WHAT if – hear me out – you could eat a delicious almost exclusively vegan meal, without even realising it? In all my years as a food writer, I’ve been happy to eat almost anything (late-in-life allergies notwithstanding), which has been very useful, allowing me to enjoy meat, dairy, and yes vegetables too. I love vegetables, but I don’t think I could go full-time vegan. No butter, eggs or cheese? It’s a bridge too far.
At Creation Wines in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near Hermanus, the current wine and food pairing menu is 80% plant-based (a 100% vegan version is available, as are à la carte vegan dishes for lunch and breakfast) and it’s a superb experience. For the die-hards, there are three dishes of fish, chicken and springbok. The menu is called Return to Nature, with a subtitle, Innovative Nostalgia. Not only does it lean towards plants (something that has been gradually happening in the tasting room anyway) but it – developed together with Dr Julienne Fenwick (MBChB) – is inspired by Ayurveda and based on the belief that our health relies on our harmony and balance with the elements.
“Ayurveda is a sequence of eating and a way of life, to optimise blood sugar levels and keep energy high,”said Creation co-owner Carolyn Martin. Therefore we start with a digestive aid that is also an immunity booster, followed by crudités and then “nature nutrient” soup, lining the digestive track with fibre. Slightly richer food is introduced as we go along.
“It’s also about eating seasonal foods, and looking at the time of day, what you eat when,” said Carolyn. “We want people to eat well and eat so they feel better. It’s one thing to go out for a meal and feel you have totally indulged but then the problem is you don’t think you can do that for another six months and we don’t want that, especially with our local market, which is important to us. We know tourism will go through the roof in December but for now, we feel anyway, it’s our responsibility to look after people’s wellness while they are here.”
Carolyn’s husband is JC (Jean-Claude) Martin, cellar master at Creation. Here are his thoughts on the Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon, which is paired with the soup: “It’s quite interesting to compare. The Sauvignon, you go for the fruit, and the Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon – we call it a site specific wine because we don’t express the fruit, we take the skins away as quickly as possible. It’s more mineral – fresh wines that are not too fruity.
“It’s the wine that excites me much more because it’s a true reflection of the terroir where the grapes are grown. When it comes to food pairing, this is the wine the sommelier and kitchen gets much more excited about than Sauvignon, which is easy to understand. It’s a simple wine. It’s a white wine which ages beautifully, up to 10 years.”
For perspective, Creation produces about 80 000 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc vs 6000-7ooo of Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon, which makes it very niche. “Wine is such personal thing. I can’t taste for you, you have your own palate,” said JC. “Whatever makes you happiest, that’s what you must drink.”
The menus can be viewed here.
Creation and art go hand in hand; even the top of the range wines are called Art Of Chardonnay and Art Of Pinot Noir. The estate’s current collaboration is with Kathy Robins, titled RE-TURN, a solo exhibition, with whom Creation shares “a mutual respect and concern for, and interaction with our natural environment. Kathy’s practice, which bridges the fields of fine art and sustainable social development, resonates with the emphasis we place on sustainability within our context.”
Various pieces are placed indoors and out, and I particularly loved the beautiful centrepiece on the table (and also available to buy) which is delicate bronzed branches from the actual vineyards over which you are gazing, set on a base of glass formed from recycled Creation wine bottles.
The best gift you can give yourself, other than a wine and food pairing, is to spend the night at the Voormanshuis, which you can see from the tasting room if you know where to look, as it blends into its surroundings. It’s a peaceful haven for a single person, or a romantic getaway for two. A large open plan room with kitchenette, dining table, couch and bed, it looks out to the east through a window which dominates the front wall. Here too, you are treated to exceptional artworks on the walls, and the evocative Stairway To Heaven sculpture which I still maintain sings when the wind is just right. The outside deck is even more spacious, with deck chairs where you can relax and enjoy the view with your glass of wine (there is a stocked cellar downstairs…), and a braai. There’s a fire stove inside too, which makes it super cosy now during winter. It feels very frontier-woman-like to get up in the morning, put on your dressing gown, and start a new fire while you boil water for coffee. But also modern, because indoor plumbing, therefore the best of all worlds.
If I’d packed the proper attire, I would have loved to follow that with one of the Walks-In-Progress, a series of hikes designed by conservationist Frank Woodbine (well into his 90s now and a living legend in the area). Creation is in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. The “in progress” part refers to the ongoing clearance of aline plants and the rehabilitation of indigenous vegetation. As this continues, the walks will change accordingly. And next time I will better plan, accordingly.
For more information about Voormanshuis, rates and booking, click here.
PHOTO CREDIT: Tamar Thorn ©