Franschhoek Cap Classique Route: World-class bubbly … and so much more!

The big difference between visiting a wine area in South Africa versus overseas? Simple. In SA we spend a day, maybe two, and then just do the “wine thing”. In Europe you also do the “wine thing”, but these visits also include other tourist attractions which make them much more memorable. That’s our experience anyway, and it’s perfect when you have a wife that’s not into the “wine thing” as you!

A map of Franschhoek’s Cap Classique Route.

I have always associated Franschhoek and its picture-perfect valley with some of the best wine and food South Africa has to offer. Now it also boasts the first Cap Classique route in the country, the Franschhoek Cap Classique Route consisting of 26 Cap Classique producers.

The Franschhoek Cap Classique Route extends from Babylonstoren all the way through to the Franschhoek Pass Winery, giving visitors to the area a nearly all-round experience of what Franschhoek and its valley have to offer. Linger longer and you’ll discover other gems that make a short visit or stay … dare I say, a waste of time?

We recently decided to visit the Franschhoek Cap Classique Route, but to do it properly, which means do the “wine thing”, but also include some of the many other attractions the “French Quarter” and its valley have to offer. So we decided to spend two days in the valley. We should have made it longer!

At Boschendal you sit back and relax, and enjoy life as it should be enjoyed!

Our visit started on a Wednesday morning with a Cap Classiqe Breakfast at the Werf restaurant on Boschendal.

Since it was first granted to the French Huguenot Jean de Long in 1685, Boschendal has become world-famous for its food, wine, farm produce and generous country hospitality. Today, after a decade of rejuvenation, reinvention and refinement, this iconic Cape farm has evolved into a landmark winelands destination offering a diversity of food, wine and outdoor experiences united by a common ethos of sustainability.

There is certainly no shortage of opportunities to work up an appetite on Boschendal. Stretched across 1 800 hectares, the estate ranges across orchards and vineyards, pristine fynbos and rugged mountain slopes. Strung out across this outdoor playground are world-class mountain bike and running trails – carefully laid out to cater for a range of experience levels – alongside scenic mountain walks through indigenous fynbos. Horse-back rides offer a more sedate way to explore the estate, with a choice of trails and mounts ensuring both novice and experienced riders will feel welcome.

Boschendal’s beautiful Manor House.

Young visitors will love The Treehouse at The Werf, with an outdoor kids playground and pump track open to all visitors.

The Werf Restaurant, our breakfast venue.

But back to business! With a panoramic view of the lush veggie garden, we had our first taste of one of Boschendal’s five Cap Classiques, the Grande Cuvée Brut 2014. This 50/50 pinot noir/chardonnay bubbly overflows with fresh green apple and hints of citrus supported by discreet almond biscotti and brioche. Extended lees contact gives it a full and creamy mouthfeel with elegant minerality, good balance and a seamless finish.

The very best way to start any day!

This MCC paired beautifully with a freshly baked croissant and cheese, followed by a mouth-watering Eggs Benedict consisting of toast topped with thinly sliced Black Angus beef, two poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. The Yanks may have invented Eggs Benedict, but Boschendal has certainly taken it to new heights!

My wife, who does not share my passion for wine but – strangely enough! – has a penchant for occasionally “drinking the stars”, literally swooned over the Grande Cuvée Brut and clearly enjoyed it with her breakfast of a fruit, yoghurt and muesli bowl followed by scrambled eggs with salmon and toast.

The other Cap Classiques from Boschendal are:

Brut NV, a blend of chardonnay (56%) and pinot noir (44%);

Demi Sec, a blend of chardonnay (51%) and pinot noir (49%);

Brut Rosé NV, a blend of 72% pinot noir, 18% chardonnay and 10% pinotage;

Jean Le Long Prestige Cuvée, a true blanc de blancs made from 100% chardonnay.

Incidentally, the Demi Sec has a residual sugar of 35g/ℓ as opposed to the other that vary between 7 and 10g/ℓ.

For more information on Boschendal’s diverse offerings, go to www.boschendal.com.

