Originally published August 2015.
Yasemen Kaner-White with her inquisitive international spirit and passion for travel, cuisine and unique cultural paradigms, has fostered her career as a writer. She is the author of Lemon Compendium, editor of polo and lifestyle magazine; Fifth Chukker and a freelance journalist with select travel, foodie and wine publications. www.yasemenkanerwhite.com
I first visited here after watching a glorious game of polo set against the magical backdrop of the imposing Table Mountain, at nearby polo club; Val de Vie. I was initially struck by the estate’s sheer size and natural beauty, there was a sense of being transported to a secret hideaway. Less than one hour drive from Cape Town, set within the famed Franschhoek Valley in South Africa’s Western Cape, Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate, a 300 year old, 47 acre area, is really rather special and definitely worth a visit. The perfect abode to be based whilst exploring Franschhoek. Translating as French corner, Franschhoek is synonymous with top-notch wine, as well as being the home to some of the best available eateries of the Cape. A stone’s throw away is Le Quartier Français, headed up by Executive Chef Margot Janse (I’m a big fan), I thoroughly recommend booking in advance for the 3 hour long, 8 course African inspired surprise tasting menu, with the option of wine pairing. At least pop by for a delightful lunch at the The Living Room, for a lighter tapas style menu - having eaten at both, I can wholeheartedly vouch in favour. Likewise, it would be worth a luncheon at La Petite Ferme, listed by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the top 15 'Best Value' establishments in the world, again, located close by and divine.
Having endured years of persecution from the Catholic church, in 1681, on 31st December, swarms of Huguenots who were French Protestants, escaped France, making their way to ‘The Cape of Good Hope’. Many of whom were skilled wine farmers, they begun the legacy which still stands today. This French influenced village hosts an array of antique shops, luxury outlets, The Franschhoek Motor Museum and Huguenot Memorial Museum for the meanderer in you. Nearby fly fishing, hiking trails, polo and paragliding feeds your adventurous side. If however, you didn't want to venture outside, rather preferring to stay within the enclave of the Grande Provence estate, there are plenty of things to do. Take a walk around the premises among the stunning wine-lands or the sculpture garden, treat yourself and eat a locally inspired meal at the restaurant, kick-back and read a book in the luxury accommodation on offer, either; The Owner’s Cottage or La Provençale, or take a peak into the winery for a wine tasting experience. There is also an opportunity to nurture your creative side with a trip to the estate’s gallery - home to some of South Africa’s contemporary works by local elite artists, you can also spend your leftover rand at the on-site shop.
Eating in Grande Provence
The restaurant framed by mountains and the stunning sculpture garden, ensures a meal here is bound to give a lasting memory. Executive Chef Darren Badenhorst, a master of sous-vide cooking, talked with me about the importance of it’s location, “a lot of the influence comes from the fact that we are in the wine-lands, within my cooking I use the grape skins to add tartness, the juice for pickling and the staves and vine trimmings for smoking.” Foraging, which is becoming big in South Africa, also dominates his menu, with “edible flowers, berries and an array of seasonal mushrooms from the nearby pine forests”. When asked why he focusses on French/Asian cuisine, he says, “there are so many influences in the South African cuisine, it’s acceptable to mix; the cuisine ranges from Cape Malay in Cape Town to Indian in Durban, it’s impossible to put your finger on what is South African, the diversity of it, is a good thing but it’s not quite as flashy as other cuisines, so for example Asian cuisine, you can play with it a lot, the French side reflects the culinary building blocks - I was trained the classical French way, so I use that to build on”. To really capture the surrounding area, I would recommend the Beetroot cured Franschhoek Smoked Trout Gravlax.
