By Andy Brown
Senior Underwriter at Consort
To coincide with a visit to Consort by our Lloyd’s Energy Facility underwriters in August, we arranged an inaugural Wine Estate day at Blaauwklippen Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. The day also provided an opportunity for our guests to meet with some of our Service Providers on both a national and local level.
Having gotten through some important business discussions early in the day transport was on hand to ferry our party of eleven to Blaauwklippen. Upon arrival we were met by one of the Ambassadors who introduced the day’s proceedings.
Set amongst the most delightful scenery in the region and situated a short drive outside Stellenbosch, Blaauwklippen proved to be the ideal venue for our respective presentations. Luckily, the weather also played its hand in making the day a memorable one with clear blue skies, warm sunshine, and no wind.
Blaauwklippen is one of the Cape’s oldest farms, having been established in 1682. The first grapes were planted on the farm in 1688. An interesting piece if trivia is that Cecil John Rhodes acquired the farm in 1899 but his ownership only lasted for one day!
The first Zinfandel vines, a variety not widely planted in this region, were established in the vineyards in 1977 and the first Zinfandel wine was produced by the estate three years later. Blaauwklippen has continued to produce wine using the Zinfandel cultivar since that time and is the first winery outside of the USA to be recognised by the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP).
The first item on the agenda was a Sabrage demonstration performed by our host Sheppard. This involves opening a champagne bottle with a sabre, a very handy skill to have if you left the opener at home! Needless to say, the event turned into a competition between England and South Africa to open the bottle with a single cut of the sabre. Fortunately, the score was a one all draw without any blood being shed.
A tour of the cellars followed during which we were taken through the winemaking process from the time that the grapes are picked, delivered to the cellar, and crushed, through the various fermentation stages and into the barrel maturation stage from where bottling is done. One thing that we all came to appreciate is the patience and expertise that goes into the production of fine wines.
The cellars are located within the old buildings on the estate which provides a naturally temperature-controlled environment, unlike many modern cellars where temperature is controlled via automation. One can only wonder what the occupants of the slave quarters would have thought if they could have glimpsed the future and seen what now lies within those cold, dark walls today.
Once the cellar tour was complete, we transferred to a private tasting room where some of Blaauwklippen finest wines were tasted and described by the knowledgeable Sheppard. Clear leaders in the favourite stakes were the Red Zinfandel, the White Zinfandel (both flagship wines from this estate) and an interesting wine called “Before and After” which can be drunk either as an aperitif or as an after dinner “settler”. This proved so popular that several bottles were purchased at the end of the day although not all them made it back to the hotel in Cape Town as there was a serious “spillage” problem in the bus where thirst was clearly a problem.
A very interesting variety of cold platters, stylishly and thoughtfully prepared by the Blaauwklippen Restaurant, was served for lunch accompanied by some of the estate’s finest wines.
All in all, a great day was had by all with a lot of good humour, good food and fine wine. The day provided a very good platform for all present to network and socialise and to cement business relationships for the future.