A Kleine Experience at Zalze
Experience 3.0 Stellenbosch Wine 3.5

A Kleine Experience at Zalze

Saturday 28 October 2017

Experience: 3/5
Wines: 3.5/5

Rarely has an experience fallen so short of expectation. Rarely has an experience fallen so short of reputation. My partner had asked me to choose a wine estate we had not been to before and one with a fine dining restaurant. I wanted to be back in Cape Town by late afternoon to watch the Currie Cup Final – me being a Western Province supporter and my partner a Sharks follower – and so a Stellenbosch vineyard beckoned. Kleine Zalze suited. A glance at the Platter’s Guide to South African Wines showed a sizeable amount of red on the page (4½ stars and above). The Terroir Restaurant promised excellent food. The website described it as ‘one of the most sought-after gourmet restaurants in the Cape Winelands’ with ‘a solid reputation for outstanding and inventive contemporary cuisine and excellent service’. Elsewhere mentioned that the Terroir has been ranked as a Top 10 South African Restaurant for every year since 2004.

Kleine Zalze

I booked a table and we journeyed via Somerset West to South Stellenbosch. Security at the vineyard was tight, as expected, and it was well worth getting a PIN number in advance. This considerably smoothed our arrival and, judging by the time it took the car following us to gain access, something I recommend to all. The lifestyle Winelands Estate houses a luxury residential development together with a Championship golf course. Indeed, it is one of only 3 working vineyards to house a golf course in the World (and 1 of the other 2 is also in South Africa, at Steenberg in the Constantia Valley).

Kleine Zalze

The arrival started well. Shaded parking was close to the Restaurant and the Tasting Room. I had booked lunch before wine tasting but, since the outdoor seating area was clearly far from full, asked to swap around. The Tasting Room was modern yet functional, traditional yet intimate, and with walls covered with framed wine awards.

Kleine Zalze

Kleine Zalze

Wine making at Kleine Zalze dates back to 1695. Successive owners have made wine through the years but it was not until 1996 that Kobus Basson and his family bought the property. Cellar renovation and modernisation, together with extensive vine replanting with new clones, followed soon after. The award-winning vineyard is noted for its international sales and focus on Chenin Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are also grown on the 90 hectare farm. A further 200 hectare of vineyards are leased. The cultivars are grown on South-facing slopes in dark, well-drained soils. Coastal breezes add to the cool climate that makes up the terroir.

Kleine Zalze

Kleine Zalze

The Wine Tasting

Juandre was our tasting host and I introduced myself as a wine enthusiast, student and founder of the Cape Wine Lovers’ Society. Kleine Zalze offers a comprehensive range of wines for tasting (though not dessert wines). These are grouped into several ranges: MCC/Sparkling; Family Reserve; Vineyard Selection; and Cellar Selection. My partner and I chose the 5 wines for R25 option (waived on wine purchase), selecting different wines between us to be able to sample a wide range. Bottled water and dry biscuits were supplied without asking, a nice touch for the tasting.

Kleine Zalze

Kleine Zalze

All was set but the experience rapidly went downhill from here. Juandre chose to bring the MCC in a different order to my selection. Different bottles were set down as I sampled the wines and this further confused. It did not help that the tasting sequence was changed without me knowing. It is not always easy to write, listen and taste at the same time. My tasting notes, as a result, were completely muddled. They are of little use as I write now.

Kleine Zalze

Kleine Zalze

Kleine Zalze

I will not try to separate my comments but instead to make general observations. The MCCs showed fine bubbles in appearance with shy apple and lemon citrus aromas on the nose (some strawberry too for the Brut Rosé). The wines were light in the mouth, with little lees taste, and clean on the palate. Undemanding or easy drinking? Take your pick.

Kleine Zalze

The Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Sur Lie (literally ‘on the lees’) was unwooded and green in style. Less acidic than most, green pepper, lemon, lime and guava flavours emerged on the nose and palate. The 7 months of lees contact showed to give the wine a mildly buttery mouthfeel that is uncharacteristic for a Sauvignon Blanc.

Kleine Zalze

I wanted to taste the Old Bush Vine and the Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc that I and my partner had selected together to compare. This was no easy task as Juandre was on a mission of his own. He knew the detail of the Tasting Notes but seemed unswerving in his delivery. It mattered not to him that I was well educated about wines and needed time to listen, consider and write. He delivered his oft-rehearsed pitch with little situational awareness or acceptance of my requests for pouring coordination and time.

