I took a long, leisurely drive to Weltevrede Wine Estate on Tuesday morning. The harvesting season has officially kicked off and it is time to make some wine here in the Roberston Wine Valley. You can see it while driving down the road, you can smell the freshly picked grapes and you can almost taste the delicious, soon-to-be-produced wines on your palate. When I arrived at Weltevrede Wines, just outside of Bonnievale, I was overwhelmed with the serenity and calmness offered by this magnificent estate.
I was met and accompanied on an underground wine cellar tour by Public Relations Manager, Elzette Steyn who has been a part of the Weltevrede family for fifteen years, she tells me. Weltevrede, a fourth generation farm, has been in the Jonker family for 102 years and spans 160 hectares of farmland. Harvesting of its Pinot Noir grapes started on Monday, says Elzette.
The scenic entrance towards Weltevrede Wine Estate.
It is such a pleasant time to be on the farm, witnessing the occasional tractor passing with buckets of freshly picked grapes. The grapes, however, are the very first harvest of the season and have a low balling reading, i.e. a low sugar content. You’d be ill-advised to taste some of the grapes as they tend to be quite sour.
The Weltevrede Estate is well-known for its selection of Methode Cap Classiques and Chardonnay wines. The 95 kilometre canal that runs adjacent to the estate is the lifeblood of the farm, ensuring that it is thoroughly irrigated throughout the drier seasons. But it’s Philip Jonker, son of Lourens Jonker, who’s vision distinguishes, and remains the spark of life, for this well-established Estate.
Harvesting season has just started in the Robertson Wine Valley.
160 hectors of beautiful views at Weltevrede.
His vision is what led Philip to acquire national acclaim in 2012 when he produced wine from the seven ancient vines from Robben Island, where former president Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. The dream started when Philip and his wife, Lindelize visited Robben Island seven years earlier and Philip noticed the vines in the prison garden. He arrived back at Weltevrede with a passion and a plan.
Many obstacles were encountered including early morning trips to Robben Island, hard labour, volatile weather conditions and ravenous seagulls that devoured two of the vines. But finally, in 2012, the patience and hard work paid off when the first crop was harvested, producing 228 kilograms of grapes. Philip was able to produce 20 bottles of sweet wine, Madiba’s favourite, from the grapes. Named, The Parable, the very first bottle was presented as a birthday gift to Madiba on his 94th birthday.
The canal that runs adjacent to the Estate ensures it remains irrigated throughout the year.
It is Philip’s relationship with the soil that fuels his passion, says Elzette. “His love for wine and winemaking is visible in all the wines produced here on the estate. When you work with someone who has that kind of vision, you cannot help but also be inspired,” she adds. The Estate was also the first to produce a Vanilla Chardonnay, currently their top-selling wine, and the industry soon followed suit. “Philip always has something up his sleeve,” Elzette added with a smile.
The underground cellar tour led us along dark walls, lit only by candlelight, which provided just enough glimmer to see our way through cemented cisterns. Here, thousands of bottles of MCCs lay dormant for four years. Previously used as wine tanks to store the wines, the cisterns were rubbed with molten beeswax to seal each hole and crack and prevent the wine from coming into contact with the raw cement.
Thousands of bottles of MCCs are awaiting perfection.
Elzette prepared seating for me and my fellow tour guests underground to sit and enjoy tales of the estate, as narrated by her.
The first wine Elzette presented was from the Simplicity Collection, the Vanilla Chardonnay. Refreshingly soft, this Chardonnay was a delightful treat to the palate and I could see why it’s one of their top selling wines. Tropical and citrusy flavours coupled with a soft hint of vanilla explode on the palate from the very first sip. It’s a delicious treat on a hot, summery day.
The underground cellar tour offered a new wine tasting experience.
Place of Rocks Chardonnay
From their Terroir Estate Collection, the Place of Rocks Chardonnay was second in the tasting experience. A truly sublime wine, this Chardonnay crept slowly into my heart with every sip. I fell in love with the limey, citrusy flavours and that is because the vines are grown in limestone soil, explains Elzette. Wood-matured for six months in French oak barrels adds depth and ensures a fuller taste on the palate.
Elzette spiced up the tasting (literally) with the Cherrychoc Merlot, also from their Simplicity Collection. I’m a real sucker for red wines and this merlot had me from the very first sip. I loved the simplicity on the palate, yet it is full-bodied with a long finish. It’s an easy-drinkable wine with flavours of cherries and chocolate which linger on the palate.
Bedrock Black Syrah
Another wine from the Terrior Estate collection, the Bedrock Black Syrah was impressively good. Slightly drier yet more delicious, this Shiraz was made to be enjoyed leisurely. Full-bodied with dark berries and plum flavours, this wine was a luxurious treat to me and my fellow tour guests. This is a special-occasions wine that should be appreciated slowly.
Weltevrede Wine Estate is well-known for it’s delish MCCs.
Oupa se Wyn
From the Heritage Wine Collection, Oupa se wyn (Grandpa’s wine), named after Oupa Klaas Jonker, the founder of Weltevrede, is a Red Muscadel made from vines planted on the farm in 1926. The muscadel, a fortified, sweet wine, serves as a delicious dessert wine to be enjoyed after an evening meal. It is deliciously soft on the palate it offers flavours of ripe cherries and raisins. It was the perfect end to a delightful tour.
Elzette and I after a wonderful tasting.
Tractors filled with freshly picked grapes were a beautiful sight.
I’d like to thank Elzette Steyn for her friendliness and hospitality. I had an amazing experience and a wonderful time touring and learning about Weltevrede and its selection of award-winning wines. If you’d like more info about the various wines Weltevrede has to offer, please visit their website. Please also join them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
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