Sugar and Spice is Twice as Nice
Experience 4.0 Paarl Wine 4.0

Sugar and Spice is Twice as Nice

Friday 4 May 2018

Experience: 4/5
Wines: 4/5

It was the shortest of drives from Fairview Wines to the Spice Route Winery, between sister wineries owned by Charles Black. Unusually for a Cape vineyard, there was no elegant, sweeping, white-washed gated entrance but merely an entry warning/disclaimer notice in the vineyard beside the road rising to the winery on the hillside. The vines didn’t even belong to the Spice Route either, more on that later.

Spice Route

Spice Route

The original spice routes wouldn’t have had signs either as they were the network of sea routes than linked the East with the West. Also known as the Maritime Silk Roads, the sailors brought precious spices such as cinnamon and cassia from Japan, through the islands of Indonesia, around India to the Middle East and across the Mediterranean to Europe. Ivory, silk, metals, precious gemstones and porcelains were traded too. The names are reflected in some of the wines too: Saffron and Malabar.

Spice Route

Spice Route

It was back in the late 1990s that Charles Back stumbled on a tank of Sauvignon Blanc in a Swartland cooperative. The quality was such that he did not believe it was from the Swartland, a region then not known for its fine wines and certainly not (as a warm area) for Sauvignon Blanc. The experience led him to Amoskuil, a derelict tobacco farm and home to South Africa’s oldest block of Sauvignon Blanc, bush vines that were planted in 1965. He bought the farm and, with the help of winemaker Eben Sadie, set up the cellar and planted new vines.

Spice Route

Spice Route

Today, barely a quarter of the land is under vine (90 hectares out of 400 hectares). The grapes are not irrigated and grown as dryland bush vines on the Koffieklip, Oakleaf, Malmesbury Shale and Duplex soils. The rolling hills are just 4 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean with a climate characterised by cold wet winters, when most of the rainfall occurs, and hot, dry summers when water is scarcer. The vineyards I drove through on my arrival at the Spice Route belong instead to Fairview as Charles Back did not want the 2 wine farms to compete. Ten cultivars are grown, including many lesser known ones such as Roussanne, Viognier, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Tannat and Sousão.

Spice Route

Spice Route

The Tasting Room is but one of many attractions at the busy winery. Its elevated position offers glorious views South-West to the Simonsberg Mountains. The Tasting Room is open fronted with comfortable seating, tables on the lawn outside, and decorations that include tiled maps of the Spice Routes and ancient Table Bay. A nice touch was the spittoons that were made from magnum wine bottles cut in half. I remembered the winery from a visit many years ago and before I formed the Cape Wine Lovers’ Society.

Spice Route

Spice Route

Natasha was my tasting host who guided me through the tasting options or ‘journeys’. I chose the basic Swartland Wine Journey (R50 for 5 wines). I could have chosen the Wine & Charcuterie Journey (R85 for 4 wines and cured meats with fresh fruit) or tasted the flagship Malabar red blend (R40). I chose to taste the flagship Amos Block Sauvignon Blanc first. The shiny wine was green in colour and character with notes of fresh lime, grapefruit, bitter lemon and green melon. The freshness showed in a youthful acidity that was almost too bright for my taste.

Spice Route

Spice Route

In contrast, the Chenin Blanc was more rounded and better balanced. Grapes from 2 pickings are fermented in stainless steel and oak before being blended together to make for another lively wine. It showed aromatic, forward notes of warmer, honeyed lemon, greengage, gooseberry, guava, kiwi and litchi. I liked how the aromas followed through to the palate that was smooth and creamy in texture and with a decent finish.

Spice Route

Spice Route

The Grenache Rosé was a pricey R142 per bottle, unusually high for the style. The colour intrigued too, being neither pink nor true salmon but towards copper to onion skin. The ‘serious rosé’, as Natasha described it, showed a good intensity of strawberry, white cherry and raspberry flavours. This gave a red wine taste that complemented the clean dry and refreshing palate. The wine was good but so are many in the R50 to R100 bracket. The rosé would have had to be exceptional to warrant the R142 price tag.

Spice Route

Spice Route

The Grenache wine was the lightest red of the tasting and my favourite. Grenache can be thought of as a bolder Pinot Noir with higher fruit, body, tannin and alcohol though less acidity. This wine showed a moderate intensity of red cherry, cranberry and white pepper spiciness, with good balance and intensity on the palate and a decent finish.

