Must Do, Must See, Must Taste…
While in Stellenbosch
Stellenbosch is a place of contradictions. It is a rowdy university town, crawling with barefoot students en route to a lecture hall or bar; a town of Mystic Boers, enlightened gypsies, hausfrau 4x4 owners and mentors; a town of conservative reformed churchgoers, liberal freethinkers, rugby players and poets.
With numerous wineries (148 at last count), spas, restaurants, coffee shops and bars in the town and its surrounds to inspire hedonism, Stellenbosch even caters for those keen on outdoorsy activities.
Of course, wine is the womb that birthed Stellenbosch, and it's still the beverage of choice –fuelling debates that lead to the reconciliation of groups, opinion and history, even among students lubricating their thoughts with good old trusted Tassies.
Stellenbosch, the 'town of oaks', is also the educational and research centre of the winelands. Stellenbosch University is the only university in South Africa that offers a degree in viticulture and oenology, and it has many of the country's most successful winemakers as alumni. The Elsenburg School of Agriculture is also near Stellenbosch, as is the Nietvoorbij Institute of Viticulture and Oenology. This organisation has one of the most modern experimental wineries in the world and important research into new varietals, clones and rootstocks is undertaken at its experimental farms (situated in several winegrowing districts).
· It's the second oldest town in South Africa
· Kick-start your wonderful Stellenbosch day with views of the Eerste River Valley, False Bay and Table Mountain in the background from Tokara Restaurant at the top of Helshoogte pass.
· Sit on the pavement at one of the street cafes of Church or Andringa Street, glass of Chenin Blanc in the hand, and watch the pretty ‘varsity people' cycle past.
· Experience Kanonkop Wine Estate (and the snoek treat).
· Visit Sam's bar in the courtyard behind Oom Samie se Winkel in Dorp Street.
· The Devon Valley Hotel was named best South African hotel in the Best of Wine Tourism Awards on the basis that it provides visitors with a most comfortable means of having a true Winelands experience.
· Majeka House is a boutique guest house with a five star grading.
· For the most authentic Italian experience outside Italy, visit Pane e Vino at Bosman's Crossing. Run by Elena Dalla Cia, the daughter-in-law of boisterous Giorgio, formerly of Meerlust, this food and wine bar is the place to try Dalla Cia's Grappa and own-label wines.
· Hartenberg for picnics and a range of quality wines – outstanding Shiraz!
· Renowned for Pinotage, Beyerskloof outside Stellenbosch runs a popular restaurant as well.
· Pick your own strawberries at Mooiberge Strawberry Farm or Polkadraai Farm Stall.
The clinking of glasses apparently evolved in Italy from the brilliant, yet gruesome Medici family, who invented an odourless, tasteless poison that could be added to wine. When a toast was called the guests would stand in a circle and clink glasses. At the same time each person tipped a little of the contents of his glass into that of his or her neighbour so that the whole circle effectively shared the same drink. This shows either supreme trust, or supreme stupidity, depending on which way you look at it.
It is important to hold your wine glass by the stem in order to avoid overheating the glass, and thus the wine.
When you pour a glass of wine, the glass should be only a quarter full. This is why bowl size is important. So when it comes to size, bigger is definitely better. It's not a question of volume, it's a question of sensual delight. A bigger glass allows you to pour a decent amount without overfilling it, and a large bowl will allow the full aroma and flavour to develop.
Swirl, don't shake the wine around the glass by holding it on the stem, and sniff and taste at leisure. The bowl has a magnifying effect on the wine. The larger the bowl, the greater the chance to segment and layer out all the aromas.