The dinner menu (R525.00 per person) is served with an amuse-bouche, chef’s taster, palate cleanser and a pre-dessert. The à la carte lunch menu (R375.00 per person) is structured as a three-course dining experience. Stand out dishes from the menu include the chef’s sous-vide quail, paired with the Grande Provence White, which scored 95/100 points in the magazine’s Cape Mediterranean tasting. The ocean risotto, a cacophony of seafood symphony paired with the Grande Provence Chardonnay is also a winner. Herbivores can tuck into a truffled gem squash and courgette cannelloni, a medley of red pepper pearl barley, 24-hour salt-cured and roasted cauliflower florets, almonds and vanilla parsnip perfectly paired with Grande Provence ‘Vignerons Reserve’ Viognier, so they certainly don't feel short changed. The all important puddings include spheres of chocolate melt-in-the-mouth mousse and honey bavarois bursting with the flavours of spiced honey hazelnut meringue and wild rose apple, topped with almonds and vanilla crumble. Warm vanilla, coconut and tonka bean sago with a bubbly touch of champagne, saffron white chocolate crème, almonds and toasted coriander glass is just another tantalising alternative. If you are feeling romantic or wanting a low-key affair, order a Grande Provence Rustic French Style Picnic (R245 per person) and enjoy under the oaks in the beautifully landscaped gardens amidst the vineyards. Expect a bottle of your choice from their Angels Tears range, a French baguette, artisanal brie, locally cured saucisson, homemade preserves and butter, decadent chocolate brownies, garden salad, still or sparkling water and a host of yummy add-on’s for a nominal fee.
Grande Provence has been catapulted into the international wine arena. Much to the delight of winemaker Karl Lambour, who began his tenure at Grande Provence in 2012. “We have access to an incredible and venerable 33 year old Chenin blanc vineyard. It produces wonderfully concentrated but low yielding fruit from its gnarled vines. I found a little block of Viognier high on the slopes of the Franschhoek mountains that gave such amazingly perfumed grapes that I had to keep it separate. These two special sites combined, make up the superb Grande Provence White,” says Lambour.
The maiden Grande Provence White 2013 (R350), its flagship White scores the highest rating awarded in a tasting of Cape Mediterranean Whites by UK based Decanter magazine. A formidable blend of Chenin blanc and Viognier, and one of only two wines to be categorised as “outstanding” with a score of 95/100 in the current edition of Decanter magazine. With the emphasis on expressing fruit and texture, the wine was aged in older wood (500L) for 12 months before bottling. The tasting panel comprising three UK Masters of Wine, Tim Atkin, Adrian Garforth and Greg Sherwood, reviewed an extensive line-up of South African wines representing a diverse range of Mediterranean grape varieties. The tasting focused on Mediterranean grapes in general, not just blends and featured the cream of South African producers. Atkins describes the wine as “smart” with “good ageing potential” whilst Garforth highlights the “mineral taut nose” and “zesty finish”. The “interesting oak and gunflint aromas” caught Sherwood’s attention. All three panelists rated the wine 95/100 individually.
Monthly ‘Wine & Dine Collaboration’ events present another opportunity to sample both the estate’s formidable food and drink combined. Executive Chef Darren Badenhorst crafts a sumptuous six course menu, enhancing the unique characteristics of the featured wines for the evening. Why not try and grab a seat at one of the upcoming:
31 July – Shiraz (Hartenberg Wine Estate, Eagles Nest Wines & Lammershoek)
21 August – Red Blends (Joostenberg, Warwick Estate & Hermanuspietersfontein)
25 September – White Blends (De Morgenzon, Strandveld Vineyards & Tokara)
23 October – Sauvignon Blanc (Daria, Steenberg & Klein Constantia)
May, June, July and August 2015 at Grande Provence Estate when staying at The Owner’s Cottage and La Provençale Cottage.
50% discount off rooms for Bed & Breakfast guests staying at La Provençale.
25% discount off rooms for Bed & Breakfast guests at The Owner’s Cottage, including a dinner for two, at The Restaurant.
25% discount off for exclusive-use guests staying at The Owner’s Cottage.