A sight for sore eyes!

Although one can spend lots of time on Boschendal, it was time for our next stop, the Franschhoek Motor Museum on L’Ormarins. Showcasing over a 100 years of automotive history, the museum caters to tourists, local families and motor enthusiasts alike. The museum’s

To be young again!

collection exceeds 220 vehicles – ranging from an 1898 Beeston motor tricycle to a 2003 Ferrari Enzo supercar – and more than 80 exhibits will be on view at any one time, displayed in four large de-humidified halls.

With a unique and exciting collection of vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles and memorabilia in the magnificent setting of L’Ormarins, you can book a museum tour, have a snack at the deli or take a tram ride to Anthonij Rupert Wyne next door for a wine tasting, which was exactly what we had in mind.

My choice for the day. A Porsche, what else!

I don’t care whether you’re a petrolhead or not (I certainly am!), if the sight of all those automotive gems don’t stir something in you, you’re dead to this world.

After bidding all those mechanised beauties goodbye, we boarded the tram (left) for a slow ride to Anthonij Rupert Wyne, L’Ormarins’ sister estate, for our second Cap Classique tasting of the day. The scenic route takes you higher up the mountain slope and offers you a birds-eye view of the

The tram ride gives one a stunning view of the two estates and the valley.

two beautiful estates and the picturesque valley. This is well worth the time and effort, and highly recommendable.

Elegance and style from a forgotten era.

We were dropped off at the estate’s historic and beautifully refurbished Manor House, which takes you back in time to a forgotten era of grace and elegance and where the Anthonij Rupert Tasting Room is located. Furnished throughout in the mid-nineteenth century Cape Dutch style, the house features beautiful wood beam ceilings, yellowwood floors and spacious

Even the Tasting Room takes you back to an era of elegance and style, especially with Cap Classiques waiting to be savoured and enjoyed!

entertainment areas. Adorning the walls is a beautiful collection of period art which depicts the Cape’s landscape in the mid-nineteenth century, while the rooms are tastefully furnished with carefully sourced antique pieces. The front rooms lead out onto a veranda with breath-taking views of the Franschhoek Wine Valley, while the back porch displays vistas onto the rose garden and the Groot Drakenstein Mountains.

We were in for another treat, this time a Cap Classique and Nougat pairing featuring three of the four L’Ormarins Cap Classiques, the Brut Classique N/V, the Brut Rosé 2015 and the Blanc de Blancs 2013, and three different nougats. Not all pairings hit the “sweet spot”, but these three combinations are beautifully “married” and bring out the best in both “parties”. And I must add, sampling world-class bubbly in such an elegant and sophisticated environment really makes one feel … well, kinda royal!

ARW’s Gidi Caetano expertly led me through the pairing.

But let’s have a closer look at the three Cap Classiques under “scrutiny”:

L’Ormarins Brut Classique N/V (Chardonnay 59% / Pinot Noir 41%): Aromas of tarte tatin, apple and cinnamon with a light pear drop and biscuit nuance on the nose. Bright, vivacious and crisply zesty in the mouth. Tangy lime and green apple crunch with a richer, deeper, biscuit and sourdough undertone. The zingy citrus and creamy lees flavours are well balanced with acidity and fruit in complete harmony. It is poised and elegant with a lingering aftertaste.

L’Ormarins Brut Rosé 2015 (76% Pinot Noir / 24% Chardonnay): Gentle berry notes on the nose, also strawberry and raspberry with a slight cream and biscuit nuance. The palate is vibrant and lively with crisp berry fruit flavours like raspberries and strawberries. Also lovely ruby grapefruit and lime zest flavour balancing the berries. The bubbly is rounded, fleshy and long with a zippy, well-defined finish.

Hitting the sweet spot … in more ways than one!

