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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Sozzled in Stellenbosch - Day 377

A lovely day, but oh dear, we got rather sozzled in Stellenbosch!

The beautiful area of #Stellenbosch, the City of Oaks is renowned for her wine, situated in a valley with mountains all around together with its Mediterranean climate, it is perfect for grapes. Let’s say we definitely took advantage of this gift the region has to offer!

We booked on a hop on, hop off wine tour with #Adventureshop Stellenbosch here. When we were in New Zealand we hired bikes; the terrain there was a lot flatter and the vineyards much closer together. Not here, more hills, more traffic and much further apart.

We were picked up at 9:30am and inside the bus was another couple who quickly introduced themselves to us. They live just on the Germany side of the border near Strasbourg; Angela is German, and Patrick is French. Luckily they both spoke excellent English! Immediately we knew that we would get on like a house on fire. Laughter reverberated from the bus and at our first vineyard – Neethlingshof where we tasted five wines with little being put into the spittoon. I don’t think I have ever drunk so early in the day.

Our host was a charming young lady and was very patient with us, explaining about each wine, grape, blend etc. Some of the descriptions are classic. The Malbec was described as “Floral and violet fragrances interwoven with oak, spice and dark chocolate. Rich and full with plum and berry flavours, supported by soft tannins. Sounds more like a dessert! We had a short time to spare, so visited the Art Gallery on the estate. Most of it was not my cup of tea, apart from the stunning concertina work of art of an African lady.

For our second visit, and one of the highlights of the day we visited Van Ryn's Distillery & Brandy Cellar. An impressive place where the four of us, and a young lady who was an apprentice there, followed our tour guide around. She first showed us gleaming copper potstills which are used to heat wine and distilled to make the brandy, now heated up by steam. She explained that the evaporated alcohol is cooled and captured in thirds called the head, heart and tail. Only the heart is kept, the head and tail are put back into a fresh batch of wine, just in case there is any more “heart” remaining. They want to use every drop. The end spirit used for the brandy at this stage is approx. 70% alcohol.

We then moved on to the Cooperage with a great demonstration of making a barrel from French Oak by hand by a very entertaining Cooper. He was so skilful, we reckoned he’d done it a few times before! The whole process takes 8 hours. The barrel makers have to make their own unique tools, “Amazon isn’t of use here” the cooper informed us. As he was putting on the metal rings around the barrel, he did this in a rhythmic tapping, causing more laughter from our merry gang.

Our guide asked us to leave our mobile phones behind for the next room as it was highly flammable, and as she opened the door there was quite a powerful smell of Brandy. This was where the barrels are taken to be filled with the alcohol and left to mature. Up to 3% of the alcohol evaporates each year, in the olden days' Angels were blamed for the missing liquor. There were hundreds of barrels stacked in rows, 3 – 4 high in this one warehouse. I was curious about how they kept the place cool, and it turns out that it has wisely been built over the river.

We walked back to the main hall and sat on comfy, luxurious sofas for our tasting. Very different to wine, we were told not to swill the brandy and rather than put your nose in the glass, put it on your chin and sniff. What a difference. We had a taste of 10, 12 and 15 years old. Angela and Patrick were a bit more upmarket and went for the 12, 15 and 20 years old; they kindly gave us a taste of the Van Ryn 20-year-old Collectors Reserve. Wow, it was so much smoother than the others. I was amazed at at the various aromas that the age gives.

We went to three more vineyards. In the next, Angela and I shared a cheese platter while Patrick and Tim had cheese and meat with our wine tasting. Angela and I were a bit miffed, the men seem to have more cheese than us. We, however, had some rather delicious marinade figs. Of course, we had to goad the men about this!

Our last vineyard, Kleine Zalze, was my favourite, or was that because of the amount of wine I had consumed? We sat around a large table with other 'hop on/off' tourists, and the wine tasting guide was delightful. For the MCC (their version of champagne), he dramatically cut the top off with a large sword with a massive cheer from the crowd. There was a set range of 6 wines to taste for just R25 (Less than £1.50), and when he realised that I was not keen on red wine, he bought out some other white wines for me to taste. How kind.

A larger group of us now climbed into the bus, the journey was a lot louder now. I am sure that you can imagine, a few of us by this time had been drinking for nearly 7 hours!! Our driver kindly dropped us off at our Airbnb so that we could pick up our keys. We returned to the town for a delightful meal out with Angela, Patrick (Who, I have a feeling, we will meet again, we hope so) and 4 other young Germans at the Spek & Bone, named after the owner’s Pig and Dog. The pig will never get eaten. The service was outstanding and everyone working there seemed passionate about the food - very well made and presented Tapas. No more wine for us that evening. I must say that I was amazed by how coherent we both were, considering what a lightweight I am with wine and the amount I consumed! I hope you are impressed how much I’ve remembered about the day!

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