Michel Roux

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Out and about in South Africa - Irish Sunday Independent


Up in the rolling winelands of Wellington, the wonders don’t dim, they just change flavour. One person who knows plenty about this is Roger Jorgensen.
Describing himself as “just a farmer looking for an edge”, he began producing handcrafted, artisan spirits after the Apartheid ban on distillation was lifted. Jorgensen’s Distillery is now on the slow-food map for its potstill brandy, traditional spelt vodka and gin flavoured with wild herbs and berries. We’re welcomed like old friends to his period farmhouse, where, with phrases like “top-notes” and “accents”, he enraptures us about czars, stills and absinthe. “90% of our product stays in South Africa,” he smiles. “Local is lekker.”
We could stay all night but we have an appointment out at Bontebok Ridge, a private game reserve in the Limietberg Valley. The sun is setting as we drive slowly through the fynbos past zebra, springbok and wildebeest. Diffused dusk colours are washing the rocky hills in pinks and violets as our host pours buttery chardonnay for our “sundowner”. Bontebok Ridge fulfils a role as a place for busy Cape Town professionals to exhale, but it does the job for Irish ones too.

“Doolhof” is the old Afrikaans for “maze”, and the word lends itself to the Doolhof Wine Estate, where knots of cliffs and passes allow only one way in and out. Nestled in among the 380 hectares of vineyard, garden and horse paddock, the estate’s manor house presides. This is Grand Dedale, our five-star lodgings and the subject of many Lotto-fantasy conversations since.
Dressed in cool whites, greens and blues, the spacious 18th Century abode is disarming, from the second you step on to the long veranda. All is calm and collected. A couple swirl wine on the terrace and a cat pads along the polished marble floors. Our room is one of six individually appointed masterpieces of muted interior design. Less is more.

It’s all pleasingly understated, a quality prone to Southern Hemisphere nations. I’ve seen a New Zealander describe an All Black rugby stampede as “a bit of footie”. or Australians call cordon bleu food “good tucker”. South African’s have it in spades, that ability to let perfect sunsets, birds and beasts and dramatic landscapes do the talking. Under a full moon on the veranda of Grand Dedale, our tummies and souls smiling, we’re reminded that man is an impressive creature too. Lest we forget.

Grand Dedale
“VERY hard to find as well as leave” was our guest-book note at this jewel in the wine lands of Wellington, an hour from Cape Town. Once the private residence of the owners of the Doolhof wine estate, this extraordinarily tasteful five-star country hotel had some of the best cuisine, luxury and service we’d found on our trip — or anywhere, in fact. Make a promise right now, this instant, to visit Grand Dedale before you die.

Courtesy of Hilary A White