It was early in the day, but the Sun beat down with an intensity that, within minutes of jumping off the back of the bakkie, left our backs slick with sweat. We found ourselves in the thick of the vineyards at Lanzerac Wine Estate, fairly high up in Stellenbosch’s Jonkershoek Nature Reserve.
In front of us, the steeply undulating terrain fell away, yielding spectacular views of acre upon acre of vineyards. Behind us, it reared up to a plateau upon which even more vineyards were perched. This, we were told by Lanzerac’s General Manager, Barend Barnard, was the Pinotage block behind one of the estate’s proudest achievements: the Pionier Pinotage, which, this past week, was hailed as one of South Africa’s top Pinotages at the Vivino Wine Style Awards in New York.
It’s harvest time at Lanzerac, but we weren’t here for the Pinotage – at R850 a bottle and only 5,000 or so bottles produced per year, I wouldn’t allow a motley crew of photographers, writers, and media people with shears loose upon my Pinotage block. No, we were here for the Shiraz grapes, which hung pendulous and sweet from the sea of green and gold that spread out before us. After a briefing by the estate’s viticulturist, Danie Malherbe, and armed with shears, we fanned out into the vineyards to experience – literally hands on – the toil that goes into the wine we so enjoy.
Clip, clip, clip…slowly at first, careful not to damage any of the grapes or the leaves, and then with greater vigour. Together, we filled a few crates of the rich purple fruit and were then called back to the bakkies for some cold water. Half an hour was enough for us to get the gist of the incredible amount of work that goes into harvesting grapes. The farm workers themselves spend eight hours or more in the thick of the vineyards every day, pulling ripe bunches of grapes from the vines with such practiced (bare) hands that they filled crates to the brim with blinding alacrity.
I appreciated wine before – very much so – but after our experience in the vineyards, I appreciate it exponentially more.
Off to the cellars!
Speaking of wine, it was time to head off to the merciful coolness of the cellars, where we were greeted by a table groaning with champagne and wine glasses and ice buckets of the estate’s luxurious Méthode Cap Classique Blanc de Blancs Brut. Heaven. We were now in the domain of Lanzerac’s winemaker, Wynand Lategan, and so – after a brief toast – he took over the reins from Danie.
After cooling off with a glass of bubbles, we kicked off our cellar experience by jumping into a giant vat of freshly picked grapes for some grape stomping, which popped pleasantly underfoot and squelched between our toes. We were then treated to a whirlwind tour of Lanzerac’s three ranges of wines: the Premium, Heritage, and the “Keldermeester Versameling.”
This very exclusive, high-end collection consists of three exquisite and carefully crafted wines: the Bergpad 2016 (Pinot Blanc), the Dok 2015 (Malbec), and the Prof 2016 (Cinsaut/Pinot Noir), the lattermost of which is a clever blend of the parent cultivars of Pinotage, for which the estate is so famous (Lanzerac is the very first wine estate in the entire world to bottle Pinotage, which is a hybrid of Hermitage, AKA Cinsaut, and Pinot Noir grapes).
Lunch at Lanzerac Deli
If there’s one thing better than lunch at Lanzerac Wine Estate, it’s a well-earned lunch at Lanzerac Wine Estate. By this stage, after harvesting in the vineyards, stomping grapes in the cellars, and tasting wines, our appetites had been whet to a razor-sharp edge, and so we happily made our way to Lanzerac Deli, where we were met with the most glorious of sights: a harvest table loaded with exquisitely plated dishes.
It took every fibre of willpower to resist diving in, but we managed to rein in our fierce appetites until the last photograph had been taken. And then we descended upon the table’s offerings, which included luscious leafy salads, fresh bread with sticks of butter, a generously piled cheese board, flavourful mini-pies filled with bobotie, exquisite lamb patties, and slow-roasted beef with roast vegetables. The fabulous harvest table was the work of Lanzerac’s gifted Executive Chef, Stephen Fraser. And, of course, accompanying the delicious food was the estate’s beautiful wines. We were even privileged enough to get to sample the Keldermeester Versameling range, of which the Prof 2016 (Cinsaut/Pinot Noir) was my favourite.
Celebrating the 2018 harvest
Every element of our day at Lanzerac Wine Estate was a true celebration of the harvest: clipping bunches of Shiraz grapes in the vineyards, grape stomping in the cellars, tasting the young wines from the fermentation vats, and lunch, enjoyed harvest table-style. It was the perfect day that sent me home with renewed appreciation for wine, which I honestly didn’t think was possible given my prior obsession-level regard for wine. I have also made it my personal mission to purchase a case of the 2018 Shiraz when it finally hits shelves, probably around 2020. And while it won’t take me too long to polish off most of the bottles, knowing that I had a hand in that harvest will earn at least one of them a long-standing position in my wine collection.
Visit their website www.lanzerac.co.za or Facebook page to keep up to date with their news and new releases.