"It's not much but it's ours"

Thursday, April 10, 2008


There are not many plusses about getting that year older. But, if I am going to have to have a birthday, I can’t think of many places more pleasant than sitting on the terrace of a winery in the stunning environs of Stellenbosch some 40kms outside Cape Town.

Stellenbosch town itself is reminiscent of wine towns all over the new world. Well to do and smart, the streets are filled with expensive cars and trendy restaurants. It is all pleasant enough but there is an air of unreality about the whole thing, particularly when you remind yourself that you are in Africa.

Still, it made a good base for a day of tasting and, because it was my big day, Neil offered to be the designated driver. Good for him

First up, a return trip to De Toren for a tour and tasting under the watchful eye of young, Dutch intern, Joost where we were able to sample the two wines of the estate. The Cabernet heavy Fusion V Bordeaux blend is definitely something I shall look out for when I return to London.

Next to Glen Carlou, part of The Hess Group where we, and by “we” I mean “I” tasted a the full range from single varietals such as Viognier and Shiraz to their own “Classique” Bordeaux style wines.

Finally, Fairview, a much larger commercial enterprise where more time seemed to have been spent setting up the shop than on making the wines. All a bit grim and we left there pretty quickly.

We had been recommended a place to stay for the night not far from De Toren which is why I found myself sitting on the terrace of Lovane, a tiny boutique winery, having the first of what turned out to be far too many glasses of excellent wine.

The owners cooked dinner for us and, when there was one of many power cuts, we sat around a log fire and enjoyed more special bottles from their, as yet, unreleased unlabelled bottles.

If Lovane was idyllic, and it truly was with thundering mountains on one side and sweeping vineyards on the other, then our next stop, the Western Cape fishing village of Paternoster raised the bar again. A smattering of small cottages, with their identical green roofs, nestle on the edge of the Atlantic.

Our guesthouse was ten seconds from the sea and about half that from one of the only restaurants in town, Voorstadt.

The food was ordinary, but it was worth the small amount it cost to sit on the water’s edge and watch the sun go down and the crescent moon rise.

Under the modern tourist exterior, however lurked the original fishing town with men parading along the street selling the morning catch of prawns and crayfish and the local watering hole, The Paternoster Hotel showing a less than feminist side with its ceiling display.

Not a bad way to spend a few birthday days

Next stop Mozambique. I see prawns in my future.

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