L’Ormarins Blanc de Blancs 2013 (100% chardonnay): “As fresh as a sea breeze, with sea shells initially before grapefruit.” A subtle hint of perfume makes its presence obvious on the nose. The palate is taut, zesty and crisp on entry. Initially, bright and fresh with tangy lemon and grapefruit vivacity which then makes way for riper, fleshier fruit. Expect generous orange, apple and stone fruit flavours. The wine then broadens out on the mid-palate with a creamier, fuller-bodied richness taking over before it tightens once more with a defined, dry and crisp end.

There is a fourth bubbly in this graceful and elegant “family”, the L’Ormarins Brut Classique Rosé N/V (60% Pinot Noir / 40% Chardonnay).

If you want to find out more about both estates, visit www.lormarins.com and www.rupertwines.com.

By this time, and with our taste buds buzzing, we were ready for lunch and set off for La Motte … and to experience more of the route’s many tourist attractions … and bubbly, of course!

This lady welcomes visitors to La Motte!

La Motte boasts four provincial monuments – the Manor House (c1751), the Jonkershuis (c1752), the Historic Cellar (c1782) and the Water Mill which was erected between 1752 and 1793 and which still is the only working water mill of its kind in the valley. Across the road, a small, humble building, known as the Veepos (cattle post), dates back to the first half of the 18th century.

The gallery is a must for anyone who can appreciate great art.

Permanent host to the heritage collection of Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, the well-known South African artist (1886-1957), the La Motte Museum offers a stimulating cultural-historical experience sharing the history of the estate as well as carefully curated art exhibitions. The museum is also the departure point of the Historic Walk and Sculpture Walk educational tours of respectively the Cape-Dutch buidings, sculptures on the estate and the estate’s Pierneef associations.

The Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant offers a refined and calm ambience perfect for extended lunches. Chef Eric Bulpitt’s menu changes frequently, but focuses on favourites from South Africa’s

Starters to die for, and the bubbly played an Oscar-worthy supporting role.

culinary heritage and interesting interpretations, like his wonderful interpretation of the “simple” hake dish (and thick cut French fries … cause you don’t order something as bland as chips at such a fancy restaurant!) I had for lunch. The same with the starter, which was called St Helena Bay Snoek. With both I ended up wishing for a bigger belly!

Taking hake to the next level, and the bubbly played its part!

Sharon had the Fig and Prosciutto for starters and the Beef (aged beef rump with Kokstad porcini mushrooms and cauliflower purée) as main dish.

We both agree that the “Pierneef” in the restaurant’s name is very fitting as the dishes aren’t only mouth-watering, but also pieces of art! Food should not only taste delectable, it should also look the part.

As far as the La Motte Méthode Cap Cassique 2017 was concerned, it played an Oscar-worthy supporting role, even with my wife’s main dish. This bone-dry Cap Classique is made from 90% chardonnay and 10% pinot noir. It has a natural perceived sweetness due to the long time spent on the lees. An attractive bouquet of citrus, brioche and nuts with millions of fine bubbles brings an exciting presence to the palate. The large chardonnay component brings finesse and the bubbly leaves the mouth with a refreshing finish.

For more information, go to www.la-motte.com.

Franschhoek’s main street at night.

We left La Motte feeling more than refreshed, and with time on our hands before our next appointment, we decided to take in a few of Franschhoek’s many attractions. And it’s easy, just stop along the main street, somewhere in the middle of the town, and take a gentle stroll in both directions. Numerous boutique shops, galleries, eateries, coffee shops and more will welcome you with open arms.

The old Dutch Reformed Church with the fog rolling down the mountain as backdrop.

And you can’t miss the imposing Dutch Reformed Church which was founded in 1843 and has its roots in the establishment of the French Huguenots in the valley in 1688. It was declared a national monument in 1972. Its thatched roof, teak pulpit, oak benches, extensive wooden panelling and traditional pipe organ adds to its beauty.

And then it was off to our last appointment of the day, Black Elephant Vintners & Co up Uitkyk Street. This outfit was completely new to me and I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect such an interesting wine story from guys who call themselves “the misfits of the wine industry, the rebels of the vine”.

