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April 18, 2013

From the Chobe River to Franschhoek’s Haute Cabrière

I first met Hildegard von Arnim from the legendary vineyard of Haute Cabrière in Franschhoek, on a houseboat in the middle of the Chobe River between Namibia and Botswana. “You must come and visit us one day,” she said, as we watched elephants bathing and playing.

Now, on a blustery but sunny day, I’m sitting with Hildegard and two friends, sipping Pierre Jourdan bubbly on the Haute Cabrière terrace as purple mountains dissolve in mist on the horizon and a party of German tourists finish a wine-tasting tour in the deep cool cellars.

There’s no doubt that Hildegard and her legendary husband, winemaker and larger-than-life character Achim, have chosen Franschhoek’s prime spot for their cellars. All photos by Kate Turkington

Most visitors who come to Cape Town want to go on a tour of the Cape Winelands. But where to go? Which one to choose, when there are so many?

I’ve spat and sipped my way round many wine estates in my day, but I must say, it’s very hard to find a more beautiful place than the Franschhoek Valley, and there’s no doubt that Hildegard and her legendary husband, winemaker and larger-than-life character Achim, have chosen Franschhoek’s prime spot for their cellars.

Once a disused quarry, now the spacious stone cellars hold barrels full of the vineyard’s signature Pierre Jourdan bubbly, and also the blend that is now one of South Africa’s favourite white wines, called simply Haute Cabrière. The 11am Saturday wine-tasting tours, usually led by Achim himself, or son Takuan, are famous.

Once a disused quarry, now the spacious stone cellars hold barrels full of the vineyard’s signature Pierre Jourdan bubbly

After a great lunch at the cellars, heads pleasantly buzzing, my friend Coral and I take a turn round the village of Franschhoek.

It’s full of famous restaurants (priced accordingly) and hosts all sorts of festivals throughout the year, ranging from a literary one to a cheese-and-wine one, and then the place pumps.

Yes, it’s beautiful, in one of South Africa’s loveliest valleys, but it’s autumn now, off-season, so today everything looks just a little lost and sad. A bus disgorges a load of tourists, who pick around stalls of rather tatty African curios (many made in China) before snacking on pancakes, coffee and cake, or Italian gelato.

The autumn foliage looks spectacular, though …

The autumn foliage looks spectacular

Keen to discover more about the Franschhoek Valley? Jump on the Franschhoek Wine Tram and experience a different perspective.

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