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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #200 (article first published : 2008-07-15)

The Groote Post farm in the Darling district on the Cape west coast, about an hour’s drive north of Cape Town, is an interesting place in many ways.

The farm dates back to the eighteenth century. It owes its name to the fact that it was originally the largest guarding post in the area to protect cattle from marauding stock thieves. It was once owned by Lord Charles Somerset, British governor of the Cape from 1814 to 1827, and he used it as a “shooting box”, a refuge from the cares of office. South Africa’s early and most celebrated writer on cookery, Hildagonda Duckitt, was born there in 1840 (she is not forgotten; the restaurant at the farm today is called Hilda’s Kitchen).

The modern history of Groote Post is also distinctly unusual. It was a cattle farm for two hundred years, and the Pentz family, who have owned it for a long time, were dairymen to the core, four generations of them. But in 2001 the present owners, Peter Pentz and his son Nick, decided to sell off their prize Holsten cattle herd and concentrate on wine production. This they have done with great success. Groote Post Vineyards now produces about 30,000 cases of wine a year, 35 percent red, 65 percent white, and all of it of high quality.

The farm’s vineyards are on the southern slopes of the Darling Hills, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at an elevation of 200 to 450 metres and the sea breezes make them particularly suitable for cool climate wines. The vineyards are on deep soils with good water retention. No irrigation is necessary; this area has about 500 mm of rainfall a year.

Groote Post’s latest releases are two Burgundy-style wines, a white and a red. The Groote Post 2007 Wooded Chardonnay is a concentrated, intense wine, with the nutty, buttery, creamy character typical of this cultivar. It has lovely honey, lime and apricot flavours, and it has not been too heavily oaked. Alcohol content is an imposing 14 percent. This wine retails at about R94 a bottle.

The Groote Post 2007 Pinot Noir is an excellent version of a wine type for which Burgundy in France is famous. It is fruity but subtle, with cherry and strawberry flavours, with an underlying taste of the vegetative earthiness so typical of pinot noir. Alcohol is 14 percent, and the wine retails at about R115 a bottle.

An interesting feature of both these wines is the use of an imported Vino-Lok closure instead of a cork or screwcap. The Vino-Lok is a glass stopper with a ring seal and an aluminium cap. To open, twist off the cap and click off the glass stopper, which can be used again to reseal the bottle. The Vino-Lok was developed in Germany, and tests there have shown that it provides a tight seal that has no effect on taste.

As the prices indicate, these are special occasion wines, not everyday tipple, but if you spend the money you will not, I think, be disappointed.

Groote Post produces about ten different wines, including two moderately priced lines called The Old Man’s Blend, a red (merlot/cabernet sauvignon/cabernet franc) and a white (sauvignon blanc/chenin blanc), both named for Peter Pentz, the “old man”, and both very attractive. The red retails in Durban at about R37.

The farm, which is a comfortable drive from Cape Town, offers tasting and sales of wine, lunch at Hilda’s Kitchen, with the emphasis on modern country dishes (booking is necessary), nature walks, and game drives on Groote Post’s 2,000-hectare private game reserve (booking is needed for this too). Phone 022 492 2825. – Michael Green




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