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MICHAEL GREENíS WINE NOTES #139 (article first published : 2005-10-19)

Health and history make an interesting combination in the products of a recently established winery between Tulbagh and Ceres, at the foot of the Witzenberg mountains, about 140 kilometres north-east of Cape Town.

The history is provided by the district and by the winery itself. The area was visited more than 300 years ago by the Cape governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel and the town of Tulbagh was named after Ryk Tulbagh, who was governor from 1751 to 1771. The Witzenberg mountains (originally Witsenberg) were named after an 18th century director of the Dutch East India Company.

As for the winery, it is called Waverley Hills. Many South Africans associate the name Waverley with blankets, and indeed the winery occupies some of the original buildings of the blanket firm. Waverley blankets date back to 1875 and the firm supplied blankets to troops in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 and the First World War, l9l4-l9l8.

The health aspect lies in the fact that Waverley Hills wines are organically produced. The farm, which has 22 hectares of vineyards, is owned by the Du Toit family, and they are committed to preserving the environment and producing their wines as naturally as possible. Organic compost, made from the farmís by-products, is used to fertilise the vineyards, irrigation is provided by mountain water of spring quality, and no pesticides are used; predatory insects are released to combat pests.

Theuns Botha, the cellar manager, says that the south-east wind ensures that the grapes grow in loose bunches of very small berries. The grapes are hand picked and sorted.

But what do the wines taste like after all these principled practices? The first Waverley Hills wines were produced by the KWV in Paarl and have just been released. They are a cabernet sauvignon and a shiraz, both oak-matured and both 2004 vintage. I have tried both and found them very good. The cabernet has a deep colour and a fruity, berry flavour. The shiraz has a more purple colour and a rather spicy, peppery finish. Both wines would go well with a wide variety of meat, poultry or pasta dishes, or indeed on their own.

Perhaps the most significant feature of both wines it the fact that they are relatively low alcohol, 12,5 percent by volume, compared with 13 to 15 percent for most good quality Cape red wines. You can drink these Waverley Hills red wines at lunch-time without feeling too self-indulgent. Indeed, you may feel that you are respecting your body while you are respecting the environment.

Waverley Hills wines are not yet, as far as I know, available in the shops, but you can order them from the farm. They cost R68 a bottle and delivery is free throughout South Africa. Phone 023 231 1060 or e-mail info@waverleyhills.co.za




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