The news that Altydgedacht, the pearl of Pampoenkraal, is to go on auction confirms the scale of the seismicity in the Winelands. The most sensible buyer from a wine point of view would be Distell as Altydgedacht is the source of Chenin grapes for Razvan Macici’s benchmark Nederburg Edelkeur. Backsberg may also be a buyer as they source Sauvignon Blanc grapes from the farm. But wine pales in comparison to the land value of the farm, located on the fringes of Cape Town suburbia. Who knows, perhaps Bill Foley will overcome his antipathy to SA wine and snap up a bargain? My thoughts on the farm.
Background: Slaves and women are the unsung heroes of the SA wine scene. Many of the big names in today’s cellar were started by the fair sex: Steenberg, Muratie and now almost a suburb of Cape Town, Altydgedacht. A 413ha spread granted to Elsje van Suurwaarde, wife of the Secunde (deputy) of Governor Simon van der Stel in the closing act of the 17th century. The farm was put in Elsje’s name as employees of the Dutch East India Company were prohibited from owning land as Simon’s son Willem Adriaan found out when he was fired for setting up Vergelegen, out in Somerset West. Today the farm is run by John and Ollo, sons of octogenarian Jean Parker, an art teacher from the Eastern Cape, who has supplied grapes to Nederburg for over six decades. Etienne Louw makes the wine.
Artistic Merit: The old joke about Altydgedacht is that if you want to see how wine was made in the Cape fifty years ago, visit Altydgedacht in ten years time. Not much has changed since Elsje’s day. Summer is the best season to visit the rustic tasting room as the coal stove belches clouds of smoke in winter. The 17th century winery built from clay bricks is one of the last surviving original cellars in the Cape.
Unique Selling Proposition: Renosterveld is the name given to pockets of indigenous fynbos that has retreated to the crowns of hills in the Peninsula, driven upwards by farming pressures. On special occasions such as the Seasons of Sauvignon Festival, or by prior arrangement, the Parkers organize botanical fieldtrips in a Unimog or for those with delicate posteriors, in the game viewing vehicle of neighbour Clara Anna Fontein Private Game Reserve. This is the most fun to be had with plants north of Kirstenbosch and a chance to smell hotnots kooigoed (helichrysum odoratissimum) and riots of wild orchids, should not be missed.
Did You Know? While Napoleon was in exile on St. Helena, his secretary, Emmanuel, Comte de Las Cases camped at Altydgedacht, until deported by the British authorities for trying to organize an escape for the petite Emperor from his island prison.
Best Wine: US magazine Wine Spectator hailed the George Spies 1966 Cabernet as “the one true classic wine ever produced in South Africa” and rated it an unprecedented 95 points out of 100. The wine was actually made by Jean Parker and her neighbour Phil Walker from his grapes grown on Morgenster farm. George Spies was a Monis wine buyer who bought wine from Altydgedacht in the 1960s.
Today the farm’s forte is Pinotage, with a berth in this year’s ABSA Top Ten Pinotage list plus one of five finalists in the inaugural Perold ABSA Cape Blend Competition. But Michael Back of Backsberg fame has planted four hectares of Pinot Noir on a south facing slope and the heartbreak grape of Burgundy should soon be shooting out the wine show lights.
In the white department, Altydgedacht Sauvignon Blanc is always a safe bet and the 2011 vintage has delicate nuances of ruby grapefruit that work well with grilled yellow tail.
Food: Eat@Altydgedacht is a rustic restaurant, open for breakfast and lunch, Monday to Saturday from 09h00-15h00. Dine under shady trees next to a bird crowded dam or inside the 300 year old barrel cellar. Home-made meals are tasty and inexpensive and the signature dish is chicken pot pie. Contact Sharon on 021 975 7815 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Pampoenkraal (the original name of Durbanville) is a wedding and private function venue for up to 200 guests. Tucked away in a grove of ancient oak trees, it offers an al fresco dining experience, a thatch lapa, and all cooking done on open fires. Contact Michelle or Lizelle on 021 913 2528 or e-mail email@example.com
Location: GPS waypoints: -33.84746951650101 longitude, 18.624875843524933 latitude.
Directions: Take the Durbanville Avenue exit off the N1 from Cape Town to Paarl and turn left at Tygerberg Valley Road.
Tasting Charge: Free. Nice one!
Open: Monday-Friday: 09h00-17h00; Saturday: 09h00-15h00.
Contact Details: www.altydgedacht.co.za; Tel: 021 976 1295.