Road-tripping the Swartland Wine & Olive Route

Posted by Gabrielle Jacobs on 20 December 2019

In November, I joined a party of wine lovers and travel writers on a mini road trip through the Western Cape’s Swartland – a diverse geographic region from the undulating hills of the Paardeberg in the south to the rolling waters of the Berg River in the north.

Riebeek Kasteel, one of the Swartland’s proud and pretty towns. Image: Daréll Lourens

The Swartland Wine Route was established in 1986 to promote the producers in this vast area. From long-established wineries with shelves full of international awards to feisty independent mavericks that are making a splash with their incredible old vines, today the Swartland is home to an array of wineries and olive producers making waves locally and abroad.

With our mini weekend road trip through the Swartland Wine & Olive Route, it simply wasn’t possible to visit all 27 wineries, so the producers came to us! Using the pretty town of Riebeek Kasteel as our base, we did a bit of touring near Malmesbury and then returned to Short Street (off of Main) for the Swartland Producers Party.

Royal Hotel

We began our tour of the wine and olive route in style – at the Royal Hotel on Main Street. If not the oldest, the Royal in Riebeek offers old-world charm and luxury with warm and rich country furnishings. The views from the upper pool deck are fantastic too, but we settled for coffee and tea – and freshly baked scones – on the verandah outside so that we could spy the still quiet goings on in the town’s main street. Visit royalinriebeek.com, or call +27224481378

Olive Boutique

Frank from Org de Rac Organic Wines keeps our glasses full while we tried out some extra-virgin olive oils with this tasty spread. Image: Gabrielle Jacobs

First up on our tour, we visited the Olive Boutique, where we were treated to a tasting and olive-oil education by owners Derek van der Riet and Susan Aird. Working our way through three oils of different intensities – frantoio, frantoio/leccino (medium) and coratina – Susan poured us each a measure and we held the shot-glass sized cup in our palms, one hands covering the opening and the other warming the oil to release its natural fragrance. Visit olive-boutique.co.za, or call +27224481368

While we tucked into a summer-fresh, country lunch of cold meats and farm breads, we were treated to some bubbles to kickstart our Swartland celebration and wine pairings from Org de Rac Organic Wines (of Piketberg). Cellarmaster Frank Meaker made a turn to charge our glasses himself with the fruity and crisp 2016 Cuveé La Verne MCC Brut. Visit orgderac.co.za, or call +27221250269

Het Vlock Casteel

We couldn’t help making a turn at Het Vlock Casteel, a farm and wedding venue with picturesque views that are reminiscent of a Mediterranean mansion. Het Vlock Casteel produces a number of fruits including grapes for its wines, but its specialty is olives. You will find more than 250 different olive products in the shop, from extra-virgin olive oils (EVOO), tapenades and body products. Visit hetvlockcasteel.co.za, or call +27224481488

Image: Gabrielle Jacobs

Lammershoek Winery

Aprilskloof, Malmesbury

We visited the Lammershoek Winery in the Aprilskloof Valley near Malmesbury and neighbour to Sadie Family Wines. One of its three German owners is the Mannschaft’s former footballer Franz Beckenbauer, and footie fans won’t want to miss Lammershoek’s Libero No. 5, by the football star himself. The Innocent range is well-priced and includes some good blends, as do the Terravinum Reserve ranges.

‘Die Orange 2017’ from the Mysteries range was a pleasant surprise. It may take some getting used to, but it’s lovely to sip on if you don’t mind the warm, spicier depth of flavour well-suited to chillier days.

While there we got to meet the visionary South African winemaker Eben Sadie as well – and his cute dog Hachiko. Visit lammershoek.co.za, or call +27224822835

Images: Gabrielle Jacobs

 

Babylon’s Peak Private Cellar

Between Malmesbury and Paarl

Image: Gabrielle Jacobs

Babylon’s Peak in the slopes of the Paardeberg Mountains is a private cellar with beautiful grounds named after Babylonstoren, the high granite peak on the farm. We were treated to some incredible views of the region when Stephan Basson, a fourth-generation farmer and vintner, took our party of wine-lovers up to some of the highest vineyards in the Swartland region – some 700 metres above sea level.

The Basson’s at Babylon’s Peak, ( mind you, there are two Basson families in the region) have a fantastic tasting room – including a rather interesting taxidermied Cape leopard which was found higher up on the estate’s slopes where we spotted a small herd of eland.

Visit babylonspeak.co.za, or call +27213001052

The Barn

Views from outside The Barn. Image: Daréll Lourens.

Just reopened, The Barn is a fantastic social venue that is perfect for sundowners and golden and rose-coloured sunsets with views of the iconic Riebeek Kasteel spire across a field where springbokkies pronk. The night before the Swartland Producers Party in the centre of town, all the Swartland winemakers converged to toast one another for a spit braai here. The best part? They all had to bring a few bottles from their cellars, so it was a merry night of tasting and toasting.

Church Street, Riebeek Kasteel. Call +27718442726

Image: Gabrielle Jacobs

 

Swartland Producers Party

We also happened to be in town for the Rugby World Cup Final. The  Swartland Producers Party in Short Street turned out to be the best setting for a spectator. What was even better was sipping on a glass of Kloovenburg’s smooth red – Eight Feet 2017 – the winery belonging to Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit’s family. You can only imagine the gees and the pride in Du Toit’s hometown of Riebeek Kasteel that day.

At the Swartland Producers Party in Short Street, Riebeek Kasteel. Image: Daréll Lourens.

Later when our Captain Kolisi lifted the Webb Ellis Cup, Short Street erupted with cheers, tears and an emotional rendition of Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrika…That was when I walked up to the wine barrel showcasing the range from Dragonridge Organic Wines from the Paardeberg. It was the perfect occasion for some bubbles. Spirits were high and anything seemed possible, all dreams within reach, as I lifted my glass of Dragonridge Supernova MCC.

Check out the hashtag #SwartlandSecrets on social media to see what we got up to.

The Wine Kollective. Image: Gabrielle Jacobs.

If you can’t get down to all of these wineries, you can still purchase quality Swartland wines and bubbles from the Wine Kollective on Main Street. Call +27224481008

Anna Katarina at 41 Fontein Street in Riebeek Kasteel is an eclectic but elegant haven. +27728260555

Panera Bakery does a good breakfast which is best enjoyed outside in the courtyard at the back. Pet-friendly. Sarel Cilliers Street, Riebeek Kasteel. Call +27624334455

The Swartland Wine & Olive Route website is an amazing resource for more information about this idyllic region.

Featured image: Daréll Lourens






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