KwaZulu Natal is not know for its wine. When you think South African wine, you thing “The Cape.” But this little wine estate in the Midlands is giving the Capies a run for their money.
Abingdon Wine Estate is small – for a winery – with just 3.5 hectares under vines. It is a single vineyard boutique wine producer, the only one certified in KZN. All the grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay, are grown and processed here on the farm. The setting is idyllic, in the rolling hills of the Midlands, close to Howick. And it is becoming a very popular destination on the Midlands Meander.
According to the website, “Abingdon’s maiden vintage, the Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2007, was the first ever certified estate wine made in KwaZulu-Natal. 2010 saw the release of five new certified Estate wines, as well as the first Chardonnay and Wooded Viognier released in January 2011 and a Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve released in August 2011 – all representing KwaZulu-Natal Wine of Origin.”
Mick and Debbie belong to a wine club that is sort of defunct now, as a lot of the members have emigrated, but the remaining six, and me, enjoyed a wonderful afternoon there. As Abingdon had received a great write up in the Durban paper the day before, we thought it might be very busy. But Mick had made a reservation so there were no problems.
The drive up to the cellar is a rather bumpy road, but lined with row upon row of grapes that look amazingly healthy. We opted to sit outside under the arbors, with a lovely cool breeze. Our host, Jane Smorthwaite gave us a run down on the three wines available and we decided to taste them all. Along with the wines, we had a lovely mezze platter, with samplings of local cheeses, cured meats and fruit all served with heavy, homemade bread.
The first one we tasted, the Chardonnay-Viognier blend ended up the favorite, but Jane said it was very young and the Chard would become more apparent in the next few months. Debbie described it as “lively,” and I tend to agree, it left a tingle on the tongue. The other two, a Blanc de Noir and Syrah, were also excellent. It could have been that the afternoon temperature lent itself more to the white.
We also had lunch! And they have absolutely delicious food, served beautifully. Lamb medallions, steak, fish pie in what looked like a very flaky pastry and much more, including dessert! Oh dear, there goes the diet!
Between courses, Jane took us on a tour, showing us the different vines and fruit. The grapes are all harvested and processed by hand. The rows are netted to stop the birds from feasting but we could see the masses of clusters, almost ready to harvest. Jane and her husband are looking for five days of no rain so they can harvest the Chardonnay, and the rest will happen in the next few weeks.
Perhaps I will head up there during harvest for more pix – and another wine tasting session.