Sprawled in seductively supine fashion across the Franschhoek valley floor is a 17th Century wine estate with the elegance and authority of a grand dame. Every year of those three centuries has given birth to life, joy, and a living for all who have stayed there. 325 Years later, Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate continues to do the same with her regal range of award-winning wines, spectacular vineyard and mountain views, fine dining restaurant (overlooking a sculpture garden), and luxury accommodations.
I’ve been to Grande Provence a few times but never before to spend the night, and so it was with great anticipation for some serious spoilage that we arrived at the Franschhoek estate on the afternoon of Easter Sunday. Our address for the next 24 hours was the Owner’s Cottage, a private accommodation with four rooms, a deluxe suite, lounge, and conservatory, all exquisitely beautiful, of course.
Country-style luxury accommodations
Grande Provence’s Owner’s Cottage exists at the intersection point of history, country, and luxury. The bones of the rooms exude a beguiling and palpable air of history and the furnishings, décor, and artwork are themed in accordance with the country lifestyle that has been enjoyed for centuries on Grande Provence.
But the deep sense of luxury is delivered by the attention to detail paid to comfort and convenience.
Our en-suite was elegantly appointed with comfortable, generously proportioned furnishings – such as a king-sized bed with a higher thread count than there were autumnal leaves littering the lawns – and walls painted a pleasing, warm grey colour. The large bathroom packed a bath and shower, and the room was fitted with its own hole-in-the-wall kitchenette, complete with well-stocked mini-fridge, a selection of Grande Provence wines, and a Nescafé machine for the morning’s inevitably needed quality cup of coffee. The room overlooked a private, well-secluded patio and a sunlight dappled lawn beyond that.
Put another way: we wouldn’t have minded it at all if the weather had socked in and restrained us to our living quarters. Fortunately, the sun was out and so we spent the afternoon at leisure, walking around the gardens, and indulging in a tasting of Grande Provence’s gorgeous wine ranges.
Wine and dine at Grande Provence Restaurant
That evening, we headed to Grande Provence’s restaurant, which is headed by Marvin Robyn, a passionate young chef who literally worked his way up the food chain from washing dishes to cheffing at some of the Cape Winelands’ top restaurants, including Delaire Graff, Cuvée at Simonsig, Equus at Cavalli, and Makaron at Majeka House.
With winter around the corner, the restaurant has just launched its four and five-course Heritage Tasting Menu, which offers guests and visitors to the estate several hours of leisurely and indulgent South African inspired fine dining, paired with Grande Provence wines.
Arriving early, we scooped the best seats in the house: right next to the wood fireplace, where we spent the evening with our backs deliciously warmed by the gently lapping flames. As ambitious an eater as I can be, we chose the four-course rather than the five-course option, the rationale being that we can always change our minds if we’re still hungry, but, once committed, you cannot undo a food coma.
What I love about the Heritage Tasting Menu is that you can select and curate your own four or five-course meal from the four starters, five mains, and two desserts plus cheese plate listed on the menu. We began with a fresh and zesty salad of heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella bavarois, and basil pesto, sprinkled generously with Kalamata olive crumbs. This dish was paired with the Grande Provence Brut Rosé NV.
Next, we decided to share the ostrich tataki and ox tongue. The ostrich was served seared – beautifully rare and tender in the middle – with cucumber for a bit of crunch, sriracha for a bit of kick, and tiny, deep-fried onion rings. The ox tongue was served shaved on a nest of tagliatelle and dressed with sweet mustard and slivers of pickled butternut. The wine pairing for this leg of the meal was the Grande Provence Zinfandel 2017 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 respectively.
We took all of a split-second to choose our third course because it had the word “crayfish” in it. The tender, sweet meat was served on a gently curried mash potato, crowned with baby gem lettuce for texture, and paired with Grande Provence’s lovely wooded Sauvignon Blanc 2015.
Our meal concluded with a mouth-watering South African-inspired crescendo: springbok rump with a starchy bar of mielie pap, a swath of chakalaka purée, and a buchu and honey jus. The wine pairing was equally impressive and my favourite of the estate’s red wines: the Grande Provence Red 2015, a powerful and full-bodied flagship blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec.
Radiant after an evening of fine food and wine enjoyed fireside, we headed back to our room, so very ready for a good night’s rest.
A blissful winter escape
Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate has set out to prove that just because the weather in the Cape can be a little inhospitable at times doesn’t mean that the Cape countryside should be avoided. In fact, the opposite is true and this was shown to us throughout our stay. With every sip of wine, views of vineyards settling down for the winter, and smiles from the staff, I was reminded that winter in the Cape is actually the best time to bury oneself in cosy, country-style luxury and hospitality.
It’s also the best time to eat all the carbs and drink all the red wine, which we happily did.
Grande Provence will be offering special winter rates from 1st May 2019 and several Heartland packages for couples, families, and groups of friends at both The Owner’s Cottage and La Provençale accommodations.