The South African Winelands Low-down – Helderberg

A very historic Estate that was transformed in the 1980’s when Anglo-American took it over and it became the meeting place for the first unbanned ANC meeting that also included Nelson Mandela just after release from his lengthy prison sentence. Beautiful grounds with stunning gardens and huge Camphor and Yellow trees almost 300 years old. Worth a day itself roaming around, tasting the wine, having lunch, enjoying the gardens and spotting the squirrels and birds.

  • Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2012 – Very green with flint like minerality, would complement food well.
  • Semillon 2011 – Lovely lemony fresh wine with a creamy finish, lovely in the heat of the day.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2009 – Savoury aromas with pencil shavings, elegant fruit and smooth tannins.
  • DNA 2006 – Cabernet Franc and Merlot, figs and herbs, savoury notes, quite unctuous and needs food. However, we felt the Cabernet Franc from Mont Rochelle was better value.

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A winery with a view this has got to be it. Perched on the edge of a hillside up a steep incline, where you drive past the bio-dynamically farmed vineyards, with horses and carts, the winery overlooks the breathtaking coastline at Somerset West. Huge glass windows open out to a terrace and allow all to enjoy the view.We sat and watched kestrels flying so close you could almost touch them, it was enthralling, whilst nibbling on a local cheese platter tasting the wine. Glass allows you to see the workings inside the winery too and the kitchen is open to view, so overall a working estate on show.

Oddly foie-gras is on the menu, which didn’t sit comfortably with us, and seemed contradictory to the Estate’s ethos of promoting nature and bio-dynamism. We did write to the Chef pointing this out but are yet to receive a reply.

  • Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Fresh citrus, light tropical fruit and herbaceous notes. 
  • Circumstance Viognier 2011 – Oranges and apricots, floral and lightly smokey. A lighter body than you expect from the nose and noticeable alcohol, although this grape is fairly high in alcohol and in South Africa it seems to show more.
  • Circumstance Merlot 2009 – Full and rich with concentrated fruit, strawberries and spice, dark sugar and fruitcake. The alcohol was warming on the finish.
  • Circumstance Shiraz 2009 – Full of figs, spicy fruitcake, with quite Port like aromas, surprisingly light body. 
  • Circumstance Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – Earthy, minty and herby, hints of cedar. Still young with tannin but nicely balanced.
  • Circle of Life Red 2009 – Shiraz, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, red fruits, earthy and herby but the alcohol stood out which is possibly a reflection of the youth of the vines and bio-dynamic practice. It will be interesting to see how they develop over the years.

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