Big Preparations in the Little Vineyard
Constantia Valley Experience 4.0

Big Preparations in the Little Vineyard

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Experience: 4/5
Wines: N/A (not tasted)

Times are busy at Ambeloui. There’s the first fermentation of the 2017 Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes that were harvested in February. More immediately, on Saturday 18 March, Ambeloui is holding the Annual Harvest Festival. This is when limited quantities of the hand-crafted MCC are released for sale. A party atmosphere is promised, accompanied by Greek music and souvlaki served hot off the coals. I am told that space is limited and guests are encouraged to arrive early (opening times are 12pm to 6pm). Stocks generally sell out on the day.

The busy time made me appreciate the visit to Ambeloui all the more. I am taking part in the Cape Wine Academy 3-day Certificate Course until mid-Saturday afternoon so I arranged to see Alex and buy some bottles today, ahead of the Festival.

I was doubly pleased to see this tiny vineyard. I had visited 12 of the 13 vineyards in and around the Constantia Valley/Cape Peninsula (from Steenberg to Cape Point) but not – until today – Ambeloui. Few people in the Southern Suburbs, Cape Town have heard of this specialist MCC producer. This is unsurprising as tasting is only by appointment. Furthermore, the vineyard opens to the public on two days a year only: for the Annual Harvest Festival in March (limited release); and on the first weekend of November (annual release).

Ambeloui loosely translates as ‘little vineyard’ in Cypriot Greek. The name could not be more appropriate as the vines cover barely 0.5 hectares. From the outside, the property could be any home in Valley Road in Hout Bay. Inside, short rows of vines are planted on the shallow slopes. The grapes were picked a month ago and the vines look dry due to the extended drought and lack of irrigation. Alex told me how watchful he is for the leaf roll virus that saps all vigour from plants affected. Diseased plants must immediately be removed to prevent cross-contamination.

The property was bought over 20 years ago by Alex’s parents, Nick and Ann Christodoulou. They decided that if they were going to make wine it would have to be a premium wine and so they ventured into MCC production. The first vines, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, were planted in September 1995. At the time, Ambeloui was one of the first MCC producers in South Africa.

2,000 bottles a year has grown to 10,000 a year, with grapes bought in from the cooler, maritime Elgin Valley and elsewhere. This is large enough, Alex told me, and allows the traditional French-styled bubbly to be hand-crafted with a level of personal attention that is not possible from a large-scale producer. Ambeloui is very much a family business. Each vintage is named after a family member.

Alex showed me into the small cellar. One side was lined with stainless steel tanks while the other had barrels with airlocks and empty wooden riddling racks for use during second fermentation. Alex let me taste a sample from one of the stainless steel tanks. Barely one month old, the acidity was fresh and exciting and the liquid a dusty, cloudy pale yellow in appearance. It will be many years until the finished product is released for sale.

Activity was busy in the adjacent building. Bottles were being hand-labelled and paper ‘ribbons’ affixed over the wired corks. Ambeloui reaffirmed my particular interest in, and support for, the ‘boutique’, small wine producers. I am struck too by the enormous diversity amongst the 900 or so South African winemakers. Just 3 weeks ago, for example, I tasted at the Waboomsrivier Wynkelder in Wolseley, an industrial scale producer that receives 16,000 tonnes annually from a cooperative of 22 members.

I bought four bottles ‘blind’, without even tasting: two each of the 2014 Cleo MCC and the Rosanna NV Rosé. Alex knows that I shall be putting in a late appearance at the Harvest Festival on Saturday. I greatly look forward to tasting. Who knows, I may even be lucky and meet Cleo and Rosanna too!

Wines not tasted (bought *):


2014 Cleo MCC – R175*
Rosanne NV Rosé – R210*

You Might Also Like

Ghostly Clouds Swirl at Spookfontein

A Hidden Gem of Rare Excellence

Mutual Attraction

Perfection is Attainable at Boschkloof Wines

Onderkloof Beats All the Odds Below The Valley

Did I really spend THAT much on a Bottle of Wine?

Water into Wine at Uitkyk

Leaping to the Right Conclusions

Neil’s Vines on the Tr-Ellis in Stellenbosch

Rustic Charm at the Altydgedacht Wine Farm

Vista to Verdot at Glen Carlou

Iconic Steenberg

Kosie Wynes at Groenland

Lust-ful Reds in the Vineyard

Sugar and Spice is Twice as Nice

Straw Berry Yields for e-Ver-gelegen

Speed Tasting with Sommelier ‘Royalty’ at my First SASA Meeting

From Palette to Palate to Muratie

Purring at the Wines in Tyger Valley

An Early Start at Rietvallei

Magical Wines Star at Dragonridge

Rain Meets Earth at Newton Johnson

‘Out of the Office’ at Groot Constantia

My Best Blend at Zandvliet

Wagons to the Cellar at Waboomsrivier

Family Fun in Pairs at Four Cousins

Heaven Meets Earth at Bouchard Finlayson

Taking the Garage into the Classroom

Hout Bay Vineyards – Simply the Best!

