Wine route a good reason to stop at The Crags more often

WHEN men drivers hit the road their sole objective is to move from point A to point B as quickly as the law allows – and sometimes even quicker. That’s why I have passed the Bramon tasting rooms a dozen times without even knowing they were there.

But I had the tip off a few days before heading down the Garden Route last week and this time I made a point of turning off at The Crags and driving a few hundred metres to the Bramon restaurant. There among the vines I met Peter Thorpe, icthyologist and academic turned wynboer, who is helping to transform this fertile country- side near Plett into South Africa’s newest wine- making region.

Already the Wine and Spirit Board has granted Plettenberg Bay its own area of origin appellation rights and several labels are being produced in the Bramon cellar where Anton Smal, recently wooed from Villiera, makes wines not only under the Bramon label but also for surrounding farmers. Among them are members of the Vukani Empowerment Trust which receives a percentage of each bottle sold under the Vukani label.

Next step, after training in viticulture and winemaking, will be the creation of a wine farm co-operative and much- needed sustainable employment.

For PE people, however, it is simply exciting to know that a wine route is now taking shape little more than two hours’ drive away. There are 20 farms in the area and Bramon alone, with 15ha of productive vine, has a further 20ha planted. A second winery is in the offing and the format of the new Plettenvale wine route is under discussion – perhaps a bus ride or simply a map giving directions to participating producers.

Conditions in the area are well suited to cooler climate cultivars and thus it was that Peter launched The Crags label with a sav-blanc and a Methode Cap Classique (MCC), unusually based on the same cultivar. All MCCs I know of are made from chardonnay with some pinot noir, but Plettenvale’s first bubbly has rejected the conventional and, given Platter’s complimentary comments, I’m looking forward to cracking my promotional bottle at the appropriate moment.

The sav-blanc, however, was tested the same evening under the Outeniquas and it gave me no reason to believe that Cape grapes are intrinsically better than Plett’s. The fresh 2012 vintage is dryish and bristling with crispy lemon grass and gooseberries which makes the R85 online price reasonable for a hand-crafted wine.

Given the experiments now being conducted with many other grape varietals I’ll be stopping at The Crags more often.

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