Paarl, Stellenbosh and Surrounds: Cheese and Wine Tour Review
Cheese and Wines of the Cape: Tour by Didier
Paarl, Stellenbosh and Surrounds
Western Cape Winelands
Will pick you up? Yes, from city
Cost per person: R675
Departs from: Dunkley Square
Duration: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sites visited: Foxenburg Estate, Rose Garden Vineyard, Fairview, Anura Wines and Forest Hill Cheesery, La Masseria, Personal cheesery
SA Blog recommends? In a heartbeat!
Finally, we waded our way through Stellenbosh to a cheesery in a small garage in the suburbs of Somerset West! With 40 years of cheese-making experience, the owner is the only person in the country creating Stilton blue cheese.
(See full review below.)
Tour guide(s): Didier Bertrand
E. M. Forster claimed, “One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.” I believe that the owner and lead guide of Cheese and Wine Tours, Didier, is living proof of this statement.
French born-and-raised, Didier grew up drinking wine and fetching the best cheese for the family’s supper. When he moved in Botswana and later, South Africa, he noticed a severe lack of edible cheese.
Didier sought out exclusive cheeseries, and soon his friends and family wanted insiders tips as well – and thus the idea of cheese and wine tours was born.
The tour starts early, around 8 a.m. There are two others besides myself, so we all take one car. As Didier drives to the Paarl region for our first stop at Foxenburg Estates, he peppers us with facts on the land, its history and, of course, wine and cheese.
At Foxenburg Estates, we are given a tour of the goat cheese-making process, and then sit down to eat a breakfast of assorted cheeses with the owner, Marianne and head cheese-maker Mariel. For the next hour we linger, talking with them and learning about everything that goes into creating an all-organic farm. I pick up some Gouda-style cheese for R20 and also steal away with 200g of oyster mushrooms for only R10.
Next it’s off to Rose Garden Vineyard, where we have a personal wine tasting with Shalom, the owner. Since it’s the week of harvesting, he has limited time, but still spends almost two hours telling us about the history of the wines and opening up a bottle of rose dessert wine upon request. After learning I am in search of some Kosher wines, he brings out two bottles from his own collection – he also has a boutique winery of Kosher wines down the road, called Eshkol. I picked up some Kiddush wine and the highly lauded Kosher Cabernet Sauvignon for R60 each.
Running behind, we then flitted off to check out Fairview, the largest ’boutique’ cheesery in the country – and the most commercial. They also do an assortment of wines. Here we tasted a few samples and I picked up their award-winning Roydon Camembert, which wasn’t as amazing as the prizewinning stickers lead me to believe, but still a solid R20 investment. There was a nice assortment of gourmet food products also for sale.
We then skidded off for a whirlwind tasting at Anura winery. The also produce cheeses, which we did not have the time to sample.
Our next stop was La Masseria, an Italian-cheese shop. Don told us how cheese had been in his family for generations and let us sample around 15 different types before giving us a tour of the storeroom. My favorite was the Old Farmer’s cheese, which closely reminded me of Parmesan.
Finally, we waded our way through Stellenbosh to a cheesery in a small garage in the suburbs of Somerset West! With 40 years of cheese-making experience, the owner is the only person in the country creating Stilton blue cheese. He also produces a lovely Gouda. We sat around the picnic table in his back yard and discussed the cheese, politics and whatever else we fancied.
Around 6 p.m., fat and happy and more than an hour late (of our own choosing), we waddled back to the car and returned to Cape Town.
The cheese and wine tour was unlike any I have previously experienced. Didier is quick to point out that the cheese makers are real people, with small, fledging operations – and as such, the tour must adjust every day to meet their schedules.
The best way to describe the tour is like driving around with your friend as he takes you to various culinary gems and introduces you to his acquaintances. The time that people spent with us was, in all honesty, astounding. Seeing as how the tour is new this summer, I have a hard time believing that this personal attention will remain as detailed, but hopefully the variety that the tour provides will always ensure a more personal experience that what you’d find in the big tasting rooms.
As a foodie, this is one of the best things I have done in Cape Town.
If you go: Bring sunscreen in case of vineyard wandering and plenty of cash to buy your goodies. Didier brings along a cooler for purchases. Understand the tours change day-to-day, even hour by hour. If you are looking for a highly regimented and polished wine tour on a large bus, or want to drink as much booze as you possibly can in one day, look elsewhere. The focus here is definitely the cheese.
Reservations are essential. A German-speaking guide is also available on request.