NO PAIN, no gain – this echoed
through my head as I puffed uphill,
sweat trickling down my spine. A
group of us, or so I thought, were
cycling up Robertsvlei Road near
True to its origins as one of the
Southern Hemisphere’s oldest
winemaking regions (since 1688),
vineyards stretch to cloud-soaked
mountains, with raptors
performing aerial displays.
That was a few hours ago, after
leaving foggy Cape Town to arrive
on the fringe of Franschhoek. Fresh
from a transatlantic flight and
ready to go, Stuart and Nicole Berg
and daughters Rebecca, Shira and
Natalie were here on a two-week
holiday from New York.
Sharing a tree-lined track with
pedestrians and dogs, we turned off
on to Cabriere Road. With the Cape
Dutch houses and vineyards was
the promise of wine-tasting.
“But you have to work for it,”
said Bevan, Bike & Saddle’s
accredited guide. This eco-active
travel company runs tailor-made,
fully supported and one-of-a-kind
cycle, hiking and kayaking trips.
We had been warned and put
foot to pedal as we climbed towards
a cross on the hillside. The
mountain-surround scenery was
good distraction – baby grapes on
vineyards interspersed with roses,
dogs and horses, and some of the
country’s best-known wine estates.
Taking a left turn, Bevan
explained about drip irrigation and
how the 29 wine farms of
Franschhoek exported between
70 and 80 percent of their
Cooling off on an exhilarating
downhill stretch, we zoomed
through La Bourgogne to brake at
the Huguenot Monument, the
symbol of Franschhoek. The
nearby museum chronicles the
history of the first settlers – 176
French Huguenot refugees, many of
them given land by the Dutch
government. But more of this later.
After the Americans posed for
pictures we retraced our track to
enter a wine estate – at last. By now
the mercury boiled and, in need of
liquids – well, that’s my excuse – we
slaked our thirst on jugs of ice
water while John Bongani Twala
served one wine after another.
Holden Manz was established in
2010 and is named after owners
Gerard Holden and Migo Manz.
Situated “where two rivers meet”,
between the Franschhoek and
Stony Brook Rivers, the wine
produced on this 22-hectare initially
reds-only farm benefits from being
kept at least 12 months in tanks and
French oak barrels.
The flagship wine, Big G 2010,
named after Gerard Holden, is an
equal blend of cabernet and
cabernet franc and gets an
additional six months in barrels.
This voluptuous dark ruby-coloured
wine has a spicy, blackberry full
nose with a dark chocolatey herbal
Fruit for the first white, a barrelfermented
chardonnay, was sourced
from Elgin and is whole-bunch
pressed, fermented and matured in
a combination of new and used
French oak barrels, creating a wine
with fresh, crispy minerality and
ripe lemon, marmalade, caramel
and toffee flavours.
Light salmon and peach in
colour, the Holden Manz Rosé is
well-balanced with creamy ripe
fruit and a full heady finish and
would go well with fish or chicken.
But it was the 2010 merlot that
received our nods of approval. Deep
ruby red in colour, this smooth,
creamy wine has a rich full nose of
blackberries and strawberries, with
gentle spicy notes.
Commenting on the labels’
elephant head and tusk, Twala said
the idea was to reflect the history of
the town, originally called
Olifantshoek (Elephants’ Corner)
because of the vast herds of
elephants said to have roamed here.
Having hiked the elephant trail a
few weeks before and had lunch at
the Elephant and Barrel Village
Pub, it was Bevan who told us that
the origin of the pachyderms
reputed presence was a painting in
a nearby cave.
The town’s name was soon
changed to le Coin Français (the
French Corner) until 1881, when it
became Franschhoek (Dutch for
French Corner). Many settlers
named their farms after the areas in
France from which they had come:
La Motte, Champagne Estates,
La Cotte, Cabriere, Provence,
Chamonix, Dieu Donné and La
These were among some of the
first farms – most of which retain
their original homesteads today – to
become renowned wineries. Many
surnames in the area are of French
origin: Du Toit, Marais, Du Plessis,
Malan, Malherbe, and Joubert.
By now we were hungry and
keen to work for our lunch. Back in
the saddle we cycled to Excelsior
Road, then left into Robertsvlei
where, rapidly changing gears, we
climbed and climbed some more.
Steaming hot, we were thankful for
a cooling breeze.
Whooping for the sheer joy of it,
as we flew downhill, wind whistling
through our helmets, with the Berg
River Dam whizzing past in a
shimmering turquoise blur.
Welcomed by restaurant
manager André Lourens, we were
soon settled under willow trees at
Le Bon Vivant. He said what made
GlenWood a boutique winery was
that it produced fewer than 120 000
bottles using only grapes grown on
Owner Alistair Wood left a
career in business consulting to set
up his picturesque estate. He has
built a reputation for outstanding
chardonnay and consistent quality
throughout the range.
Sipping the 2013 sauvignon blanc
we agreed that everything was
better with sauvignon, or
chardonnay, in fact anything grown
and bottled in Franschhoek. The
balanced crisp sauvignon has
tropical flavours and a zesty lemon
finish and was perfectly paired with
the starter of mozzarella salad.
The mushroom tagliatelle was
perfectly paired with slightly
chilled merlot 2012. Full-bodied,
with layers of chocolate-dipped ripe
plums and mulberry, this full and
elegant wine was a satisfying
complement to a delicious dish.
A trio of mouth-watering sorbets
completed our meal as we tasted the
Like a breath of fresh air, this
wine offers a full, creamy, tropical
palate of citrus and delicate green
With time running out, we
ventured into the heart of bustling
Franschhoek, where Huguenot Fine
Chocolates is the country’s first
black economic empowerment
producer of hand-crafted Belgian
Leon Groenewald gave us a tour
of chocolate history, from the
Aztecs who drank it on special
occasions to the Spanish, who tried
grow trees, without success.
.Call 021 813 6433, or e-mail
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