Wine on the Slopes at Chamonix
Experience 3.0 Franschhoek Wine 4.0 Wine Tour

Wine on the Slopes at Chamonix

Saturday 29 July 2017

Experience: 3/5
Wines: 4/5

Shinell, our Wine Tram host, had explained that many Franschhoek wine farms are named after the region in France from where the original Huguenots came. Whilst Chamonix is an area in the Alps to the North of Mont Blanc in France, I am unsure if this was the case for Chamonix (or, as called in the 2017 Platter’s Guide, ‘Cape Chamonix’). Nonetheless, the name is fitting since Chamonix has one of the highest planting of grapes in the Cape Winelands. The wine farm was also the highest point on our trip with the Wine Tram on the Red Line.

The land was originally part of a Franschhoek farm called La Cotte that was established by Huguenot refugees in the 17th century. The name Chamonix was given by a German businessman, Chris Hellinger, who bought the property 25 years ago. He established a small private game reserve that continues to this day. Fifty hectares of the 300 hectare farm are set aside for the reserve that contains ostrich, zebra, eland, bontebok and springbok. The reserve is not open to the public but guests staying at the Safari and other lodges near the lake can view the game.

Fifty hectares is also given over for vines that are grown on the cool mountain slopes above Franschhoek. All the big name cultivars are grown to produce a diverse range of single variety and blended wines. Chamonix has historically been known for its white wines. More recently though, it has gained an increasing reputation for top quality red wines.

We decided on our way to Chamonix to miss tasting at Dieu Donne afterwards but instead to spend 2 hours at the wine farm, to allow time for both lunch and wine tasting. We booked at the Reuben Racine restaurant en route (Racine aptly is the French name for ‘root’) knowing that time is ever tight on the tram. The restaurant was warm and cosy, well lit and with views into the winter sunlight that was dappled by trees surrounding the rear of the building.

For all its reputation for bistro-style international food – Reuben Riffel started his career at Chamonix – the restaurant disappointed. The service was painfully slow even though the staff knew we were on a Wine Tram tour. Lunch took well over an hour for a single course meal that cost as much as the 2 to 3 courses we had later at Dutch East in the village in the evening. The end result was that our wine tasting was rushed when it should have been relaxed. My food was average too. The ‘open’ ravioli with onion, courgette and aubergine was tepid and devoid of taste. It consisted of little more than pasta discs with shredded ratatouille between and nothing like the ‘exquisite gastronomy’ that the Chamonix website proclaims. Fortunately for my partner, the blue cheese, mascarpone and spinach tart – a starter the same size as my main course – was tastier.

Wine tasting with Pauline was in the late-18th former ‘Blacksmith’s Cottage’ at the front of the building. The fee too was not cheap – an exorbitant R60 and R100 for 5 pre-selected non-Reserve and Reserve wines, respectively – and priced at similar level as food in the restaurant. I chose the Reserve tasting.

The tasting started with 2 wooded white wines (11 months in 30% to 40% new French oak), one a Bordeaux-style blend and the other a single variety wine. Both were decent wines in terms of complexity, balance and finish and I rated them the same. The blend was crisp with classic Sauvignon Blanc herbaceous and lemon citrus notes balanced by honey and warmer saffron and papaya flavours from the Sémillon. Lemon flavours mingled with warmer apple in the flagship white, the Chardonnay, that had a creamier mouthfeel.

The Pinot Noir, the flagship red, oozed quality but then it should at R395 a bottle. Medium bodied and pale to medium ruby in colour, I liked the forward aromas of red cherry, raspberry and maraschino. These were balanced by tight tannins from 16 months maturation in a combination of 60% new French oak and 40% in concrete ‘eggs’. The follow though from nose to palate was firm and the finish positive.

The Cabernet Franc had an equally good nose of red cherry, mulberry and blackberry. Moderate tannins (18 months in small French oak barrels) balanced the fruity flavours on the palate to leave a lingering aftertaste. My favourite wine of the tasting was the final wine: the Troika Reserve. A Troika is a ‘Russian sleigh pulled by 3 horses’. I still cannot find a connection between the name and the wine – it would make some sense if the Bordeaux-style blend was made from 3 (not 4) cultivars – other than perhaps some tangential link between Russian and Alpine snow. The medium to dark ruby wine promised much from the bold aromas of dark blackberry, mulberry, cassis and ripe plum. The rich flavours on the palate matched with closed tannins from 18 months in French oak. This is a wine that will improve with age over many years (10 to 15) as the tannins soften and open out.