Spice Route

Spice Route

I chose next the Mourvèdre, a cultivar with greater body, tannin and acidity than Grenache but less fruitiness. It was fuller in medium ruby colour and full of warm fruity red fruits – red plum, cherry, mulberry and raspberry – that showed good intensity. Soft spiciness on the nose gave way to a savoury palate complete with fine, well balanced tannins that will improve with ageing.

Spice Route

I ended with the Chakalaka, a Shiraz-led red blend of 6 cultivars, and one of the most popular Spice Route wines. I learned that chakalaka is Zulu for ‘togetherness’ – hence the name for the blend – which surprisingly I did not know beforehand. The full bodied wine showed the ruby to purple colour of Shiraz. Blends often give added complexity on the nose or they may confuse. This wine was the latter with obvious red to dark fruit aromas that were not easy to distinguish further. The wine was lighter in mouthfeel than I expected, showing its youth on the palate with tannins that need time to round off their rough edges.

Spice Route

Spice Route

I explored the other Spice Route attractions before leaving: the shop, the charcuterie, the restaurant, the distillery, the ice cream shop and café, as well as the artisan chocolaterie. I sampled a plate of 5 delicious meats (R35) from the Richard Bosman charcuterie: French white sauçisson; truffle salami with garlic and black pepper; pork fillet, cured and lightly smoked with paprika; Spanish chorizo, made with chilli, paprika, red wine and fennel seed; and Diablo, spicy with chilli, paprika and pepper.

Spice Route

Spice Route

Lastly, I bought a selection of artisan chocolate bars for my partner from the chocolate shop that is home to one of the few ‘bean to bar’ micro chocolatiers in the world. I could not resist an ice cream tasting too (R60) for a pre-selection of banoffee, salted caramel crunch, raspberry crumble, chocolate brownie and cookies and cream.

Spice Route

Spice Route

The Spice Route offers many other attractions – a deli, craft brewery, glass blowing studio and art gallery too – which means that it would be easy to spend an entire day at the winery. The range of artisan producers fits in well with Charles Back’s vision of providing an ‘overall experience’ for ‘local and international tourists’ and visitors. The wines were decently made and it was a surprise, given the location just outside Paarl, to find that the grapes come from the Swartland. The hand of Charles Back in making a strong brand, at neighbouring Fairview too, clearly shows and the two wine farms complement each other. Visit the Spice Route and Fairview together and you will be guaranteed a fun day out as well as some interesting and varied wines.

Wines tasted (bought *):


2017 Amos Block Sauvignon Blanc – R111
2016 Chenin Blanc – R117


2017 Saffron Grenache Rosé – R142


2016 Grenache – R122* FAVOURITE WINE
2015 Mourvèdre – R122
2014 Chakalaka (41% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre, 17% Carignan, 10% Grenache, 10% Durif, 7% Tannat) – R177

Spice Route

You Might Also Like

Vista to Verdot at Glen Carlou

Quality with Style in the Vineyard

Rijk Tulbagh Gives Name to Cellar and Town

Malverne Dis-Clos-ed

Pastures Anew at Rustenberg

Grand Wines at the Big Top!

Neil’s Vines on the Tr-Ellis in Stellenbosch

Beyond Expectation

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

How Do You Grow a Vineyard Like Maria?

From the Angel Gabriel to the Arch Angel

Wines Out of the Barrel at Kanonkop

Four Partners (not Cousins) at the Vineyard Hotel

An Early Start at Rietvallei

One Day, Three Tastings, Five Wines and Seven Sisters

K-eynote W-ines at the V-ineyard

The Phoenix Rises from the Terroir at Thelema

Ghostly Clouds Swirl at Spookfontein

Boutique de Brendel

Late at Lateganskop

Rivergold is a Gem Waiting to be Discovered

A Warm Welcome in the Cool Climate at South Hill

Quality Abounds on the Mound at La Motte

Honest, Affordable Family Wines at Landskroon

At the Bend in the Road in Bot River

Peace but No Rest for Rust en Vrede

Shiraz Purrs at Manley Wine Lodge

Very Cape Wines at Capaia

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

Cabsolutely Frankulous at the Carnival

All Green at Villiera

Better than a Fair View Where the Goats do Roam!

Morgenhof in the Morning

Linga-ring in a Winery in Malawi

Individual Quality at Jordan

Straw Berry Yields for e-Ver-gelegen

Wines to Love on Love Street

No Black Marks at Raka

Class in Glass at Glenelly

Elegant Wines Kiss the Lips in the Vineyard

More Still at Tanagra

Oh-MG at Anthonij Rupert

Sweet and Safe Times Pair Well with the Whales

Bramon Beside the (Plettenberg) Bay


Pinotage Hits a Purple Patch in Paarl

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

Saxenburg Puts Heart, Mind and Soul into Its Wines

More-ish Wines at Môreson

Bon Courage and Bon Voyage

Waxing Lyrical about Canto

Baby Thrown Out with the Bath Water?

