It’s a beautiful sunny day, and I can tell the day is going to be hot. I’m heading down the highway towards Stellenbosch, watching the mountains come ever closer. My goal is the Waterford Wine Estate. To my mind this little winery is the jewel in the Stellenbosch Wine Route’s crown. Waterford is a relatively young estate, which was founded by the Arnold and Ord families in 1998.
Don’t discount it because of its age though; this estate produces some fantastic wines. The estate can be found in the picturesque Blaauwklippen Valley, and the winery was designed by architect Alex Walker in the manner of the classic Bordeaux chateaus of France. The buildings are beautiful, and local stone was used to give the buildings their warm glow …
Out front there is an old orange orchard, which you drive through as you approach the wine cellar. The verge of the road is flanked with fragrant lavender. Depending on the time of year you visit, you’ll be bathed in the fragrance of lavender or orange blossom. Once you have arrived, you go up the steps and through the huge arch into the coolness of the courtyard, making you feel as if you are entering a castle.
Inside the courtyard is shaded by trees and is dominated by the Waterford fountain. Tables are scattered around, draped with starched white linen and beautiful bunches of flowers. It looks like the perfect place to do some wine tasting and get some respite from the heat.
Waterford believes in their wine, and as such want no distractions; they don’t do functions, they don’t even serve light lunches or snacks, this is where you pay homage to wine, and the Waterford wine tasting experience is usually something to remember. One of the main reasons that people are drawn to Waterford is that they offer a wine and chocolate tasting.
What could be more seductive? The setting is fantastic; a beautiful shady courtyard, tinkling fountain and delicious wine. The chocolate tasting consists of three of the estates wines, paired with three different chocolates.
The sommelier sets out the wines and the chocolates, before explaining the order in which to drink the wines, left to right as well as the history of each of the wines – what mix of grapes, and what you can expect to taste. They are often busy as they are popular, so you will find that you may not have their undivided attention, but the service is pleasant and they are knowledgeable about their wines. The chocolate tasting starts off with the Kevin Arnold Shiraz, a deep spicy red with a wonderful coffee aroma, with hints of spices such as nutmeg and mace.
The wine has about 20% Mourvedre added which gives it complexity. The waiter explains that we should smell it, and then taste it, before sampling the chocolate, which has hints of Marsala Chai spice, which in turn enhances they way you experience the wine. Savouring the musky spicy favours, I find the wine has added depth and complexity. I’m not normally a red kind of guy, but this Shiraz could well convert me.
Next comes another deep burgundy wine, which when I smell it, remind me of delicious French stews laced with red wine and fragrant herbs. This is the Waterford Cabernet Sauvignon. It has mellow depths, with a dry finish that’s quite pleasant. What? I like another red? This coming from someone who usually avoids red wines.
I then have a nibble of chocolate which is laced with flakes of sea salt, which bring out the umami aspects of this wine. I have another sip, and suddenly I’m in my Grandmothers kitchen, one of her rich stews bubbling on the stove. This is what wines all about exclaims my partner as she sips and savours her glass.
The final wine is a sweet dessert wine. This is one of the reasons for my journey – the Heatherleigh Natural Sweet, which is the colour of molten sunshine flecked straw. I smell the aroma; it’s floral and sweet with a touch of spice. I’m reminded of a rose with a similar deep scent. I have a taste. It’s quite sweet, and that’s not to everyone’s taste. It not sweet like honey is though, the initial sensation is quickly followed by a light acidic finish which lingers. It dances on the tongue like the water in the waterfall.
This is one of my favourite wines and one of the reasons I’m drawn back here. Afterwards we linger, savouring the wine, and talking idly. Eventually we set off to explore the cellar and I am hit by that sweet musty yeasty smell of grapes being processed into wine. The tour is informative, and you will learn a lot about the process of winemaking. At last we reluctantly get back in the car and move on – but not before buying a couple of bottles of wine.
Address & Contact Details
The Waterford Wine Estate can be found on the Blaauwklippen Road, Helderberg, Stellenbosch.
They can be contacted on +27 (0)21 880-0496.