Quoin Rock: A class Act!

A top French chef in Paris who had already won 3 Michelin stars was once asked how he managed to maintain those high standards. “By never being satisfied,” he replied, “because once you become satisfied, you start going backwards.”

I was reminded of this during a visit to the fabulous Quoin Rock Wine Estate outside Stellenbosch earlier this year. But before I get to that, some background to this estate which had gone through some turbulent times before the Gaiduk family of Ukraine took charge.

An aerial view of the estate, with its heli pad!

Quoin Rock lies in the beautiful Knorhoek Valley at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountains. Under the custodianship of its new owners, passion, energy and vision transformed the old vineyards and the estate, and today Quoin Rock is the home of captivating experiences, from wine tasting to picnics, weddings, culinary experiences and tranquil mountain escapes.

Schalk in the “experimental” section of the cellar. Note the interesting barrels.

Winemaker Schalk Opperman, who joined the team towards the end of 2020, played host to a small group of us on that memorable day.

Terroir, technology and tradition take hands in the cellar to create fine wines.

“Our wine-making philosophy is simple,” he explained. “It’s all about craftsmanship in the vineyard and innovation in the cellar which lead to wines that embody the uniqueness of our terroir.

“Our wines offer a myriad of well-balanced, complex flavours that generate even more harmonies over time,” he added. “Stellenbosch vineyards are more suited to red varieties like merlot, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, while our Elim vineyards are suited to grape varieties that have higher cold requirements, like sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.”

The “nursery” – the vineyards where each vintage’s grapes are “born” – is in the capable and experienced hands of Nico Walters who’s been with the estate since 2012 and who has been working with the Simonsberg terroir for over 3 decades. Nico has been involved in the industry for many years and has accumulated a wealth of experience and knowledge.

Schalk, the artist/alchemist at Quoin Rock, has an impressive “studio/laboratory” to work in. Modern, but with elements of the past, the cellar also has an experimental section, where the “alchemist” performs his magic. Yes, making wine is an art, but it’s also a science where innovation plays a vital role.

Quoin Rock has two superb and distinct wine ranges, Quoin Rock and Namysto. Under the Quoin Rock label there are currently a White Blend 2018 (sauvignon blanc and semillon) and a 2018 Chardonnay on the white side, while the reds consist of a Red Blend 2016 (cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot) and a 2016 Shiraz. Then there’s a 2019 Vine Dried (a decadently delicious sauvignon blanc with 129,5g/ℓ residual sugar) and two outstanding Cap Classiques.

The Namysto wines get their name from a beaded necklace (depicted on the label), one of the oldest forms of women’s ornaments or jewellery in Ukraine, and currently consist of a 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, a 2020 Rosé made from cabernet sauvignon and shiraz grapes, and a 2016 Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon blend.

Some of the art on display.

But Quoin Rock is much more than fine wine, and you realise that the moment you enter the impressive complex housing the cellar and restaurant. Vitaly Gaiduk, the owner, is undoubtedly a lover of the arts, whether it be visual, literature or performing, and different art forms are on display.

The luxurious Manor House.

Before the wining and dining kicked off, we were driven up to the impressive Manor House with its commanding views of the nearby Simonsberg Mountain and as far as Table Mountain. The Manor House offers guests complete privacy with every detail for the ultimate experience in comfort and luxury. Situated at an elevation of 400 m above sea level, the 5-star Manor House offers luxury accommodation in beautifully manicured private gardens. The space is ideally suited to a wedding party, honeymooners or families looking for a luxurious, private and relaxing holiday experience.

The impressive building that houses both the cellar and restaurant.

The visit ended on a high (the umpteenth of the day!) with lunch in the estate’s Gåte Restaurant (pronounced gah-tey). The Norwegian origin of the word translates as “the entrance of a labyrinth”, symbolising a gateway to an extraordinary dining experience, which Gåte certainly provides, and how!

Seating only 40 people, the restaurant provides an intimate and inspiring fine dining experience, “a culinary adventure that is refreshingly rooted in Southern Africa, an adventure filled with surprises which capture the imagination and engage the senses”. If you have an educated and discerning palate, but you haven’t been here yet, you’re not doing yourself any favours!

Art on a plate: It tastes so good because it looks so good!

So let me get back to “never being satisfied”. It quickly became clear during our visit that Quoin Rock doesn’t rest on its laurels, that the bar is set high – in everything they do – and that there’s no place for complacency. After all, to be successful in such a competitive market, wine tourism providers such as Quoin Rock must at all times be at the top of their game. May they never become satisfied!

Oh yes, and this is the kind of “foreign investment” I fully support!

END

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