“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts." ― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It
Did you know that ‘Mark Twain’ was the pen name of a ‘Samuel Langhorne Clemens’? Twain was responsible for ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and the great American novel, the ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, published in the US precisely a hundred years before my birth in 1885…a sign, no? Clemens/Twain was one of the first writers during that time to write as the people spoke, especially the people of the deep South, giving voice to the history of the place. His use of the word ‘adventure’ in both of his career-making novels is telling of the man, and the things he believed important. Adventure.
We do believe that we might have had something in the way of adventure to offer old Samuel, given that our very homeland is synonymous with the term. Franschhoek springs to mind, though in its original form, Olifantshoek (Elephant’s Corner), the adventure might have been more to Samuel’s understanding of it, having been a breeding ground for these large mammals. Fearsome they were, by all accounts, so fearsome in fact that the area was later called ‘Banghoek’ (Scary Corner) - giving new meaning to the old adage ‘liewer bang Jan as dooie Jan’ (rather scared ‘jan’ than dead ‘jan’ - you may substitute ‘Jan’ for ‘John’ or you know, ‘Jane’). The area has a chequered past shaped by the hotly debated history of our land. Though there are facts that remain as true then, as they do now: It is beautiful, the Drakenstein Mountain Range which make up part of the Cape Fold Belt provide a majestic backdrop that no number of words or pictures can fully do justice. These Mountains incidentally provide very fertile and varied terroir, perfect for grape-growing and winemaking. Today it is named for the French Huguenots who settled here in the 1680s and the people largely credited for the introduction of fine winemaking and a general understanding of fine dining on this most Southern tip of Africa.
Since then, the French influence has elevated the valley in international esteem, not so much for its beauty as for its unique (and may we say, perchance, BETTER) interpretation of the things those first Huguenots excelled at, these things being food and wine. The definition of ‘adventure’ in today’s Franschhoek very much speaks to the more refined palates among you, offering a veritable amusement park for avid foodies and wine lovers. Given Samuel’s life, we feel that he might have concurred that THIS, in fact, is ADVENTURE.
As such we are fortunate to count a number of notable estates in the area in our number of MarketPlace partners, of which, each and every one offer some form of experience. The valley serves as one of the pillars of South African wine tourism, given that one is assured of hitting at LEAST two wine farms in a 5km circumference. These estates, some around 300 years old, in our humble estimation, can contend with some of the OLD world estates and today stand as cornerstones of South African wine. Given the many public holidays and heydays we currently face we’d be at fault were we not to provide you with a tour guide of our favourite estates.
As we’ve enjoyed a particularly fruitful affiliation with Anthonij Rupert Wyne it is one of the first wine estates that spring to mind when contemplating the Franschhoek Valley. Set on the historic farm of L’Ormarins, first granted to French Huguenot, Jean Roi, they not only make Franschhoek wines, but represent a number of areas within South Africa and have made a huge contribution to putting South African wines on the map. As such their estate offers a number of intriguing wine possibilities housing two tasting rooms as well as the Franschhoek Motor Museum, should you be so inclined. Their stock of brands ranging from the flagship Anthonij Rupert range, to the old Cape Vines of the Cape of Good Hope range to the traditional bubbles of L’Ormarins and Provençal-style Rosé, Jean Roi, cater to even the most discerning of wine lover.
Colmant is a more recent addition to the Franschhoek Valley, making beautiful Cap Classique wines and importing some intriguing French Champagnes to boot. The hugely energetic Colmant family from Belgium, settled here in 2001 and has since embraced our way of life and made a large impact with one of the first dedicated MCC cellars in the country. Offering a number of MCC centred experiences, we’d wager that THEIR adventure is reflected in the wine.
Chamonix wine estate is an older fixture in the valley and offers far more than just the wine, though as one of the few estates in the Valley making Pinot Noir, we’d be remiss if we did not draw your attention to their Pinot Noir Reserve, the 2012 vintage having been rated one of the Top 100 SA Wines. Tim Atkin has also taken a liking to their white Bordeaux-style blend with the 2015 vintage awarded 94 points. For more information on this particular farm however, we suggest you read our dedicated story here as we’d hate to rush you through the specifics: https://www.port2port.wine/stories/the-tale-of-chamonix-n34.
La Motte, named for a little village in Provence – La Motte d’Aigues, was one of the original French Huguenot Farms, and today represent a hub of culture in the valley. From the Museum chronicling the history of the estate, to their association with the art of South African artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, to the Pierneef inspired Restaurant, hiking trails and tasting options, well one would be forgiven for wanting to spend the day. Their excellent collection of wines however serve as OUR main draw, the Rhône-style blend of Syrah and Viognier being of particular interest. Here, we’d suggest you spend a day.
Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. Now the Mullineux’s are known for making their Swartland wines, however, when they went into partnership with Indian businessman, Analjit Singh, their operations moved from their Roundstone farm in the Swartland to the sprawling Leeu Estates in Franschhoek. Far from removing their focus on Swartland wines, they’ve merely added another range to their portfolio, Leeu Passant. ‘Passant’ meaning to stride and is representative of the Leeu Collection emblem, ‘Singh’ being the Sanskrit derivation of ‘Lion’ or ‘Leeu’ in Afrikaans. Andrea Mullineux comments on the Passant range thus: "The initial idea was for Mullineux to make Franschhoek wines, but it is a Swartland brand, so we started the Leeu Passant label. We wanted to do something South African, not make an imitation Bordeaux. The idea is that we explore and pay homage to South African wine Heritage, in the mood of the old South African wines from the 1950s and 1960s. We wanted to deconstruct those wines and reconstruct them in a modern way. For the red it includes fruit from South Africa's oldest vineyard that is leased on a long-term contract. They are actually fenced off." As for the adventure element, the Leeu Collection in Franschhoek offers a plethora of experiences to be had, encompassing Leeu House, Le Quartier Français, Heritage Square, Tuk Tuk Craft Brewery and Leeu Estates. The gardens at Leeu Estates, dotted as they are with sculptures by notable South African artists, provide the perfect backdrop to the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines tasting facility, and should definitely be your first stop when working your way through the collection.
It should be pointed out, that these are only five of many and that while we do not wish to limit your Franschhoek experience, that these few should keep you occupied for at least 5 days…maybe more, given the sheer size of some of them. We do urge you however, not to take our word for it and go explore for yourselves; travel, as Twain put it, being a requirement to attain “broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things…” And we’d imagine WINE travel does so much more…