We had little time left before returning to the Wine Tram for the next leg of our journey. I left Chamonix with the sense that I had been cheated and robbed of an extended, relaxing stop mid-tour. The wines were undoubtedly of quality – and considerably better than those at Maison – though buoyed in price by some R50 to R100 a bottle compared with other wine regions. I wondered if I was starting to recognise a ‘Franschhoek’ pricing effect; time will tell. Regrettably, the visit was let down by a lunch that was poor in both service and quality and for that I have marked down my overall experience score.

Chamonix, for me, remains on the slopes when it should sit confidently on the peaks.

Wines tasted (bought *):


2015 Reserve White (79% Sauvignon Blanc, 21% Sémillon) – R248
2015 Chardonnay – R195


2015 Feldspar Pinot Noir Reserve – R395
2015 Cabernet Franc – R238
2015 Troika Reserve (50% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot) – R340 FAVOURITE WINE

You Might Also Like

Quantity over Quality at Durbanville Hills

Baby Thrown Out with the Bath Water?

Individual Quality at Jordan

Rustic Charm at the Altydgedacht Wine Farm

Red Chair in the Morning

Superb De Trafford Worthy of Being My 200th Wine Estate

Multi-Faceted Wines on Display at the Vineyard

Peter Has a Whale of a Time in Hermanus

Class in Glass at Glenelly

Waxing Lyrical about Canto

Barrels of Fun at My First Stellenbosch Street Soirée

Onderkloof Beats All the Odds Below The Valley

On Yonder Hill There Stands a Vineyard!

Lemberg Punches Above its Weight

Better than a Fair View Where the Goats do Roam!

Libby Would not have been Proud of Linton Park

All Green at Villiera

View from the E-Skaap-ment

Haven Rather than Heaven at La Bri

Next Time to Taste at Hannay

Surprisingly Good – and Not Only for the Red Bus Tourists

Wagons to the Cellar at Waboomsrivier

Rain Meets Earth at Newton Johnson

Morgenhof in the Morning

Log Cabin-et Sauvignon in the Hot Tub!

The Darling from Darling Steps into the Vineyard

Lothian Left Me Breathless – and Not Only the Wines!

Wines to Love on Love Street

A Kleine Experience at Zalze

Sweet and Safe Times Pair Well with the Whales

A Family Occasion – the Story behind the Bottle

Swallowing Fine Wines at Paserene

More Plaisir at de Merle Please!

In the Vineyard with Beyerskloof

All is Not Lost in a Safe Port

Wines That Don’t Cost The Earth

Where’s the Grande in Provence?

Dornier Disappoints

Never too Early in the Morning for Wine Tasting!

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

Rivergold is a Gem Waiting to be Discovered

House Wine from the Wine Tram

Bellville to Bellevue to Belle Wines

Seven Reasons To Visit Seven Oaks Wines

Lust-ful Reds in the Vineyard

I Needed to be Guided by the Angel Gabriel

Hazendal Fit for a Tsar, a Hare and a God of Wine

Vista to Verdot at Glen Carlou

Beau-tiful Beau-tique Beau-Constantia

Bon Courage and Bon Voyage

Excelsior Blends Quality with Price

Late at Lateganskop

Superb Views of Guardian Peak

The Big Easy Tee’s Off in the Vineyard

Oh-MG at Anthonij Rupert

Kosie Wynes at Groenland

Mulderbosch didn’t quite Meet the Yardstick

At the Bend in the Road in Bot River

Malverne Dis-Clos-ed

Four Partners (not Cousins) at the Vineyard Hotel

A Warm Welcome in the Cool Climate at South Hill

The Garagiste in the Garage at Sonklip!

Cabernet Franc – Well Worth a Gamble!

Wine Notes Composed at D’Aria

Verticle Tasting on the Ridge in Elgin

K-eynote W-ines at the V-ineyard

Quality Abounds on the Mound at La Motte

Allez les Boks – Pas les Bleues!

Sugar and Spice is Twice as Nice

Serenity without Worry or Preoccupation in the Chapel

Vrede en Lust Struggled to Reveal it’s Delight

Good Things Come in Twos – at Southern Right too!

Colmant Sparkled

My Best Blend at Zandvliet

Hope Lies High in the Valley

www: W-arm W-olseley W-elcome

Magical Wines Star at Dragonridge

From the Angel Gabriel to the Arch Angel

Tram-Way to Heaven in Franschhoek

Fun(ny) Times at Lourensford

Trading Wines in the City Bowl

Heaven Meets Earth at Bouchard Finlayson

Slave to the Rhythm at Solms-Delta

It’s all Art and Wine at Almenkerk

No Blues at Hillcrest

British Reserve and Excellence at Sumaridge

Keermont Farmhouse Redefines Luxury

Only One JC Le Roux Wine Sparkled and Scintilla-ted

Boutique de Brendel

Le Lude Left Me Feeling Flat

Franschhoek’s Hidden Gem Is Reluctant to Reveal

Posh Spice in Franschhoek!

