FRANSCHHOEK SUMMER WINES FESTIVAL – Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards
Saturday 4 February 2017
Summer whites were the order of the day. That is, for the dress. Most of the ladies at this busy event had followed the ticket instruction and looked resplendent in white lace dresses and summer clothes. I arrived to find that the function was sold out but on this occasion, unlike at Delheim a week ago, I had bought my R180 ticket in advance.
People had obviously arrived early to make the most of the afternoon and I had to park away from the main car park. I was pleased to be at Leopard’s Leap. I have drunk their popular value wines on many occasions before (the estate sponsors South African authors and book launches) but never been to the vineyard.
The marquee was already full. Guests were spilling out onto the freshly cut lawns all around, sat in small groups in the summer sunshine. There were fluffy clouds in the sky and the lightest of breezes. A wisp of smoke rose from a fynbos fire on the side of the mountain behind. It was the only menace, fortunately at bay, to spoil the perfect setting.
Earlier, I had walked past vines of varieties that I don’t see in the Constantia Valley. First, Carignan, in medium-sized, loose, irregular bunches that were not fully ripe. The grapes were round, almost spherical, a deep purple in colour and with a blue bloom on the surface of the skin. Second, I walked along a row of Viognier grapes. These were in longer and larger bunches, mixed green yellow and golden yellow, and speckled brown on the ripest berries.
I collected my ticket at the entrance. Twenty-six wines from the Franschhoek district were being showcased. Whites and rosés were in near equal amount, with a splash of blanc de blancs, MCC and champagne to make up the numbers.
I opted to taste the chardonnays as I was looking for wines for the next Cape Wine Lovers’ Society event on 16 February. I tasted two unoaked vintages from le Petite Ferme and The Franshoek Cellar, together with the blanc de blancs from Anthonij Rupert Wyne. Interestingly, there was no oaked chardonnay on offer.
I sense that the South African producers are moving towards the more natural chardonnay taste. It makes economic and environmental sense too without the cost of sourcing oak barrels and the extended production time. My favourite was the Franschhoek Cellar wine, very reasonably priced at R55, which had a rich lemon colour and lasting palate.
I was alone and so had to pace myself for the return drive. I took a break and wandered into the large open indoor tasting room. The passion for reading was evident by the books laid out in all the sitting out areas. There was also a slanting bookshelf full of literature to select and read while tasting.
I browsed in the expansive shop too, the largest I have seen at a wine estate. It was full of kitchenware, linens, glassware, souvenirs and gifts. There was an extensive range of cooking books too and, of course, the full range of Leopard’s Leap wines. I bought a couple of bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon for a future Cape Wine Lovers’ tasting evening.
The chenin blancs beckoned and I tasted those on offer from Bellingham Wines, La Couronne, and La Chataigne, the latter produced from vines planted in 1954. Only the Bellingham Wines one was oaked, for 12 months, and was tempting to buy.
I liked the fresh taste of the La Couronne more, scoring it my highest wine of the day, and bought two bottles after.
Hunger beckoned as well as another tasting break. I headed into the vast tasting room and bought a cheese platter (R80). It was basic, as one would expect at a festival, with plenty of cheese and not enough bread. I checked my tasting ticket and decided I could try a few more before leaving.
I hadn’t sampled the many rosés – but shall do another time with the chance for side by side tasting – made from a varied number of grape varieties. The Babylonstoren Mouvedre rosé was full of honey and strawberries and easily buyable too. Solms-Delta use Grenache Noir for their rosé which, like so many rosés, made for easy drinking with or without food. Lynx Wines use merlot grapes with the skins left in for just 4 hours for a wine very pale pink in colour. How confusing rosés are!
I relaxed on the lawn with a coffee and enjoyed watching the festival-goers. It was late afternoon by now. Conversations seemed at a higher volume than when I arrived as alcohol loosed tongues. It was soon time to return to Cape Town.
I returned to my car walking between the vines. Much to my surprise, I discovered two more grape varieties that I hadn’t seen before: Mouvedre, with enormous bunches, and Tempranillo. Leopard’s Leap had more to reveal.
The Franschhoek Summer Wines Festival was intimate, attractive and held in a beautiful setting. It offered a great opportunity to taste many new and different wines under one roof. I was struck at prices that were relatively low compared with the Constantia Valley. Franschhoek estates really do offer value-for-money wines and especially if one is careful to taste for quality. I learned too more about Leopard’s Leap and shall return again for a full tasting of the estate wines.
Next year, I shall wear white too …..
Wines tasted (bought *):
2012 Anthonij Rupert Wyne L’Ormarins Blanc de Blancs – R220
2016 La Petite Ferme Baboon Rock Unwooded Chardonnay – R100
2015 Franschhoek Cellar Chardonnay – R55
2014 La Chataigne Kastanje Chenin Blanc – R75
2016 La Couronne Upper Deck Chenin Blanc – R70 * FAVOURITE WINE
2015 Bellingham Wines The Bernard Series Old Vine Wooded Chenin Blanc – R160
2016 La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc (92% Sauvignon Blanc, 8% Chenin Blanc) – R110
2016 Babylonstoren Mouvedre Rosé – R100
2016 Lynx Wines Merlot Blanc de Noir – R70
2016 Solms-Delta Grenache Noir Rosé – R50
2015 Leopard’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon – R49 * (Not tasted)