Over the course of the past year, wineries scattered in and around the historic town of Paarl have received in excess of 300 awards for the fruits of their labours. That’s enough silver and double gold to fill a treasure chest, which is a suitable visual because that’s precisely what Paarl is: a fertile cornucopia of vineyards and cellars producing some of the Cape’s finest wines. So, step aside Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, it’s time for Paarl wines to shine…it’s time for, and to, Proë Paarl!
An intimate gathering at the Grande Roche Hotel
The venue for the Proë Paarl celebrations was the dashing and debonair Grande Roche Hotel, tucked down a tree-lined avenue at 1 Plantasie Straat, Paarl. Here, this past weekend (on Saturday 7th December 2019 to be precise), 12 Paarl wine estates gathered to sacrifice their award-winning white, pink, and red wines to our discerning (and, after the 17th tasting, not-so discerning) taste buds. The venue I’m sure hardly needs any horn-tootin’, but I’m going to do it any way by painting a picture of towering oak trees, kalaeidescopic gardens, charming Cape Dutch architecture, and front row views of the crown jewel of Paarl: the glistening, mountainous orb of polished granite from which the town gets its name.
Proë Paarl was an intimate set-up with a single conference room of the Grande Roche Hotel dressed with tasting tables representing 12 of Paarl’s wineries: Avondale Wines, Boland Cellar, Druk my Niet Wine Estate, Eenzaamheid Wines, Landskroon Wines, Mellasat Vineyards, Nederburg, Painted Wolf Wines, Perdeberg Wines, Rhebokskloof Wine Estate, Ridgeback Wines, and Under Oaks. Between these wineries was a coruscating treasure trove of awards from prestigious competitions and globally recognized challenges and wine guides. Think: Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards, the International Wine & Spirit Competition, the Veritas Awards, the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, and Platter’s Wine Guide.
We were in for a treat!
The proë is in the Paarl pudding
Tasting glasses in hand, we kicked off Proë Paarl with the all-important reconnaissance mission to decide upon our strategy, which is paramount if one is to execute an optimal assault of, and walk away with dignity from, any wine event. We perused all 12 wine tasting tables and then put our heads together for a little pow-wow. Finally we were ready and the hour that followed was a happy one with tastings of Avondale’s Anima Chenin Blanc 2016; Under Oaks’ Sauvignon Blanc 2018; Ridgeback’s Chenin Blanc 2018 and five-star Viognier 2018; Painted Wolf Wines’ Lycaon Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2018 and Roussanne 2018; Mellasat’s intriguing White Pinotage 2017 (yes, a white wine made from Pinotage grapes); Landskroon’s Blanc de Noir Off-Dry 2019; Eenzaamheid’s Chenin Blanc 2017; and Perdeberg’s Courageous Barrel Ferment Chenin Blanc 2018.
An interlude of canapés by Pete Goffe-Wood of Viande
Cheeks flushed with white wines, we sat down to a canapé snack box prepared by chef Pete Goffe-Wood (of Master Chef fame) who is the powerhouse behind the Grande Roche Hotel’s brand-new restaurant, Viande. Inside each fragrantly steamy box was a melt-in-your mouth chicken pie, spicy fish cake, flapjack crowned with smoked salmon and cream cheese, and gorgeous little mini-burger (slider). Unfortunately, our canapés got consumed with such exuberance and alacrity that we were three quarters of the way through before I realised that I probably should have taken a photo… so you’ll just have to use your imagination. Suffice it to say that Pete Goffe-Wood knows how to whip up blerry decent (and effective) wine-paired snacks!
Round two… Sip!
Stomach’s filled and taste buds somewhat neutralised, we resumed flouncing about the room, snatching tastings of Paarl’s red wines with some wooded whites thrown in for variety. There was the gorgeously fruity Eenzaamheid Cinsaut 2017, Perdeberg Wines’ Vineyard Collection Cinsault 2018, and Landskroon Paul de Villiers Merlot 2016; Reserve No 1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 from Boland Cellar; Painted Wolf Wines’ Swartland Syrah 2015; Rhebokskloof Black Marble Hill Syrah 2016 and Chardonnay 2018; Nederburg’s Two Centuries Cabernet Sauvignon 2015; and Under Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 and Barrel Select Cab Sauvignon 2015. Have you ever seen a sexier line-up?
Of special (wholly biased) note
Of all the outstanding wines we tasted and the wonderful conversations we had with the various winemakers and wine representatives; I’d like to give a special mention to:
- Avondale’s Armilla MCC 2012, a veritable effervescent elixir of the Gods;
- Painted Wolf Wines, which actively contributes to the conservation of African wild dogs (and produces delicious wines in the process);
- And Druk my Niet wine estate, which I had never heard of before but will remember for the rest of my days thanks to their velvety, inky black, and wholly sublime red wines: the T3 blend of 42% Tempranillo, 33% Tannat, and 25% Tinta Amarella; and the Mirus 2015, a Syrah that will bring tears to your eyes for all the right reasons.
It’s been an immensely successful year for the Paarl Wine Route and Proë Paarl was a celebration of the treasure trove of awards that would be the envy of any self-respecting pirate. The Grande Roche Hotel was a beautiful venue for the intimate tasting and the gourmet canapés by chef Pete Goffe-Wood as delicious as they were satisfying (and probably helpful in powering us through a second wave of tastings). We spent the day in the verdant embrace of Grande Roche’s surroundings, against the magnificent backdrop of Paarl’s namesake mountain, and steeping in the region’s fabulous wines. Does life get any better?