Evening at Axe Hill

 

One of the most character packed parts of our country is the Klein Karoo around Calitzdorp. Dry hard conditions with many of the characteristics that make the Douro Valley in Portugal perfect for the making of superb Ports, here you will find a hardy kind of winemaker, one used to making his own rules, far from the influence of any Cape gables and the French influence that can often prevail in the areas close to Cape Town, like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Obviously Port style wines and Portuguese varietals can be found all over here and they are superb, but French grapes are also much used, even in blends with the Portuguese grapes much as is being done in Portugal itself. Brandies are part of the history of the place with the Nel family at Boplaas venturing even further afield with superb gins and even—wait for it—a prizewinning whisky. The tasting facilities can be as quirky as all get out, exhibiting a sense of the whimsical which only great survivors have.

Here are some perfect places to spend some time in search of the perfect drink—for you.

 

BOPLAAS

The Nel family have been here since in the late 1800s when their brandy used to be taken by wagon to faraway Cape Town for the ships that called there. Since then things have grown apace with superb Ports, single varietals, and spirits under the hand of son Daniel. With her father Carel, daughter Margaux takes care of the winemaking and her sister Rozanne does the marketing so the family ethos is everywhere apparent. Matriarch Jeanne is the glue that holds it all together. Don’t miss the Ports of course but start with the Cape Portuguese White blend, deliciously crisp, and do not miss the sensational gins.

PHONE 044 213 3326

 

AXE HILL

At this quirky little place, Mike Neebe is making some great single Portuguese wines and a marvellous blend or two when the mood takes him. The Port styles like the magnificent Cape Vintage and the Late Cape Vintage are superb and the ambience is so Calitzdorp you will love it.

TASTINGS BY APPOINTMENT ONLY SO DO PHONE AHEAD 083 676 3000

 

PETER BAYLY

Some years ago Peter Bayly left the hurly burly of Cape Town and relocated with his Yvonne to the remoteness of this African wonderland. Since then they have succeeded –with help from the locals—that’s how people are like here—to make gorgeous Ports, beautifully bottled and a delicious Chenin from grapes in the Jonkershoek Valley. This also has been the basis for a white Port which is a knockout. Tastings are outside under the vines, overlooking a vista that takes your breath away. Don’t miss the red Portuguese blend simply called lll, brooding and packed with deep red berry flavours.

PHONE 044 213 3702

 

DE KRANS

More Nels own this setup, making some superb Portuguese varietals like a blend called Tritonia, unfortified Touriga with 3 Tintas, wonderful –and white version made with Verdelho and Palomino—luscious and easy to knock back on a hot summer afternoon. Of course the fortifieds, like a magnificent Muscat de Frontignan and a Limited Release Tawny will entice you to more. A Bistro and deli with outdoor seating is just the place to take a load off and eat a little something while a children’s playground will take care of the little ones.

PHONE 044 213 213 3314

 

DUSWAROO

The previous owner, Tony Bailey, named this off beat little place after significant places in his life—Durban, SWA/Namibia, and the little Karoo. New owner Kallie Calitz and his wife, who takes care of the farm produce side of things, are forging ahead. With a name like that in Calitzdorp who would not? Tiny output of 400 bottles of this and 400 bottles of that make this really special. Portuguese varietals dominate but try the Shiraz Rosé, Chardonnay and Chenin for freshness and fruity appeal.

PHONE 044 213 3137