Kevin Swart, the managing director, says they are story tellers, “be it in the way we make our wine, how we create our labels or the songs we choose to inspire us.” Yes, they don’t do the usual wine parings here. Instead they offer what they call “a dextrously composed music and wine pairing”!

The winemaker and the wine enthusiast at work. Tough job!

But we were there for Cap Classique, so the music and wine pairing would have to wait for later. But it’s on the to do list.

While relating the Black Elephant story, winemaker and viticulturist Jacques Wentzel introduced us to their range of 5 bubblies – the BEV MCC 2014, MCC Chardonnay 2016, MCC Zero Dosage 2011, MCC Rosé 2019 and 2013 Blanc de Blanc Limited Edition.

The Black Elephant BEV MCC 2014 is a classic blend of chardonnay (75%), contributing fruit and elegance, and pinot noir (25%) for complexity and length of flavour. Light yeasty aromas and tones of citrus, fresh picked red apples with a rich creamy complexity and cherries on the palate. The exceptionally fine mousse contributes freshness and finesse. And yes, it’s apparently best paired with Long Cool Woman (in a black dress) by The Hollies!

Their MCC Chardonnay 2016 is a true expression of the chardonnay grape – powerful, complex and elegant. The nose shows ripe citrus with melon and toasted almonds. The palate is rich and vibrant with lingering flavours of lemon, peach, ginger and brioche. And guess what, it’s best paired with Oh Yeah by Yello!

The MCC Zero Dosage 2011 (made from 100% chardonnay) represents Méthode Cap Classique in its purest form and allows the grape, site and vintage to shine. Bright yellow with green hue, the nose invites with a vibrant bouquet of peach, almonds and exotic spice. The palate shows stone fruits, hints of brioche and lingering mousse. According to the team, it’s best paired with Nothing Sweet About Me by Gabriella Cilmi.

Here they pair wine with music, and apparently their bubbly goes well with The Supremes. I disagree, Luciano Pavarotti would be a much better fit. Cheers!

The Black Elephant MCC Rosé 2019 is made in a modern fruit forward style, yet true to it’s varietal origin, pinot noir. It bursts with aromas of red berries, blood orange, peach and smokey lees. The palate is medium-bodied, ample and fleshy, with racy acidy, pretty fruit tones and a youthfully, frothy mousse. Because there appears to be no music match for this bubbly, we decided on Stairway to Heaven by the Far Corporation.

The Blanc de Blanc Limited Edition 2013 (from chardonnay) is made in a modern fruit forward style focusing on freshness rather than secondary aromas. The palate offers light yeasty aromas and tones of citrus, fresh picked green apples and ginger with rich creamy complexity and lemons. The exceptionally fine mousse contributes freshness and finesse. And it is best paired with A Kind of Magic by Queen.

Do yourself a favour and visit the “misfits” and “rebels”. For more information, and to make an appointment, visit www.bevintners.co.za.

The Hugeunot Memorial, part of our rich heritage.

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast in one of Franchhoek’s many excellent B&Bs, we set off to discover more of what the “French Quarter” has to offer.

If you visit Franschhoek and you don’t include the Huguenot Memorial and Museum … well, then you’re just not a good tourist! The Huguenot Memorial Museum portrays the history of the French Huguenots who came to the Cape Colony at the end of the 17th century. They fled religious persecution. Displays are housed in the main building and the annex across the street. The museum also has a shop.

The Hugeunot Museum.

Next to the museum is the Huguenot Monument, which stands out like a beacon as one drives up the main street. It was completed in 1945 and inaugurated in 1948. The three high arches symbolize the Holy Trinity: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. On top of the arches is the sun of righteousness and above that, the Huguenot cross of their Christian faith.

The central female figure, created by Coert Steynberg, personifies religious freedom, holding a bible in one hand and a broken chain in the other. She is casting off her cloak of oppression. Her position on top of the globe shows her spiritual freedom. It also refers to representations of the figure of the Virgin Mary of Catholicism, who may be shown with one foot resting on the globe. The fleur-de-lis on the woman’s robe represents noble spirit and character. It was long the symbol of the French monarchy, still in power at the time of the Huguenot exile.