Kleine Zalze

The Old Bush Vine Chenin Blanc was noticeably deeper in straw colour than its Barrel Fermented cousin. The aromas were more concentrated and intense on the nose – of lemon, lime, melon and fig – as one would expect from the age and trellising style of the grapes. This wine, albeit not this vintage, Juandre explained was a previous winner of the coveted ‘Best White Wine in the World’ award at the Concours Mondial.

Kleine Zalze

I rated the Barrel Fermented Chenin a little lower for the nose (less intensity) and palate (limited finish). Tropical guava, pineapple and lemon flavours hid the wooded notes derived from 6 months maturation in New and 2nd fill oak barrels.

Kleine Zalze

Next it was the turn of the red wines, all from the Vineyard Selection and priced the same. The 4 we selected were of different cultivars (1 was a Rhone Blend) and so the tasting became easier. My favourite wine of the tasting was the Pinot Noir made with grapes from both the Stellenbosch and Ceres regions. It had a good intensity of flavour – sweet cherry, cranberry, redcurrant and leather – and acidity. I liked the floral fruitiness underpinned by light tannins from 14 months in 2nd and 3rd fill French oak barrels.

Kleine Zalze

The ‘SMV’ Rhone Blend was obviously Shiraz-led (80%) with more plum and blackcurrant fruitiness than spiciness and with a moderate mouthfeel and finish.

Kleine Zalze

The 2 final wines of the tasting – the Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz – were both barrel-matured with similar regimes of 40% new, 30% 2nd fill, and 30% 3rd fill French oak before blending and bottling (20 months for the Cabernet Sauvignon, 22 months for the Shiraz). The Cabernet Sauvignon showed typical dark berry flavours of mulberry, blackcurrant and blackberry. The tannins were youthful, green and astringent and need more time to soften and settle down.

Kleine Zalze

I preferred the smoother moderate palate of the Shiraz that had more structure and better rounded tannins. Full bodied and a mix of deep ruby red and purple in colour, the wine was more fruity than spicy with moderately intense aromas of blackcurrant and blackberry.

The Luncheon

The tasting over, it was time to unwind a little after the intensity of the Cellar. We headed to the Terroir Restaurant that was, surprisingly, barely a quarter full. I introduced myself again as a writer and journalist from the Cape Wine Lovers’ Society and explained that I would be writing about the lunch for the Society website. The Provençale style Restaurant has a pleasant and relaxed setting. Small neat tables were set out under dappled shade that hid from the heat of the sun. The edge of the golf course was visible though the trees below.

Kleine Zalze

Kleine Zalze

Menus were set out on chalkboards that gave an enticing choice of starter and main courses. We shared a Pinot Noir, my favourite wine, and ordered. I ordered the Prawn Risotto with Americaine Sauce whilst my partner ordered Asparagus with Poached Hen’s Egg, Green and Mediterranean Salsas, and Parmesan Glaze. A nice touch, while the food was being prepared, was a small tray of home-baked bread, smoky aubergine purée and olives.

Kleine Zalze

Kleine Zalze

Kleine Zalze

The starters arrived and were as colourful as they were tasty. We exchanged plates to savour both dishes. The prawn risotto had a fresh seafood character with creamy, if too soft, risotto rice to accompany. The asparagus spears were laid out on red and green salsa with a perfectly poached hen’s egg, dusted in burned leek ash, on top. The starters, to steal wine language for a moment, both had good flavour intensity and complexity.

Kleine Zalze

We ordered different main courses too: Seared Loin of Springbok with Watercress, Chestnut and Whiskey Sauce, together with Beef Fillet with Anna Potato, Carrot Purée, Mushroom Ketchup, Basil and Almond. There was quite a wait for them to arrive and, when they did, my partner commented on how similar their plating and appearance looked. Very soon after, I realised that the waitress had made an error with our order and brought 2 loin of springbok dishes. This was certainly not what I expected from a Top 10 restaurant. A replacement course was offered but this would take 20 minutes to prepare. I was left with a choice thus either for my partner and I to watch each other eat for 40 minutes, wait 20 minutes for 2 new courses to be cooked, or accept the mistake. In reality, there was no choice as we needed to be back in Cape Town for the rugby final. I therefore accepted the springbok loin and the offer of complimentary wine with the main course.

