago as a small vegetable farm, five hectares of vineyards produce eight certified wines, all of which can be sipped and swirled in the charming brick-built cellar and wine room. Here tastings (R60 to R80pp) take in the estate’s syrah, pinotage and merlot. Also look out for the flagship, a dark and full-bodied Black Edition Cabernet Sauvignon.
There’s more good cabernet down the road at family-run Abingdon Wine Estate which, back in 2007, was the first to produce a certified estate wine from KwaZulu-Natal grapes. Today the father-and-daughter team of Ian and Laurie Smorthwaite produce an intriguing range of cultivars available for tasting at the Abingdon Wine Bar.
White wines form the backbone of the estate, with sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and viognier on offer. Also look out for the Abingdon Savoir Faire, a méthode traditionnelle sparkling wine, matured on the lees and disgorged and corked by hand at Abingdon.
This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guide. Visit Yourneighbourhood.co.za