What it is
A strikingly beautiful region of mountains and whitewashed Cape Dutch architecture, the Swartland—literally "black land," for the color of its tangled undergrowth—extends north along the Atlantic coast from just beyond the outskirts of Cape Town. Wheat is the staple crop, but the mineralrich soil (shale, cobble, granite) is also ideal for making wines with real character.
Why Go Now
After years of selling Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and some of the country’s best Chenin Blanc to top producers in Stellenbosch and Paarl, Swartland’s grape growers are now making their own wines. Weekending Cape Towners, who revel in the area’s tranquillity, have brought with them a measure of sophistication, and a nascent restaurant scene is gaining momentum.
Where to sample Swartland’s best bottlings: Allesverloren Wine Estate (Rte. 311, Riebeek West; 2722/4612320; Allesverloren.co.za; lunch for two $35) Five generations of the Malan family have harvested and vinified grapes on this farm, dubbed All is Lost after a 1704 fire. Now Danie Malan has converted a turreted 18thcentury cottage, formerly used as a dairy and a pigpen, into a tasting room. Sample their port, a sweet yet refreshing sevengrape field blend. And don’t miss the Allesverloren pizza (grilled calamari, fresh tomatoes, and avocado) at the winery’s restaurant. Kloovenburg (Rte. 46, Riebeek Kasteel; 2722/4481635;Kloovenburg.com) Perfectionist Pieter du Toit crafts only 14,000 sixbottle cases per year on his idyllic estate, but the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernetbased blends are worldclass. Of special note is the stylish, structured Eight Feet, so named because du Toit’s four sons help bottle all 200 cases. Du Toit’s wife, Annalene, sells handmade jams, tapenades, pestos, and chutneys onsite.Pulpit Rock (Rte. 311, near Riebeek West; 2722/4612025;PulpitRock.co.za; appointments required on Saturdays) This fastrising, threeyearold winery, one of the area’s most modernlooking, focuses on singlevariety wines, including one of South Africa’s most lauded Pinotages and a warm, rich Shiraz. The small selection of tastingroom treats includes droewörs, a dried sausage made from local game (springbok, oryx) by owner Ernest Brink. Sadie Family (Aprilskloof Rd., Paardeberg; 2721/8698349; appointment required) Behind Paardeberg Mountain, at the end of five miles of rutted dirt road, is a shed with an old brick barrelroom and no tourist amenities. It’s worth the trip. After traveling the world in search of winemaking wisdom, Eben Sadie, 35, returned to his native South Africa, where he’ll tell you all about soil composition and the importance of vintage variation, then serve you two of the best wines made in South Africa, including the incomparable Columella, a Syrahbased blend.