Kleine Zalze

Kleine Zalze

Kleine Zalze

The portions were modest (of meat especially) and whilst well put together were not overly rich. There was time for a dessert before leaving although the experience was already ruined. I chose the Seasonal Berries, Vanilla, Honeycomb, Black Pepper and Violet Sorbet. My partner ordered the Pistachio Soufflé with Caramel Anglaise and Dark Chocolate Sorbet. The desserts were interesting and with some nice touches. I liked the violet flavour of the sorbet. The soufflé was airy. The accompanying caramel sauce was served in a jug and poured by the waitress into the soufflé. Before long, it was time to return to Cape Town.

The Finish

Kleine Zalze promised so much – former winner of the Best White Wine in the world and a multiple Top 10 award-winning South African restaurant – but delivered so little. It was not just the restaurant mistake that spoiled the occasion but, frankly, the wines were not exceptional. Like the luncheon, the tasting was spoiled by staff error and presentation of wines in the incorrect sequence as ordered. This was an unfortunate double lapse in customer service to say the least. It was not as though either the Tasting Room or Restaurant were busy or at capacity. They were barely a quarter full and this for a Sunday lunchtime when surely business is at a peak. As I left, I wondered if (as with several other multiple award-winning vineyards) Kleine Zalze has rested on its laurels and lost focus as a consequence. Or, indeed, whether my experience was not unique and hence the lack of patrons.

Kleine Zalze

Oh, and we just made it back to Cape Town for the Currie Cup Final and Western Province (my team) succeeded in winning away from home against the Sharks. At least there was something to celebrate and enjoy.


I wrote to the Terroir Restaurant on the following day to explain my experience. I did not immediately intend to and was so shocked at the time that I chose to accept the order error without making a major scene that would have further ruined the occasion. On reflection, I felt that the Restaurant management needed to know of my lack of satisfaction and why. It took a second email to gain a response which, too, was not coincident with exceptional customer service. The Marketing Manager has offered for my partner and I to return for a lunch paired with Kleine Zalze wines. I accept the gesture and shall write again of my second experience. It will not be soon though as I need some time to be able to return for a second time.

Wines tasted (bought *):


2011 Chardonnay Pinot Noir Vintage Brut MCC (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir) – R178
NV Brut MCC (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir) – R110
NV Brut MCC Rosé (60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay) – R110


2016 Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Sur Lie – R178
2015 Family Reserve Chenin Blanc Old Bush Vine – R178
2016 Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc Barrel Fermented – R93


2015 Vineyard Selection Pinot Noir – R128* FAVOURITE WINE
2016 Vineyard Selection Shiraz Mourvèdre Viognier (80% Shiraz, 15% Mourvèdre, 5% Viognier) – R128
2015 Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Matured – R128
2015 Vineyard Selection Shiraz Barrel Matured – R128

Kleine Zalze

You Might Also Like

Wines Out of the Barrel at Kanonkop

Englishman Meets Mrs English at Classic Lanzerac

The Big Easy Tee’s Off in the Vineyard

Malverne Dis-Clos-ed

There’s No Gun Smoke Without Wine

Golden Wines at the End of the Rainbow

Haven Rather than Heaven at La Bri

The Cut ‘n’ Paste Stellenbosch Wine Festival Comes to Cape Town

From Palette to Palate to Muratie

Try as I Could I Did not Find Waterkloof Wines Dynamic

Bon Courage and Bon Voyage

God Bless Slaley and All who Drink with Her

Grape Expectations are Met at Zevenwacht

Mulderbosch didn’t quite Meet the Yardstick

Woody Wildekrans

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

On Yonder Hill There Stands a Vineyard!

Wonderful Grapes at the Vineyard Hotel

Vrede en Lust Struggled to Reveal it’s Delight

Bushmanspad Gave Me the Weirdest Tasting Ever

Blaauwklippen was Good for a Friday

Becoming Ship-Shape at La Couronne

Le Lude Left Me Feeling Flat

How Do You Grow a Vineyard Like Maria?

Laibach Shows its Spots

Hearty Food and Wine Brought by the Stork at Hartenberg

Intriguing and Confusing – An Enigmatic Experience

Next Time to Taste at Hannay

Wines Merely to Lust After

A Lekker Jol at Wandsbeck

Tasting Vines at the Vineyard

Allez les Boks – Pas les Bleues!

