“A wine should give a sense of place,” says Etienne Louw to our gathering while we sip of the farm’s recent vintage of Sauvignon Blanc. Etienne is Groot Phesantekraal’s winemaker and a close family friend of Andre Brink and his wife Ronelle, the fourth generation owners of the Durbanville-based farm.
Groot Phesantekraal, previously Phizante Kraal, is located to the northeast of the Durbanville wine valley in a geographical location that is lapped by both the heat of the sub-continental interior and the cool sea breezes of the Atlantic Ocean. The resultant microclimate, favourable soil characteristics, and, of course, the winemaker’s skills are the forerunners of the farm’s beautiful collection of wines, which we had the privilege andpleasure of sampling on this gorgeous Spring day.
Groot Phesantekraal history and heritage
The farm at Groot Phesantekraal has an astonishing 320-year history with some heavyweight South African characters having played a key role in its narrative. In 1698, Governor Simon van der Stel gifted the farm to expedition leader Olof Bergh after which, in 1759, it was sold to the Louw family and then, in 1897, to the Brink family.
Since the late 19th Century, the farm has remained in the hands of the Brinks, but for most of this time, it has remained a cattle, sheep, and grain farm. It was fourth-generation owners Andre and Ronelle Brink that decided to plant 50 hectares of vineyards, which conceived Groot Phesantekraal’s boutique winery. This has since grown to around 75 hectares with the winemaking falling under the talented management of Thys Louw (of the Diemersdal wine estate) and Etienne Louw (of Altydgedacht fame), both of which are close family friends of the Brinks.
Wine tasting in the chicken coop
Our group gathered in the tasting room, called “The Chicken Coop”, a cool and intimately sized room with a central wooden table heavily laden with the farm’s collection of wine. Small alcoves cut into the cellar walls accommodate bottles that are yet to be opened, a considerable deviation from their original function as nesting homes for chickens and ducks. Of course, the poultry (and all evidence thereof) has long since been removed, leaving behind an enchanting, cellar-like space with the most delightful back-story. It was here that we partook in a guided exploration of Groot Phesantekraal’s repertoire of wines.
The tasting notes were accompanied by a sweeping account of the farm’s history and quirky family anecdotes delivered by Andre Brink himself, who was born and raised on the farm and who’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were as well. This made for such a wonderful and personal experience that I left the “chicken coop” feeling like a member of the family, and, since the wine was just too good to send to the spittoon, in serious need of a good lunch.
Lunch in the stable
Our group migrated to the restaurant, which, in keeping with the tradition of converting hard-working farm spaces, used to be the stable where the sheep were sheared. Of course, the entire space has been beautifully refurbished without destroying the heady air of history. In fact, one wall still bears the pencil scrawls of Andre’s father as he kept count of the years’ sheep shearing tallies.
The restaurant dates back to 1767 and is a popular place for breakfast and lunch, offering a variety of rustic, country-style dishes, including pork belly, chicken roulade, kudu loin, and steak, all made with contemporary attention to presentation. The food was hearty, absolutely delicious, and perfectly accompanied by Groot Phesantekraal’s yet-to-be-released 2016 Pinotage.
A boutique winery with all the trimmings
Groot Phesantekraal very much considers itself a boutique winery, favouring the limited production of high-quality wines over the mass production of mediocre tipple. Their ever-expanding repertoire includes Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and, most recently, a Pinotage and award-winning MCC, any of which can be most blissfully enjoyed in the atmospheric restaurant or on the grassy terrace.
Winemaker Etienne Louw believes that any wine should tell a unique story of the complex interplay between the vineyard’s soil characteristics, topography, and climate. Given the character of the wines we sampled that day, it’s safe to agree that Groot Phesantekraal truly embraces this philosophy with one exception… it’s both the sense of place and the skill of the winemaker that delivers wines of a distinctive personality and exceptional calibre. This is quintessentially Groot Phesantekraal.
Phone: 021 825 0060