Sipping organic wine at Waverley Hills
Lying at the foot of the Witzenberg Mountains on the R46 between Tulbagh and Ceres, Waverley Hills produces organic wines that are definitely worth sampling. The Du Toit family entered the rather tough organic market in 2000 when they planted 21 hectares of vineyard, and we popped in to visit the estate recently.
Waverley Hills Estate lies on a natural watershed area – both the Breede and Berg River originated here before continuing on to enter two completely different oceans – which more than accounts for the myriad wild flowers and the effortless expanse of grasses at Waverley Hills. It was officially spring (delighted school children had handed out flowers and cards the day before on the streets of Tulbagh) when we rode through the gates, the sun was shining and the dirt road that made its way to the prominent wine cellar building and restaurant was dotted with fynbos.
Waverley Hills is an estate about which I had heard. We had already sampled their olives, for they have olive groves too, at one of Cape Town’s myriad food exhibitions, but hadn’t yet savoured their wines, and, even thought it was still early morning and we had a journey ahead of us, a ‘taste’ was not out of the question.
It seemed fitting, given our wonderful, lazy stay in Tulbagh, to end the week on a high note and pop into the estate on the way home (alright, we did go a little out of our way, but the views were worth it!).
Visiting a place never fails to bring it alive, where a website or flyer doesn’t quite do a place justice, and Waverley vineyards and olive groves were no exception. The setting was simply gorgeous, and the views from here worth the drive. The only down side is that the estate doesn’t offer accommodation, but then not all estates do, and they do have an alternative place to stay at a farm just up the road.
Gayle was incredibly informative and it was hard to believe that she was only in the process of writing her wine tasting exam. The restaurant and tasting area are merged into a comfortable, spacious room from which the views necessitate at least one coffee.
But we were in as much of a hurry as one can be, after four days of down time and we lingered over our wines whilst swopping titbits of information with Gayle, one of which was that Waverley Hills exports their wine under the label of Dixon’s Peak, as there is already a European label that calls itself Waverley.
To the side of the tasting area is a photo album in which dozens of pictures of wild flowers and fynbos found on the estate are displayed. Johan van Biljon is responsible for these photos and largely for the gardens and biodiversity areas on the estate – Waverley Hills is part of the BWI (Biodiversity and Wine Initiative) and 16 hectares of the relatively small farm (20% of the total hectarage) are given over to biodiversity.
There are also a couple of hikes designed to take visitors through these beautiful parts of the estate. The owner, Kobus du Toit, who interestingly is also the only supplier in the country of tartaric acid used in white wines to raise the ph level of the wine (colder climates use sugar), is a firm believer in farming in harmony with nature and only farms his grapes organically, even though they’re a particularly fussy crop and it takes a fair amount of commitment and care to do so.
What was interesting for me was my misconception that all organic wines contain no sulphur. Whilst these organic wines contain less than half the sulphur of conventional wines, they do still contain sulphur (the more sulphur, the longer the shelf life). Waverley Hills produces one sulphur-free Cabernet Sauvignon that we sampled that was rather lovely – a real spring wine, from this year’s harvest.
It might be a good moment to mention that despite living in the Cape, I know very little about wine, and contining to wax lyrical at this stage could land me in hot water since I barely know my merlots from my cabernets, so I promise not to try and describe bouquets and flavours, but what I can tell you is that the wine tasted good, and that the Shiraz 2007 was particularly more(ish).
The pretty restaurant, complete with waitress who bares more than a passing resemblance to Heidi (including the plaits), on the estate uses organic produce 80% of the time, as many farm fresh products as they can, and serves organic coffees and teas (although no decaf!). The estate is in the process of building a conference and wedding venue area onto the cellar (there was quite a bit of banging and drilling as we arrived) although the restaurant more than caters for birthdays and office functions, seating up to 50 people.
Waverley Estate Contact Details:
Telephone: +27 (0)23 231-0002 / 3
Web Site: waverleyhills.co.za