The southern tip of the globe shows the symbols of their religion: the Bible; art and culture: the harp; agriculture and viticulture: a sheaf of corn and grape vine; and industry: spinning wheel for silk and cloth weavers.

The water pond, reflecting the colonnade behind it, expresses the undisturbed tranquility of mind and spiritual peace which the Huguenot refugees gained in South Africa after dealing with violent religious persecution in France.

A line-up of Le Lude’s “stars”, and they truly are!

But “the stars” were calling again and we set off for Le Lude, virtually next to the museum.

Unforgettable Cap Classique is their slogan, and it is spot on! Every single one of their bubblies is a memorable experience, a celebration of this particular art form. And I wondered again: Is the winemaker an artist in his studio or an alchemist in his laboratory? Maybe they are both.

But I digress! The estate builds on the important vinous tradition brought to this valley by the French Huguenots by specialising in Cap Classique. As a matter of fact, Le Lude’s custom-built winery is one of very few cellars in South Africa exclusively used for making Cap Classique. It also uses all three traditional varieties in its bubblies, namely chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

This must be what heaven looks like!

Le Lude is also the first South African winery to use the Agrafe® method in the production of its MCC. This means that during the time under bottle-fermentation, a natural cork is used to seal the bottle instead of the more widely-used steel crown-cap. The word Agrafe® literally means “staple”, and it is this staple that secures the cork to the bottle during the process, as well as after the final process of disgorgement where it gives the bubbly a distinct feature. But Agrafe® is not just about originality in aesthetics. By allowing the wine to undergo bottle-fermentation while closed under a natural cork, the resulting product has been proven to show more developed, multi-layered characters making Agrafe® a certification of extraordinary quality.

Winemaker Francois Joubert’s smile says it all. Le Lude’s bubbly is “heaven” to make and “heaven” to drink. Cheers!

The authoritative international publication Decanter in 2019 described Le Lude’s Cap Classiques as “the best MCC in South Africa”. Great praise indeed!

With winemaker Francois Joubert leading the tasting, our taste buds were again taken on a heavenly journey to the stars. Four of the estate’s exquisite bubblies tantalized our taste buds with millions upon millions of “stars”. These were:

Le Lude Reserve Brut N/V (91% chardonnay, 9% pinot noir)

The nose offers elegant citrus blossoms with fresh lime aromas, with secondary aromas of nougat, roasted nuts and hints of proving dough, while the palate entry is bright, fresh and elegant. Flavours of grapefruit, ripe lemon and pear form a structured mid-palate. The mousse shows finesse and texture with a restrained presence. Length develops delicately on the palate with fine tertiary aromas of caramelised honey, vanilla and dried fig.

Le Lude Reserve Brut Rosé (55% pinot noir, 40% chardonnay, 5% pinot meunier)

“Often the bridesmaid but never the bride”, pinot meunier is not given as much credit for the final Cap Classique as the other two noble grape vaarieties. Yet its role is an integral part in the final product, providing a richness and volume to the mid-palate as well as tantalising red fruit characters. Ripe cherries, red lollipop & raspberry aromas provide a delicate profile to the wine. These are followed by some hints of grapefruit & wild rose. The palate opens with a voluptuous texture supported by elegant acidity. Initially fresh red berries, wild plum and spice. The length and richness of the palate develops a complexity with raspberry compote and hints of blueberries and aniseed.

Le Lude Vintage Cuvée 2013 (chardonnay 64%, pinot noir 36%)

A slight nutty, brioche character is the result of the ageing period of this wine. It shows subtle hints of bruised apple, grapefruit and lime leaves while the soft mousse and lingering acidity balance the linear and tight acidity that carries this bubbly.

Le Lude Venus Limited Edition Brut Nature Millésime 2014 (72% chardonnay, 28% pinot noir) This exquisite bubbly is matured for a minimum of 70 months before being matured on the final cork for 6 months before release. Aromas of baked white pear and hints of fresh ocean spray on the nose lead to a palate of frangipane that’s complemented by a lingering crisp minerality. A soft pearl and delicate velvet mouthfeel from careful sur lie maturation adds to the beautiful balance of the wine.

