Written by Clifford Roberts; photography Johan Viljoen
Small isn’t something one might first associate with the region. Its wheatfields spread to the horizon, somehow also making the sky seem bigger than it is. Yet it’s the small beginnings that are celebrated by, for example, the basket press that is the logo of the wine and olive route members’ organisation.
Here, winemakers discovered the treasures of hidden valleys and remote rises that lend a particular character to the wines.
From this grew movements such as Swartland Independent, whose members pursue amongst others expression of the region in the wines. Wines must also be naturally produced, that is, with no inoculated yeast or added yeast supplement, no acidification, no added tannin, no chemical fining and free of constitution-altering processes.
It is an organisation of boutique producers, who also dominate the makers of wine in the region. Here you’ll find the wines of amongst others City on a Hill of André Bruyns; Johan and Diana Simons’ Dragonridge Winery; Thinus Krüger’s FRAM Wines; Testalonga on the road to Citrusdal; Marras of Martin Lamprecht, who’s about to open his cellar in Riebeek Kasteel; and, Wildehurst in Koringberg.
The office of Jurgen Gouws at Intellego doubles as his tasting room. It’s an old farm building that’s rarely seen a feather duster or broom. One side of the room resembles an altar with its heavy wooden table and backdrop of old (memorable?) wine bottles. Jurgen’s labels stand in stark contrast to the room and are mirrored in framed posters.
Môrelig Farm is the home of (Andrew) Wightman & Sons. Tasting here is just as rustic – a table surrounded by barrels and a few small tanks in the tiny winery. There is no imposing gateway or paved and manicured lane to the werf with its crowded garden and farm hounds. Occasionally, Andrew’s horses graze in the vineyard. It has the feeling of a home rather than an enterprise.
On the outskirts of Malmesbury lies Hofstraat Cellar, a barn-like structure also resembling a place of worship. Half the building is Myrtledene restaurant though, which doubles as a place to sample Wim Smit’s vinous wares.
The places are treasure troves in themselves, of unusual wines made by accessible, passionate and fiercely independent people.
They’re spread far and wide, and many are only open by appointment. If you’re stretched for time and want to see as many as possible, target the Paardeberg where there’s a concentration of these boutique wineries. It’s also unmissable to pop into Anton Espost’s Wine Kollective, whose cramped shelves are a veritable library of local wine curiosities.
Alternatively, seek out the makers further off the beaten track and be rewarded with an equally rare experience.
Who knows? You might just discover the hidden secret gems of the Swartland on your next visit. If not, you’ll still be pleasantly surprised by all the region has to offer.