Bouchard Finlayson’s wine-tasting and walking is heaven on earth

Bouchard Finlayson, a boutique-style winery, is located in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley just outside Hermanus. A little off the much-beaten Stellenbosch and Franschhoek wine track, Bouchard Finlayson is part of the Walker Bay wine district, and is only an hour and a half from Cape Town.

Image credit: Louise Topping

Well-known for its award-winning wines, especially the flagship Galpin Peak pinot noir, Bouchard Finlayson has also earned the status of WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) Conservation Champion for its focus on safeguarding and rehabilitating the valuable biodiversity of this fynbos region. To enjoy the beauty of the area, guests can book a Guided Nature Walk led by resident conservationist and botanist Frank Woodvine – and we did just that. He has worked in the area for over 40 years and can remember the original vines being laid in the late 1970s.

We arrived on a late spring morning and were struck by the Atlantic breeze meeting the dusty mountainside air. After a quick breakfast of croissants and coffee we were ready to head out on the guided walk followed by some wine tasting. Frank explained that as part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, we are in one of the most unique places in the world in terms of plant diversity and the concentration of endemic species.

Only 25 hectares of the farm’s total 125ha are under vineyard, and the rest are being rehabilitated to the fynbos that once covered the valley and earned it the name Hemel-en-Aarde (heaven on earth). In this pocket of land, there are more than 330 protected plant species, and Frank plans to grow this biodiversity in a long-term project involving the removal of invasive species and restoration of its indigenous flora. His love for this region is plain: ‘It’s a very special place for me. It really is heaven on earth, or as close as it gets’.

Image credit: Louise Topping

As we walked, Frank’s enthusiasm for the natural world was contagious, and he shared that true beauty lies in the details. We stopped to peer cautiously into porcupine burrows, admire the bright pinks of the ericas, pelargoniums and watsonias while touching the papery white Everlastings and inhaling the herby aroma of restios carried on the breeze.

Image credit: Louise Topping

Meandering back through the vineyards, we picked up the pace, looking forward to the welcoming cool of the cellar air. We were greeted by winemaker Chris Albrecht and a table laden with deli delights all sourced nearby; olives and honey produced on the farm, cheeses made locally, and of course a tasting of Bouchard Finlayson’s finest wines. These paired wonderfully with Chris’s wine-making anecdotes and Frank’s store of local folklore. We left feeling full-bodied and well-balanced, perfectly in tune with nature.

Image credit: Louise Topping

Need to know

Guided walks set off at 9am Mondays to Saturdays

There are 3 guided walks on offer:
The Yellow route (30 – 45 minutes)
The Green Route (1 hour)
The Red Route ( 2 – 2 1/2 hours)

The walks are not physically strenuous, with the shorter ones being about 2km. We would recommend the longer Red Route as you reach a good elevation for a beautiful view of the valley, which allows time for soaking in much of Frank’s wealth of knowledge and local folklore along the way. The shorter Yellow or Green Routes would be more suitable for children.
Take a hat, sunscreen and a bottle of water for there is little shade as you get further up the hill.

Contact
[email protected] or 0283123515 bouchardfinlayson.co.za

Text and photos: Louise Topping