Sip Sip Sip and Drip Drip Drip at Domaine des Dieux

Grape Expectations are Met at Zevenwacht

Wine Notes Composed at D’Aria

Red and White Wines with Frog’s ‘Legs’

Big Preparations in the Little Vineyard

Bracing Brakes on the Red Wines at Remhoogte

Dave Goes Down Under and the Wines Go Up

On Yonder Hill There Stands a Vineyard!

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

Magical Wines Star at Dragonridge

The Darling from Darling Steps into the Vineyard


Fun(ny) Times at Lourensford

Wacky – not Tacky – in Robertson

Leaping to the Right Conclusions

In the Highlands in the Lowlands of Elgin

Cheers! Or Beers?!

Kosie Wynes at Groenland

Posh Spice in Franschhoek!

Wines That Don’t Cost The Earth

Old Oaks at La Bourgogne

Rain Meets Earth at Newton Johnson

No Blues at Hillcrest

Iona Wines Remain Excellent In and At the Vineyard

Simple Spier

Windfall Offered Unexpected Delights

Multi-Faceted Wines on Display at the Vineyard

Barrels of Fun at My First Stellenbosch Street Soirée

It’s High Time Again

The Garagiste in the Garage at Sonklip!

More than Just a Destination

Mixed Spice at the Pinotage Festival

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

Lust-ful Reds in the Vineyard

Verticle Tasting on the Ridge in Elgin

Groot Phesantekraal an Unexpected Surprise!

Swiss Family Sauvignons at Eikendal

Maiden Visit to Lord’s Bowled Me Over

Excelsior Blends Quality with Price

The Gods Come Home to the Vineyard

Dreaming of a Wine Christmas

iWine rather than IMAX at the Cape Gate Mall

It’s all Art and Wine at Almenkerk

Blaauwklippen was Good for a Friday

I Needed to be Guided by the Angel Gabriel

Lithos Wines Soar above Mountain and Forest

Cabernet Franc – Well Worth a Gamble!

Heaven Meets Earth at Bouchard Finlayson

Tasting Vines at the Vineyard

Onderkloof Beats All the Odds Below The Valley

A Family Occasion – the Story behind the Bottle

From Palette to Palate to Muratie

My Best Blend at Zandvliet

Seven Reasons To Visit Seven Oaks Wines

Bellville to Bellevue to Belle Wines

PicknPay Pairs it again at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival

Rustic Charm at the Altydgedacht Wine Farm

Summer Whites …… and Rosés

Nala Wines are Well Engineered in the Vineyard


Mooi Mooi Mooi Mooiplaas

On the Left, but then on the Right …

Sax ‘n’ Berg at the Vineyard

Value for Money from Angel Gabriel in the Vineyard

Being Creative at Flagstone

Colmant Sparkled

Wines Merely to Lust After

Water into Wine at Uitkyk

Back to the Future in the Berg of Paarl

Purring at the Wines in Tyger Valley

Wagons to the Cellar at Waboomsrivier

Red Chair in the Morning

Beau-tiful Beau-tique Beau-Constantia

Trading Wines in the City Bowl

Mulderbosch didn’t quite Meet the Yardstick

Au Revoir France!

Family Fun at the Greek Harvest Festival

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

Warwick Wines Win their Colours

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

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

Clouds Reign in Stellenbosch

Wine on the Slopes at Chamonix

Relaxing Rosendal

Putting into Port at De Krans

Great Value in the Swartland

Mutual Attraction

British Reserve and Excellence at Sumaridge

Taking the Garage into the Classroom

Where the Lions Roar in the Wild West of Bot Rivier

The Terroir is Honoured in the Bottle at Springfield

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

Franschhoek’s Hidden Gem Is Reluctant to Reveal

Serenity without Worry or Preoccupation in the Chapel

Family Fun in Pairs at Four Cousins

All is Not Lost in a Safe Port

Altitudes with Wine!

Villion Pairs with Barton in Bot Rivier

Quoin Rock Gently Roars at Knorhoek

Perfection is Attainable at Boschkloof Wines

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

In the Vineyard with Beyerskloof

Joy at Really Tasting the Difference at Esona

Iconic Steenberg

In the Garage in the Heart of McGregor

The Big Easy Tee’s Off in the Vineyard

Leave a Reply

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