This spring, take a slow drive around the Swartland and discover exciting things to eat, drink and do. You won’t be disappointed.
Traditionally a grain-producing area, the Swartland or “black land” is named after the indigenous renosterbos that turns black at certain times of the year. There are four wine wards in the area: Malmesbury, Riebeekberg, Riebeeksrivier and St Helena Bay. The Swartland Wine Route was created in 1986 and has since 2005 been known as the Swartland Wine and Olive Route.
The Swartland Independent Producers, established in 2011, is a small group of biodynamic producers who aim to lay down guidelines for vineyard and cellar practices that enhance the expression of “Swartlandness” or terroir. Wines carrying the body’s logo must be naturally produced without the addition of yeast, tannins or acid. The group’s passion has paid off as producers have managed to change traditional perceptions of the area and produce award-winning wines.
Wildehurst Wines is a boutique cellar in the small village of Koringberg. Owner Joanne Hurst started out by planting a garden vineyard of mostly Shiraz and some Viognier, and in 2009 she produced her first wine. Wildehurst Red is still the cellar’s flagship wine. As production grew, they planted Mourvèdre and Grenache Noir and appointed Sheree Nothnagel as winemaker. The Velo range pays homage to Joanne’s husband Chris Hurst and his love for Velo motorcycles. The cellar is open by appointment only.
Heading towards Piketberg organic producer Org de Rac’s tasting venue is visible from the N7. Try the estate’s oyster and MCC pairing that’s on offer in summer. Nieuwedrift Vineyards, just south of Piketberg, is a historic family farm that’s been in the Mostert family for seven generations. Owner Johan Mostert and his team produce a Méthode Cap Classique and various table wines in the small boutique cellar. Visitors can enjoy a wine tasting in the wine house decorated with oil paintings by Johan’s wife, Karin. They also serve gourmet pizzas, steak and calamari at the restaurant which is open on Friday and Saturday evenings or by appointment on other days of the week.
What started off as a hobby for commercial builder Wim Smit has turned into Hofstraat Wyne, a garagiste operation in Malmesbury. Wim has since won the Michelangelo Garagiste Trophy several times. Next to the cellar a function venue houses a restaurant that serves a set menu every Friday and Saturday evening. The cellar is open by appointment only.
Franki’s Vineyards, between Malmesbury and Darling, is another off-the-beaten-track destination. Part of the estate is a solar farm. Make an appointment to visit the cellar and taste the interesting wine collection, including a Mourvèdre Rosé and barrel-fermented Viognier. Visitors can stay over at the guest house.
The Riebeek Valley has much to offer. Pulpit Rock Winery, at the foot of the Kasteelberg in Riebeek Kasteel, belongs to the Brink family and patriarch Ernest, once a tobacco farmer, always dreamed of establishing a wine cellar. His dream was realised in 2003 and today you can enjoy their wines while enjoying beautiful views of the vineyards.
At Het Vlock Casteel in Riebeek Kasteel, Ansie Vlok expresses her love of food using produce from her husband Johan’s table grape and fruit farm. She makes a variety of products, from processed olives to jams and canned products, sold under the Het Vlock Casteel label. Across the road is the Olive Boutique, where you can buy olive oil and related products, including popular skincare products.
Lammershoek in the Aprilskloof Valley in the Paardeberg area is owned by a consortium of German investors, including well-known former soccer star Franz Beckenbauer. Tastings are by appointment only. A must to try is the Mysteries range of natural wines made with no added yeast. While in the Aprilskloof Valley be sure to visit Babylon’s Peak to sample the Chenin Blanc and SMG (Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Grenache).
Also in the Paardeberg area is Fynbos Estate in Joubertkloof. The estate’s self-catering chalets and guest house are popular with weekend visitors who come for the beautiful hiking routes in the Simon-Simons Nature Reserve. The estate makes natural wine with minimal intervention under the Dragonridge label.
A visit to AA Badenhorst Family Wines is a must, especially if the man at the helm of the winemaking operations, Adi Badenhorst, is there to welcome and introduce you to his fantastic wines. The grapes for his wine come mainly from bush vines planted in the ’50s and ’60s that are farmed as biologically as possible. The estate is open by appointment only.
Lovers of farmers’ markets won’t be disappointed as there are many to choose from in the Swartland. Langsdiebos Mark is held every Saturday in Malmesbury and Piket-bo-Berg Farmers Market near Piketberg every last Saturday of the month. Every first Saturday of the month you can buy fresh farm produced at the Village Market at Allesverloren near Riebeek West. The Swartland is dotted with local farm stalls, offering anything from crafts to seasonal produce. Môreson Padstal is 10 km south of Malmesbury on the N7, Nuweplaas Padstal is on the R46 between Malmesbury and the Riebeek Valley, and the Desert Rose is on the N7 near Koringberg.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE AND DO
• Calling all ornithologists! Go to the Swartland Tourism website for info on where to spot black harriers, flamingos, great white pelicans, larks and pipits.
• Malmesbury’s Historical Route lets you explore the town and learn more about historic buildings such as Andrew’s Hope, the old Free Mason lodge and Trafalgar House. Piketberg has a similar route.
• Take part in the popular PPC Riebeek Bergmarathon with distances for all levels of fitness.
• Attend one of Solo Studios’ intimate art events in the Riebeek Valley, an annual collaboration among local artists, curators and galleries.
• Don’t miss Riebeek Kasteel’s extra-virgin olive oil expo in November (date to be confirmed – contact the Olive Boutique for more info).
• The U MTB Stage Race, held from 19-21 October, is an exclusive 101-km mountain bike event that showcases the beauty of the Swartland. Riders stay in tented luxury accommodation. The race is limited to 200 riders, so book on entryninja to avoid disappointment. Entries close 25 September 2018.