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

One Day, Three Tastings, Five Wines and Seven Sisters

Quoin Rock Gently Roars at Knorhoek

Summer Whites …… and Rosés

Dornier Disappoints

Purring at the Wines in Tyger Valley

Noble Wines without the Rot

Superb De Trafford Worthy of Being My 200th Wine Estate

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

More Plaisir at de Merle Please!

Pinotage Hits a Purple Patch in Paarl

Wines from the Orchards at Le Pommier

Simonsig Excellence Today with a Traditional Legacy

New Branding for Old-enburg is Perfect

Swiss Family Sauvignons at Eikendal

Neil’s Vines on the Tr-Ellis in Stellenbosch

King Chenin Kens (Knows) the Wood from the Trees

Water into Wine at Uitkyk

Com-fort-able Wines at Fort Simon

Bellville to Bellevue to Belle Wines

Sax ‘n’ Berg at the Vineyard

Never too Early in the Morning for Wine Tasting!

Langverwacht Introduced Me to Ruby Cabernet

Multi-Faceted Wines on Display at the Vineyard

Family Fun in Pairs at Four Cousins

Clouds Reign in Stellenbosch

Cabernet Franc – Well Worth a Gamble!

Grape Fun – Stomping Well Worth the Journey!

Wine Passions Mounted at Cavalli

Pick n Taste Time at Stellenbosch

Robertson – Town by Name, Wine by Name

Superb Views of Guardian Peak

Nala Wines are Well Engineered in the Vineyard

Bracing Brakes on the Red Wines at Remhoogte

Bartinney Clings to the Mountain

Class in Glass at Glenelly

The Phoenix Rises from the Terroir at Thelema

Warwick Wines Win their Colours

Syrah Pillars of Excellence at Haskell

The Garagiste in the Garage at Sonklip!

Four Partners (not Cousins) at the Vineyard Hotel

Delaire Graff Wines Sparkle

Value for Money at Van Zylshof

Hope Brought to the Vineyard

Mooi Mooi Mooi Mooiplaas

Exciting, Excellent Keermont

Kept Alone at Kaapzicht

Hand at Work Handiwork at Boschrivier Wines

Where’s the Grande in Provence?

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

In the Vineyard with Beyerskloof

Quality with Style in the Vineyard

Style or Substance? Nitida left Me Wondering

Morgenhof in the Morning

Quantity over Quality at Durbanville Hills

House Wine from the Wine Tram

Graham Beck MCCs Fizzled Out

Eq-wine – Fine Wines and Fast Horses!

An Early Start at Rietvallei

Saxenburg Puts Heart, Mind and Soul into Its Wines

Sylvan Vale Wines Good for a Meeting or an Eating

Super Surprises at Super Single Vineyards

Keermont Farmhouse Redefines Luxury

Libby Would not have been Proud of Linton Park

Wine Dinners are Not For Me

Individual Quality at Jordan

K-eynote W-ines at the V-ineyard

Only One JC Le Roux Wine Sparkled and Scintilla-ted

Horsepower in the Vineyard

Peter Falke Didn’t Knock my Socks Off

Slave to the Rhythm at Solms-Delta

Wine on the Slopes at Chamonix

Honest, Affordable Family Wines at Landskroon

Kosie Wynes at Groenland

The Bestbier Family produces Best Wines at Goede Hoop

2018 Wacky Wine Ends at Le Roux & Fourie

A Quando-ary: When to Drink …?

Wagons to the Cellar at Waboomsrivier

All Green at Villiera

Sublime Sauvignon Blanc Makes up for Variable Bloemendal

Peace but No Rest for Rust en Vrede

View from the E-Skaap-ment

Pedigree Stud Grub at Cavalli

Busy, Bubbly, Noisy Wonderfontein

Surprisingly Good – and Not Only for the Red Bus Tourists

iWine rather than IMAX at the Cape Gate Mall

Decent Wines Rock from the Pulpit

Pastures Anew at Rustenberg

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

Perfection is Attainable at Boschkloof Wines

Intimate, Tranquil and Refined

Classy, Small and Precious Kleinood

Proudly Keeping it in the Family at Paul Cluver – or Not?

Hope Lies High in the Valley

Simple Spier

Good Things Come in Twos – at Southern Right too!

Leave a Reply

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