Value for Money from Angel Gabriel in the Vineyard

Boutique de Brendel

Trading Wines in the City Bowl


The Garagiste in the Garage at Sonklip!

Shiraz Purrs at Manley Wine Lodge

One Day, Three Tastings, Five Wines and Seven Sisters

A Warm Welcome in the Cool Climate at South Hill

Quality Abounds on the Mound at La Motte

Mixed Spice at the Pinotage Festival

Au Revoir France!

Waxing Lyrical about Canto

The Big Easy Tee’s Off in the Vineyard

Beyond Expectation

Posh Spice in Franschhoek!

The Terroir is Honoured in the Bottle at Springfield

From the Angel Gabriel to the Arch Angel

More Still at Tanagra

The Darling from Darling Steps into the Vineyard

Quality with Style in the Vineyard

Warwick Wines Win their Colours

On Yonder Hill There Stands a Vineyard!

Surprisingly Good – and Not Only for the Red Bus Tourists

Wacky – not Tacky – in Robertson

Rivergold is a Gem Waiting to be Discovered


No Black Marks at Raka

Iona Wines Remain Excellent In and At the Vineyard

Well Hosted and Enjoyable – Even Though I did not Experience at its Best

Bracing Brakes on the Red Wines at Remhoogte

Lithos Wines Soar above Mountain and Forest

“Swimming Pool” Wines for Now – or Leave until Later

PicknPay Pairs it again at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival

Verticle Tasting on the Ridge in Elgin

Mooi Mooi Mooi Mooiplaas

Saxenburg Puts Heart, Mind and Soul into Its Wines

Pastures Anew at Rustenberg

Of Female Rugby Players and Ballet Dancers! Let’s Continuously Study Very Seriously: Wines of the Loire and Northern Rhône

Serenity without Worry or Preoccupation in the Chapel

Sax ‘n’ Berg at the Vineyard

This Vineyard Touched My Soul (aka, I Bought My First Bottle of Petrus)

Family Fun at the Greek Harvest Festival

Clouds Reign in Stellenbosch

High Living on the Stoep Sipping Aged, Luscious Red Wines

Around the (Old) World in 18 Hours – starting with the European Cuvée!

Peace but No Rest for Rust en Vrede

Wines Out of the Barrel at Kanonkop

In the Vineyard with Beyerskloof

British Reserve and Excellence at Sumaridge

Intriguing and Confusing – An Enigmatic Experience

Fun(ny) Times at Lourensford

I Needed to be Guided by the Angel Gabriel

On the Left, but then on the Right …

Always a Favourite – Guaranteed to Delight

Wines Merely to Lust After

Cabsolutely Frankulous at the Carnival

Villion Pairs with Barton in Bot Rivier

iWine rather than IMAX at the Cape Gate Mall

Honest, Affordable Family Wines at Landskroon

K-eynote W-ines at the V-ineyard

More-ish Wines at Môreson

Class in Glass at Glenelly

Groot Phesantekraal an Unexpected Surprise!

Beau-tiful Beau-tique Beau-Constantia

Great Value in the Swartland

The Gods Come Home to the Vineyard

Altitudes with Wine!

Better than a Fair View Where the Goats do Roam!

Taint, Mould, Sweet-Sour, Elastoplast, Stale Honey, Bee Wax and Potato Skin With the Wine Prof

Bellville to Bellevue to Belle Wines

The Phoenix Rises from the Terroir at Thelema

Blaauwklippen was Good for a Friday

Sweet and Safe Times Pair Well with the Whales


Red Chair in the Morning

More than Just a Destination

Intimate, Tranquil and Refined

It’s High Time Again

In the Garage in the Heart of McGregor

Grape Expectations are Met at Zevenwacht

Multi-Faceted Wines on Display at the Vineyard

Summer Whites …… and Rosés

Swiss Family Sauvignons at Eikendal

How Do You Grow a Vineyard Like Maria?

Dreaming of a Wine Christmas


  1. Family Fun at the Greek Family Harvest Festival – Cape Wine Lovers Society

    […] – one being at the annual Harvest Festival in March. I made a sneak preview visit here on Tuesday and bought 2 bottles of each from Alex (son of the family and winemaker) without tasting. This was […]

  2. Brut Force and Less Ignorance – Cape Wine Lovers Society

    […] in their manner and approach, was very high. As I left to go to the Annual Harvest Festival at Ambeloui vineyard, coincidentally an MCC specialist, for more tasting I realised that the Certificate Course […]

  3. I-own-a Wine Farm! – Cape Wine Lovers Society

    […] tasting evening. I recall too sampling tank samples of 2017 wines at Mountain Ridge Wines and Ambeloui Wine Cellar. It could also be meeting the winemaker. I think Silvermist Organic Vineyards, Almenkirk Wine […]

  4. Masses of Fun and a little Chaos at the Ambeloui Harvest Festival – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] Ambeloui Wine Cellar makes superb MCCs from just 0.5 hectare of vineyards in Hout Bay. Read more here. The Cellar opens on just 2 days a year when most of its production sells out. One such day is the […]

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *