A picnic at Landskroon
They’re said to make the best port in the world at Landskroon. And who am I to argue. What I did know, on the very windy public holiday on which we set out towards Paarl from Cape Town, is that they were one of very few wine estates that allow you to pitch with your own picnic and use their grounds to enjoy your lunch.
Driving up the beautiful expansive and untarred driveway that seems to be a pre-requisite for all wine estates in the Western Cape, if not South Africa, my first impression is that Landskroon got stuck somewhere back in the seventies …
The house with its wrap-around verandah is old fashioned and, although not rundown, could do with an overhaul, the gardens, gorgeous 300-year old oak trees aside, looks as though it was last landscaped in 1975 (no fashionable fynbos or water-wise plants in sight), and the wine tasting room is tucked away with very little to recommend it.
Bearing in mind that we’ve just stopped off at Fairview estate next door, on the backside of Paarl mountain, for bread and cheese where we were joined by bus loads of tourists who come here to see the goats and to mingle in the ultra modern restaurant, cheesery and wine tasting rooms, Landskroon comes as something of a surprise.
Photographs – Left: In the shade of an oak tree / Right: Pastoral views
A little bit of sleuth work later reveals that Landskroon was on the market in 2009. Or at least the gorgeous, stately Cape Dutch style farmhouse, which is also a national monument, was. Although it must be located elsewhere on the farm, as it was not one of the buildings close to the picnic area where we found ourselves.
Be that as it may, it didn’t prevent their Shiraz from doing exceptionally well at the recent Paarl and South African Young Wine Shows. The cellarmaster is Paul de villiers who continues the tradition of his late father together with his brother Hugo, so whilst the farm may have a new owner, the wine side of things appears to be ‘business as usual’.
To be honest, we’re only too happy that it has managed to remain off the beaten track, or the very pretty garden, expansive lawns and picnic tables that languish under shade trees would be inundated. As it is, we have the place to ourselves.
And there is a lot that is lovely about the place. The views from here are magical, there is a vegetable plot right next to our picnic table under thatch that we explore (pity the place no longer has a restaurant in which they could use this abundance of obviously lovingly grown, organic produce) and there are jungle gyms for the kids and a couple of beautiful horses in the meadow – right out of a picture book.
Photographs – Left: Picnic under boughs / Right: Pretty outbuildings
And their wines, when we finally taste them, are not only excellent but really affordable – we leave with three bottles of wine for under R100?
The boys immediately begin work on damming up the pond as I shudder for the rather large gold fish who continue swimming, oblivious to the noise and splashing. The wind is howling through here, no fault of the wine estate obviously, but we manage to hunker down close to the table and stabilise the picnic blanket with flasks and other heavier elements of our picnic.
As we begin to sample our wares, intent on lining our stomachs before heading off to taste the wines, another family sweep past us. Obviously they know more than we, as their children are already garbed in swimming gear, even if a quick hurtle through our picnic area relieves them of any remote notion of splashing in the pond – we have four boys, and they’re girls – erg!
Whilst the boys tore holes in the grass as they are want to do, a few of us slipped into the wine tasting area to sample Landskroon Blanc de Noir, their Pinotage, award-winning Shiraz and other wines.
The estate produces white, red and fortified wines. The de Villiers family have been farming here for five generations and originally owned Zonnebloem Wines, way back when, after starting off at Boschendal. They thus have quite a bit to recommend them.
Photographs – Left: Cottage for hire / Right: Wine sales here
Just over 300 hectares are under vine, and the operation involves at least five family members. The reason for the success of their Shiraz in particular, the wine maker attributes to the soil and climate on the south eastern slopes of Paarl Mountain. The farm produce older vintages, of which the Shiraz is one – the Paul de Villiers Shiraz 2002, the Paul de Villiers Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 and the Cabernet Franc 2004 are others.
We particularly enjoyed their Blanc de Noir. Although it is described as an off-dry, I found it sweet (I have a predilection for sweet wines, although I didn’t try their port, if you can believe it). It has a gorgeous coral colour, described as a fruity wine with a crisp finish, and is a 100% Pinotage.
The Cabernet Franc/Merlot 2009 was also wonderful with a real sense of plum and berries on the nose and whilst a dry finish, went down a treat. The Cinsaut, Pinotage and Shiraz were all firm favourites amongst our group. Make sure you make time to taste their Port 2007. Made from Tinta Barocca, Tinta Amarella, Souzao and Touriga Nacional it won the bronze at the Veritas 2010, and the John Platter Guide gives it four stars.
There was a constant stream of visitors, all of whom seemed in the know simply popping in to buy a case or two. One can understand why. And we’ll be back for the views and the lack of ostentation.