GRANDE PROVENCE HERITAGE WINE ESTATE
Saturday 29 July 2017
Grande Provence was the final tram stop on our day 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 reached the final platform on the old railway line and we transferred to the estate via tractor-drawn carriage.
Grande Provence is one of the iconic estates in the Franschhoek Valley. The historic Jonkershuis, symmetrical in design and gardens planted in front, is commonly seen in the wine books of South Africa and other publications. It reminded me of Groot Constantia. The farm dates back to 1674. Pierre Joubert, the original French owner fled from his home town of La Motte D’Aigues in Provence. The French beginnings remain even though the property was bought by a Dutch and Belgian consortium in 2004. Today, Grande Provence offers many attractions: Restaurant, Owner’s Cottage accommodation; Bed & Breakfast; art exhibitions in The Gallery; the Shop; gardens; children’s activities; and, of course, wine-tasting.
Vines are grown on 22 hectares of the 47 hectare estate. They include the major cultivars of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The modern Tasting Room, painted black and white and complete with stainless steel bar and tractor seats for tasters, was busy so we sat outside in the garden. The winter sun was fading. Beautiful artwork and sculptures were on display in the garden. As ever, time was short and more so with the 2 tractor transfers eating into our hour stop before the last tram. Grande Provence sensibly offered the Express Tasting for those from the Wine Tram. This not only took out the time to choose what to sample but also showed a selection of the wines that are made, with wines from the lifestyle Angels Tears, the mid-range Premium, and the flagship Limited Release options.
The Chenin Blanc/Viognier was pleasant enough but nothing special. A 2016 vintage, with just 6 months on the lees and no oak maturation, the flavours of apple and lemon were simple and with little complexity. It left little on the palate, with moderate acidity and finish. I much preferred the Chardonnay that was my favourite wine of the tasting. The aromas were fuller and in better balance: baked apple and lemon with caramel and honeycomb from 11 months’ maturation in 2nd fill French oak barrels. The finish was more pronounced too. By contrast, the lifestyle Rosé was my least favourite wine of the tasting. Semi-sweet with strawberry and raspberry aromas, it lived up to its R40 pricing.
The tasting ended with 2 reds. I rated them equally. The Zinfandel, a cultivar little grown in South Africa but widely in the USA, was appropriately matured in American oak (11 months). It was Pinot Noir-like in character. It was pale to medium ruby red in colour with a pleasant forwards aroma of red cherry with slight peppercorn undertones. I like the moderate acidity and shy tannins. I bought a bottle. The final wine for tasting was the top-of-the-range Shiraz. Peppercorn spices were the primary aromas followed by fruity berry, red currant, black currant and red plum. The tannins were restrained. This was not a big Shiraz.
It was all too soon to leave for the final tram. I just had time to look into the Gallery as it was closing. It was unfortunate there was not more time to explore all that Grande Provence has to offer. The tractor driver was waiting and the light fading. This was the end of our day on the Wine Tram and much fun it was too.
Grande Provence did not live fully up to its name. Rarely do I fail to take the name of my tasting host. Ours was inattentive despite knowing that we were on a tight time schedule due to the tram. We had to hasten many times and almost missed sampling our 5th wine. I left wondering whether the wines were better than those selected for the Express Tasting. It was all too rushed. I shall have to return with more time to tell.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2016 Chardonnay/Viognier (60% Chardonnay, 40% Viognier) – R90
2015 Chardonnay – R150 FAVOURITE WINE
2016 Angels Tears Rosé (Chenin Blanc, Pinotage) – R40
2015 Zinfandel – R150*
2014 Shiraz – R150