Bonnievale – good wines that wine lovers love to drink

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IT was a legit road trip for PR star Yolandi de Wet, who had the brilliant idea to take four media folk – in her own car – for a day in the countryside to visit Bonnievale Wines and the town with the same name. It’s 150km due east of Cape Town, the literature tells me; Yolandi drove from Hermanus to Plumstead to Century City to Klapmuts to Bonnievale, and then did it all again in reverse.

It meant we could all relax and taste, taste and taste some more until it wasn’t tasting anymore but quaffing with lunch (not Yolandi of course, shame, as she was responsible for us), because the Chardonnay – unwooded for me – is just so lovely. In fact, I’ve been a longtime fan of Bonnievale’s wines thanks to them kindly sending me samples from time to time. It’s usually when there have been awards won and stickers stuck.

Award-winning wines

For example, less than two months ago, the Bonnievale Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 and Bonnievale Limited Release Chardonnay 2021, were honoured at the National Wine Challenge (NWC), which incorporates the list of top 100 SA wines.The Cabernet Sauvignon was awarded double platinum and crowned as one of the top 100 SA wines; the Chardonnay 2021 claimed double gold.

“These accolades once again underscore our faith we have in our wines,” says Bonnievale Wines chief winemaker Marthinus Rademeyer, who hosted our tasting. “Consistent quality has always been the bedrock of our pursuits and having this recognised by this experienced panel helps to shine the light not only on the excellence of the fruit, but also the efforts of a large team.”

It was a glorious winter’s day, the kind that when you’re outside in the sun it’s lovely and warm but when you’re inside you’re grateful for the log fire burning in the tasting room. Among the wines Marthinus poured for us, I was surprised to enjoy the Sauvignon Blanc and the Pinotage from the River Collection. Surprised because these are the two varieties I have the most trouble with. It’s wrong, of course, to sweep them all into the same general category, because every wine is unique. Which is why I keep tasting them, and like at Bonnievale, I discovered two that I liked enough to buy to take home. The Sauvignon Blanc is on the tropical spectrum, which I prefer to all that grass and green pepper and whatnot; the Pinotage has a lovely deep smokiness to it which I’m pretty sure will go down well at my next braai or potjie.

We later moved outside into the sunshine for generous cheese platters with lots of biltong and dröewors, fruit and nuts, and some extra special bowls of salami, chicken wings and little sausages just for us. Plus plenty of Chardonnay, thank you again Yolandi for driving. For dessert we had the wine and chocolate pairing – a champagne truffle with the Vale sparkling Sauvignon Blanc; a ruby chocolate with the Cinsault Brut Rosé sparkling wine; another truffle with the River Sauvignon Blanc; more Chardonnay with a coconut milk chocolate; and chocolate-dipped orange with the River Chenin Blanc.

After we’d filled the car boot with all our wine purchases we stopped in town to learn a bit about the history of Bonnievale, which was founded at the turn of the 19th century by Scotsman Christopher Forrest Rigg. The name (originally two words) translates to “happy valley” in his native dialect. By all accounts, the man was a visionary and he established the water canals that unlocked the agricultural potential of the region, which has a long association with dairy and fruit farming as well as the wine grapes.

Sad story: Rigg’s (and his wife Lilian’s) third-born child, the deeply religious Myrtle, contracted meningitis when she was seven years old in 1911, and on her deathbed, asked her father to build a church. Which he did. Rigg quarried stone from a hill far from the site to build the church, and laid a marble floor which was imported from Italy. The stained glass windows came from England, the main door Rigg brought back with him from a trip to Zanzibar, and the side doors and furniture came from Knysna. The family graveyard is outside the church, but only a headstone for Rigg himself, who died on a ship 1926 and was buried at sea.

Myrtle’s church

While it’s a fun day jaunt, honestly I could easily spend at least a week out that way. Besides Bonnievale, there’s Robertson, Montagu and McGregor, and so many food and wine places. Make that two weeks.

Bonnievale’s wines are available countrywide and from its online shop. Across the ranges, including the Limited Release wines, prices are extremely affordable, which is something I always appreciate. For more information, call 023 616 2795 or email [email protected]

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PHOTO CREDIT: Bianca Coleman ©

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