Waterf-ord More Ord-inary Than Extra-ord-inary

Old Oaks at La Bourgogne

Iona Wines Remain Excellent In and At the Vineyard

Value for Money at Van Zylshof

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

Grand Wines at the Big Top!

The Gods Come Home to the Vineyard

Becoming Ship-Shape at La Couronne

Wines Out of the Barrel at Kanonkop

Noble Wines without the Rot

Simple Spier

Peter Puts into Hermanus

Great Value in the Swartland

Grape Expectations are Met at Zevenwacht

Bushmanspad Gave Me the Weirdest Tasting Ever

Where the Lions Roar in the Wild West of Bot Rivier

Being Creative at Flagstone

Elgin Valley is the Cool Wine Tour


The Vineyard Hotel a Classic Vehicle to Showcase L’Ormarins Wines

Maiden Visit to Lord’s Bowled Me Over

More than Just a Destination

Windfall Offered Unexpected Delights

Tasting Vines at the Vineyard

Robertson – Town by Name, Wine by Name

Groot Phesantekraal an Unexpected Surprise!

More-ish Wines at Môreson

Elegant Wines Kiss the Lips in the Vineyard

Relaxing Rosendal

The Phoenix Rises from the Terroir at Thelema

How Do You Grow a Vineyard Like Maria?


In the Garage in the Heart of McGregor

More Still at Tanagra

Bizarre in Swazi

Beyond Expectation

Shiraz Purrs at Manley Wine Lodge

2018 Wacky Wine Ends at Le Roux & Fourie

Rickety Tram Passengers at Rickety Bridge

Family Fun at the Greek Harvest Festival

Nala Wines are Well Engineered in the Vineyard

Dreaming of a Wine Christmas

Straw Berry Yields for e-Ver-gelegen

A Myth, a Princess, History and Destruction, 2 Names and 4 Styles – Shiraz with Pizzazz

Very Cape Wines at Capaia

Masses of Fun and a little Chaos at the Ambeloui Harvest Festival

Cabsolutely Frankulous at the Carnival

Sax ‘n’ Berg at the Vineyard

Neil’s Vines on the Tr-Ellis in Stellenbosch

No Black Marks at Raka

Peter Falke Didn’t Knock my Socks Off

Intriguing and Confusing – An Enigmatic Experience

It’s High Time Again

Wine Dinners are Not For Me

Sip Sip Sip and Drip Drip Drip at Domaine des Dieux

Value for Money from Angel Gabriel in the Vineyard

PicknPay Pairs it again at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival

Leaping to the Right Conclusions

In the Highlands in the Lowlands of Elgin

Joy at Really Tasting the Difference at Esona

Langverwacht Introduced Me to Ruby Cabernet

Peace but No Rest for Rust en Vrede

Wonderful Grapes at the Vineyard Hotel

1 Night, 7 Oaks, 3 Wine Tastings for Visit 2!

Wacky – not Tacky – in Robertson

Saxenburg Puts Heart, Mind and Soul into Its Wines

Pastures Anew at Rustenberg

Rijk Tulbagh Gives Name to Cellar and Town

Iconic Steenberg

Linga-ring in a Winery in Malawi

Ghostly Clouds Swirl at Spookfontein


Blaauwklippen was Good for a Friday

Classy, Small and Precious Kleinood


  1. Tram-Way to Heaven in Franschhoek – Cape Wine Lovers Society

    […] had pre-booked on the Red Line (R220 per ticket) that stopped at Maison, Eikehof, Leopard’s Leap, Chamonix, Dieu Donne, Franschhoek Cellar, Rickety Bridge and Grande Provence wine farms before returning to […]

  2. Rickety Tram Passengers at Rickety Bridge – Cape Wine Lovers Society

    […] for our trip on the Red Line of the Stellenbosch Wine Tram. We had already visited Maison and Chamonix but these had been by tram-bus. Now we had the chance of travelling on the tram itself since it ran […]

  3. Not So Grande at Grande Provence – Cape Wine Lovers Society

    […] out on the Red Line. The tram had taken us from the office in the middle of Franschhoek to Maison, Chamonix and Rickety Bridge. Grande Provence was an estate that I wanted to visit for a while. The tram […]

  4. A Cracker and a Stormer at Paul Wallace – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] Last awarded in 2012, there were some other big name vineyards etched on the Trophy base: Chamonix, Meerlust and Bouchard […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *