Wines Out of the Barrel at Kanonkop
Experience 4.0 Stellenbosch Wine 4.0

Wines Out of the Barrel at Kanonkop

Friday 8 September 2017

Experience: 4/5
Wines: 4/5

Japanese tourists fired a salvo of questions to the sommelier on one side of me in the Tasting Room at Kanonkop. On the other, a Chinese man was trying to arrange shipping for his wine purchases. His tablet was on speakerphone that made it hard to focus on my own tasting amid the rapid fire of instructions from his bank. His wife adopted the typical ‘inscrutable Oriental’ pose despite the best efforts of my glare on her target husband. I could have done with a modern-day Kanonkop firing to have alerted me to the ‘all clear’ to enter the Tasting Room.


The name ‘Kanonkop’ originates from the period in the 17th Century when a cannon was fired from a nearby kopje to alert the surrounding farmers that ships had entered Table Bay, and so they were able to set off to Cape Town to sell their produce to the visiting sailors. They probably did not come from China or Japan but that did not matter. Kanonkop was barely an artillery shell away from the Warwick estate to make the second of my intended ‘Big 5’ wineries North of Stellenbosch that were in my firing line for the day. It was next door to Uitkyk too.


Well signposted by a distinct cannon, Kanonkop was easy to find. The bumpy entrance road passed gnarled, low bush vines of obvious age. These big guns average over 50 years old (most over 63 years) and are some of the first commercially planted Pinotage in the Cape. The open style of viticulture allows for optimum sunlight and hence maximum ripeness of the crop. Wines on the other side of the road were trellised in more traditional means and with healthy broad bean bushes growing between the rows, no doubt to add valuable nitrogen to the soil.



Pinotage accounts for half of the vines grown on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg Mountains at Kanonkop, an estate renowned for its red wines. Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), Merlot (8%) and Cabernet Franc make up the rest. One hundred hectares of the 125 hectare farm are under vine, one of the highest proportions that I can recall.



The Tasting Room building looked bland and uninteresting from the outside, akin to an old blockhouse. I do not know if this was deliberate but it possessed a bright interior. Ancient family portraits, tweed sofas, Persian carpets, and tables set with military-style ornaments, books and picture frames filled the room. Half close my eyes and but for the tasting bar and boutique souvenir shop, I could have been in an Officers’ Mess. Beyond, and through the Cellar, there was an Art Gallery with paintings for sale.



Tasting was R50 for a magazine full of 6 wines. Espeth was my trusty and attentive sommelier who charged my glasses with informed efficiency. First up to get my range for the Estate wines were 3 wines from the cleverly-named Kadette Range. The Pinotage Rosé made a great opener. It hit all the right spots: inviting pale blush in colour; warm, forwards cherry and strawberry on the nose; and easy, light and crisp on the palate. The wine was introduced in 2010 and deserves its popularity.


The Kadette Cape Blend was surprisingly good too and one of the best I have tasted. I think because the blend contained Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, and Merlot/Cabernet Franc in near equal amounts. The cultivars provided balance and complexity to plumy Pinotage flavours that often overpower the style (Pinotage is generally the majority variety by far). I enjoyed the medium body feel on the palate with soft tannins emerging from 12-14 months maturation in French oak.


Mention must be made here of the Kanonkop brochure for it too is one of the best. Excellent photos and print fill the easy-to-read fold-out booklet. Inside are individual ‘range’ cards for each wine that are full of all the information one wants to know about: the winemaker; varietals, their age and origin; soil, irrigation and yield; vinification, maturation and production; wine flavours; food pairing; and ageing potential. Simple language is used and, cleverly and with foresight, the cards can be changed for each vintage without an entirely new brochure needing to be printed.



Pinotage is ‘the juice extracted from women’s tongues and lion’s hearts. After having sufficient quantity, one can talk forever and fight the devil’. Oddly, this phrase came from a bookmark and not the glossy brochure. I chose to sample the 2 Pinotage wines side by side, the first from the Kadette Range and the second from the Estate Range. This double-barrelled tasting approach made for ready comparison. Both wines were medium-full in body, of 2015 vintage, and juicy, rich plum and red cherry in flavour. The Kadette was a lighter calibre version of the Estate, with similar maturation (14 versus 16 months) in younger French oak (2nd/3rd fill versus 75%/25% new/2nd fill). The Estate wine showed greater complexity and a deeper intensity on the nose, holding firm to softer tannins for a longer finish.



My glasses were re-loaded for the 2 most expensive wines: a single variety Cabernet Sauvignon and the flagship Paul Sauer, a Cabernet Sauvignon-led (74%) Bordeaux-style blend. The Cabernet Sauvignon was on target too. This was a well-balanced wine with good complexity of flavour – rich, forwards currant and berry aromas layered with underlying minty spice – and supple but not too grippy tannins.


The Paul Sauer, named after the son of the original owner and Cabinet Minister J W Sauer, was my favourite wine. At first sighting, or rather nose, the blend was similar to the single cultivar wine. Critical examination revealed a poised intensity of ripe currant, berry and bitter cherry aromas that were accompanied by vanilla and cedar notes from French oak maturation. I preferred the slightly lighter and more rounded mouthfeel. The finish hung onto the palate to show an excellent quality wine that will age well.


I greatly enjoyed Kanonkop. I did not know what to expect as I rarely gather prior intelligence before vineyard visits and wine tastings. Instead, I opt to complete my research afterwards so I can analyse and record what I see and taste at the time. Many of the wines were of like character and style – forwards without being too bold, ripe without being too plumy or sweet, and with structured tannins but not over-oaked. I detected, for example, similarity between the 2 Pinotage and between the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Bordeaux-style blend. The advantage is that it brought a familiarity that I liked and which meant I liked all the wines. Conversely, if you do not like the character, you will probably not like any.



Kanonkop has been making Pinotage for considerably longer than most wine estates and has got it right. The flavours are more refined and less overtly juicy and plumy than many I have tasted, especially those in the wines I sampled at the Pinotage Festival held in April. They are the better for it. The wines must have been good too for me to have bought 2 bottles of Pinotage, the Rosé and the Cape Blend. I may not have been able to talk forever or fight the devil on leaving. However, the Kanonkop wines from the barrel were very much on target.

Wines tasted (bought *):



2017 Kadette Pinotage Rosé – R60*


2016 Kadette Cape Blend (38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Pinotage, 23% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc) – R95*
2015 Kadette Pinotage – R105
2015 Estate Pinotage – R350
2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – R370
2014 Estate Paul Sauer (74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc) – R550 FAVOURITE WINE



You Might Also Like

Sax ‘n’ Berg at the Vineyard

Warwick Wines Win their Colours

The Terroir is Honoured in the Bottle at Springfield

Simonsig Excellence Today with a Traditional Legacy

Better than a Fair View Where the Goats do Roam!

Fun(ny) Times at Lourensford

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

Rustic Charm at the Altydgedacht Wine Farm

I Needed to be Guided by the Angel Gabriel

Dreaming of a Wine Christmas

Taking the Garage into the Classroom

British Reserve and Excellence at Sumaridge

Altitudes with Wine!

Classy, Small and Precious Kleinood

Summer Whites …… and Rosés

No Blues at Hillcrest

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

Wine Notes Composed at D’Aria

The Garagiste in the Garage at Sonklip!

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

Sugar and Spice is Twice as Nice

The Bestbier Family produces Best Wines at Goede Hoop

My Best Blend at Zandvliet

Quoin Rock Gently Roars at Knorhoek

A Warm Welcome in the Cool Climate at South Hill

Mutual Attraction

The Gods Come Home to the Vineyard

Saxenburg Puts Heart, Mind and Soul into Its Wines

Colmant Sparkled

A Family Occasion – the Story behind the Bottle

Great Value in the Swartland

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

Classic(al) to Barrique – De Morgenzon Hits all the Right Notes

Baby Thrown Out with the Bath Water?

Serenity without Worry or Preoccupation in the Chapel

Vista to Verdot at Glen Carlou

Posh Spice in Franschhoek!

Rain Meets Earth at Newton Johnson

Satisfaction in Getting My Ducks (and Wines) in a Row

Waxing Lyrical about Canto

Individual Quality at Jordan

Beyond Expectation

From Palette to Palate to Muratie

Sylvan Vale Wines Good for a Meeting or an Eating

Mulderbosch didn’t quite Meet the Yardstick

Rijk Tulbagh Gives Name to Cellar and Town

Superb Views of Guardian Peak

Water into Wine at Uitkyk

Excelsior Blends Quality with Price

Linga-ring in a Winery in Malawi

Oh-MG at Anthonij Rupert

Pedigree Stud Grub at Cavalli

Boutique de Brendel

God Bless Slaley and All who Drink with Her

Wonderful Grapes at the Vineyard Hotel

Hearty Food and Wine Brought by the Stork at Hartenberg

More Still at Tanagra

Seven Reasons To Visit Seven Oaks Wines

Multi-Faceted Wines on Display at the Vineyard

Beau-tiful Beau-tique Beau-Constantia

Windfall Offered Unexpected Delights

Old Oaks at La Bourgogne

Bartinney Clings to the Mountain

Value for Money from Angel Gabriel in the Vineyard

Exciting, Excellent Keermont

Pastures Anew at Rustenberg

Only One JC Le Roux Wine Sparkled and Scintilla-ted

In the Vineyard with Beyerskloof

Where the Lions Roar in the Wild West of Bot Rivier

Leaping to the Right Conclusions

Perfection is Attainable at Boschkloof Wines

Grand Wines at the Big Top!

Magical Wines Star at Dragonridge

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

Elegant Wines Kiss the Lips in the Vineyard

Kosie Wynes at Groenland

Ghostly Clouds Swirl at Spookfontein

Bellville to Bellevue to Belle Wines

On Yonder Hill There Stands a Vineyard!

Peace but No Rest for Rust en Vrede

The Big Easy Tee’s Off in the Vineyard

Swiss Family Sauvignons at Eikendal

Wine Dinners are Not For Me

Simple Spier

Villion Pairs with Barton in Bot Rivier

Quality with Style in the Vineyard

Onderkloof Beats All the Odds Below The Valley

Family Fun in Pairs at Four Cousins

New Branding for Old-enburg is Perfect

Honest, Affordable Family Wines at Landskroon

King Chenin Kens (Knows) the Wood from the Trees

Syrah Pillars of Excellence at Haskell

The Darling from Darling Steps into the Vineyard

Rivergold is a Gem Waiting to be Discovered

Family Fun at the Greek Harvest Festival

It’s all Art and Wine at Almenkerk

Being Creative at Flagstone

Quality Abounds on the Mound at La Motte

PicknPay Pairs it again at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival

Nala Wines are Well Engineered in the Vineyard

Delaire Graff Wines Sparkle

Peter Falke Didn’t Knock my Socks Off

K-eynote W-ines at the V-ineyard

Joy at Really Tasting the Difference at Esona

In the Highlands in the Lowlands of Elgin

Superb De Trafford Worthy of Being My 200th Wine Estate

Eq-wine – Fine Wines and Fast Horses!

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

The Phoenix Rises from the Terroir at Thelema

More than Just a Destination

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

Lithos Wines Soar above Mountain and Forest

Tasting Vines at the Vineyard

All is Not Lost in a Safe Port

Sweet and Safe Times Pair Well with the Whales

Mixed Spice at the Pinotage Festival

No Black Marks at Raka

More-ish Wines at Môreson

All Green at Villiera

Kept Alone at Kaapzicht

Golden Wines at the End of the Rainbow

Keermont Farmhouse Redefines Luxury

Four Partners (not Cousins) at the Vineyard Hotel

Sip Sip Sip and Drip Drip Drip at Domaine des Dieux

Wines Merely to Lust After

One Day, Three Tastings, Five Wines and Seven Sisters

Neil’s Vines on the Tr-Ellis in Stellenbosch


In the Garage in the Heart of McGregor

Englishman Meets Mrs English at Classic Lanzerac

At the Bend in the Road in Bot River

Relaxing Rosendal

On the Left, but then on the Right …

Late at Lateganskop

Dornier Disappoints

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

Trading Wines in the City Bowl

Cabernet Franc – Well Worth a Gamble!

Iona Wines Remain Excellent In and At the Vineyard

Clouds Reign in Stellenbosch

Maiden Visit to Lord’s Bowled Me Over

Wine on the Slopes at Chamonix

Wines from the Orchards at Le Pommier

It’s High Time Again

Franschhoek’s Hidden Gem Is Reluctant to Reveal

Malverne Dis-Clos-ed

How Do You Grow a Vineyard Like Maria?

Wagons to the Cellar at Waboomsrivier

Wines That Don’t Cost The Earth

Class in Glass at Glenelly

iWine rather than IMAX at the Cape Gate Mall

Wacky – not Tacky – in Robertson

Cabsolutely Frankulous at the Carnival

Blaauwklippen was Good for a Friday


Grape Fun – Stomping Well Worth the Journey!

An Early Start at Rietvallei

Verticle Tasting on the Ridge in Elgin

Shiraz Purrs at Manley Wine Lodge

Wine Passions Mounted at Cavalli

Morgenhof in the Morning

Lust-ful Reds in the Vineyard

Straw Berry Yields for e-Ver-gelegen

Super Surprises at Super Single Vineyards

Com-fort-able Wines at Fort Simon

A Kleine Experience at Zalze

Diploma Done and Dusted – But for the Final Result – I Passed!

Barrels of Fun at My First Stellenbosch Street Soirée

From the Angel Gabriel to the Arch Angel

Red Chair in the Morning

Bon Courage and Bon Voyage

Iconic Steenberg

Very Cape Wines at Capaia

Wines to Love on Love Street

Bracing Brakes on the Red Wines at Remhoogte

Au Revoir France!

Heaven Meets Earth at Bouchard Finlayson

Groot Phesantekraal an Unexpected Surprise!

Laibach Shows its Spots

Mooi Mooi Mooi Mooiplaas


Grape Expectations are Met at Zevenwacht

Dave Goes Down Under and the Wines Go Up

Purring at the Wines in Tyger Valley

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

Big Preparations in the Little Vineyard


  1. Warwick Wines Win their Colours – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] farms and all within little more than 5 kilometres of each other: Le Bonheur, Warwick, Laibach, Kanonkop, Uitkyk, Muratie, Delheim, Quoin Rock, Remhoogte, L’Avenir and Morgenhof, to name but a few. I […]

  2. Water into Wine at Uitkyk – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] in all colours, and the sound of running water. What a glorious welcome! The estate is next to Kanonkop, to the North of Stellenbosch, and so it makes sense to visit both […]

  3. PicknPay Pairs it again at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] away to book my session, expecting these to be fully booked early on. Pongrácz, Waterford, Kanonkop and Warwick each offered a 30-minute tutored tasting. I chose the Pongrácz one as I had not […]

Leave a Reply

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