South Africa — Pining for Pinotage
“A week-long exploration into the luxe queer side of the Rainbow Nation.”
Day 7, Franschhoek Winelands
Rested and recovered from my nights at La Cabrière Country House, it’s wine time! Floors van der Wateren, equal parts guide, historian and wine expert (and soon to tour company owner, he admits), leads my swath through farm after verdant farm in a two-day tasting spree I’m still trying to wrap my head around. With a warmer, longer growing season that’s quickly becoming even more productive thanks to global climate change, South African wines pack a higher alcohol content and each exceptional taste of Pinotage (a hardy South African varietal created in 1925 by combining Pinot Noir and Hermitage vines into a robust red) and Sauvignon Blanc (the region is renowned for its whites) has a tendency to sneak up. Brandies and sweet wines and, surprisingly, olive oils for the AA crowd are also tops, as is the local bubbly, denoted Methode Cap Classique to indicate the same in-bottle fermentation process as champagne.
Outside of individual bottles — I still can’t get the crisp Pierre Jourdan MCC and bold and peppery though truffle-undertoned Reserve Syrah from Seidelberg out of my head — vineyard highlights include the homegrown archeological and social history Museum van de Caab (“of the Cape”) at the Solms-Delta estate.
Tales of Khoisan tribesman, slave workers and contemporary oral histories engage with artifacts to create a holistic history of the region. Meanwhile 50-percent of the estate’s profits benefit a local trust that aims alleviate the persistent historical inequities and semi-feudal society of the vineyards through cultural and fiscal empowerment. Their sweet-then-dry Solms Koloni, a Riesling and Muscat blend that’s desiccated on the vine and matured in oak, is a feat of forward-thinking ingenuity, too!