The pairing we missed out on, but there’s always a next time!

We got so carried away with tasting and talking that we ran out of time for a planned Cap Classique and Canapé pairing. Well, it means we’ll just have to go back!

Incidentally, Le Lude is not only the home of superior Cap Classique, it also offers superb food at the Orangerie Restaurant just around the corner from the cellar. Here chef Nicolene provides an exciting and sumptuous a la carte menu to suit all tastes. Or indulge yourself with Le Lude’s Morning and Afternoon Tea with a selection of freshly baked treats accompanied by a glass of the estate’s award-winning MCC.

For bookings or more information, please visit www.lelude.co.za.

The restaurant offers a stunning view of the valley.

Our final destination of the day was Haute Cabrière where a Cap Classique and Macaron pairing awaited us, followed by a tapas lunch – with Cap Classique – in their restaurant with its beautiful views of the valley.

At Haute Cabrière, the Von Arnim family specialises in wines created from chardonnay and pinot noir. What used to be the “restaurant in the mountain” has now been turned into a very cosy tasting room overlooking the cellar. The new restaurant offers a magnificent view of the valley.

The three Cap Classiques in the pairing were their Pierre Jourdan Méthode Cap Classique Brut N/V, the Pierre Jourdan Méthode Cap Classique Belle Rosé N/V and the Pierre Jourdan Belle Nectar Demi-Sec Rosé N/V. The Blanc de Blancs was not available for tasting, but winemaker Tim Hoek decided to spoil me rotten by fetching and giving me a bottle of the soon-to-be-released 2016 vintage which I will very happily share with my wife one of these days when we celebrate something special, which we do quite often!

Pure indulgence!

The Pierre Jourdan Brut N/V was paired with a honey, lemon & thyme macaron, the Pierre Jourdan Belle Rosé N/V with a strawberry macaron and the Pierre Jourdan Belle Nectar Demi-Sec Rosé with a raspberry macaron. And then I was asked which was my favourite pairing! I wish people wouldn’t do that because it’s like asking parents to pick their favourite child. I simply replied: All three!

But let’s have a closer look at the bubblies in question:

Pierre Jourdan Méthode Cap Classique Brut N/V (chardonnay & pinot noir)

Expect delicate yeasty aromas on the nose, complemented by fresh citrus flavours and crisp acidity. This is a versatile wine complementing a variety of dishes. Pairings with lighter seafood dishes stand out.

Pierre Jourdan Méthode Cap Classique Belle Rosé N/V (pinot noir)

This bubbly pays tribute to the versatility of Pinot Noir. Enjoy a full nose of strawberries and cream, followed by fresh acidity and red fruit on the palate. It will complement salmon and trout, as well as lighter dishes with vinaigrette-based sauces.

Pierre Jourdan Belle Nectar Demi-Sec Rosé N/V (pinot noir)

The tapas menu.

This semi-sweet bubbly has a residual sugar of 39 g/ℓ as opposed to its dry compatriots with around 5 g/ℓ. Enjoy strawberries and rose petals on the nose, with a sweet palate. This is the perfect aperitif, and pairs well with dark chocolate and orange desserts.

Sadly our way too short visit to the Franschhoek Cap Classique Route was coming to an end. We should have made it longer as there’s more than enough to keep one interested and busy, but alas!

My tapas selection … with that bubbly. Cheers to the good life!

But our visit still had one ace up its sleeve, a tapas lunch in Haute Cabrière’s restaurant with its breath-taking views of the valley. When I asked our friendly waitress which of the bubblies she would suggest for the tapas lunch, she said the Belle Rosé. And so I followed her advice … and was not disappointed!

For more information about accommodation, restaurants, activities and any other attractions in the “French Quarter” and its picturesque valley, visit www.franschhoek.org.za.

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