Darling, Town of Flowers -- Part Two
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Sunday, October 02, 2016
By Johan Liebenberg
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 Have you been missing Darling? We thought so. Happily, it's time for Part Two of Johan Liebenberg's visit to this quaint South African town. Didn't catch Part One? Click here. You won't want to miss a thing!

Pinot Noir is such a delicate grape, and a lot of winemakers will tell you, it's a real pain to grow. Groote Post produces a beautiful pinot noir, and has won myriad awards attesting to its quality. But I must pause here for a moment and explain why Groote Post’s wines are so successful. Or at least, one of the reasons.

The vineyards are about 20 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean, at a point where the South Pole's icy Benguella stream feeds directly into it. The effect on the vineyards is tremendous. The reason being that cold breezes blow in from the ocean after sunset, extending the hang-time of the grapes, thereby slowing down the ripening process so they fully develop their flavor components.

There’s a lot of hype about the Cape vineyards benefiting from its two oceans, the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. But during my March visit, although it was March, despite it being the height of summer, I had to put on a sweater once the sun went down.

There is a hill on the Groote Post farm. The highest hill in the area, it's called ‘Kapokberg’ which means ‘snowy or frost mountain.’

In the flower season, if you were to gaze up at the hill, you could be forgiven for thinking the crest was covered by a dusting of snow. This is an illusion, for in fact, it's covered in white daisies.

This is where Groote Post grows its grapes that produce award-winning wines. The high altitude, coupled with the icy breezes that roll in after sunset, make it the perfect terroir for producing world class wines. Groote Post's award-winning chardonnay, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc are all grown from grapes harvested from Kapokberg.

Winemaker Lukas Wentzel has really excelled with this neglected varietal; so much so that the 2015, a Weisser Riesling and winner of Gold awards, was sold out. If there was more of this wine around I'm convinced it would be my first choice white. As it happened, I was lucky to secure a bottle before departing.

(Recounted on Nancy V. Richards' Showcook website is this bit of history about Hildagonda Duckitt, the South African writer of "Hilda's Where Is It" (1891)  and "The Diary of a Cape Housekeeper" (1901). Hilda was the daughter of Frederick Duckitt, who acquired the Groote Post in 1839.

Until the day when she received a letter from her young naval officer signing the death knell on their engagement and her passage to England, she led a happy and hardworking life here at Groote Post which she described in her Diary as ‘admirably situated….with a panorama of five hills, on the middle one, Capok Berg from the cloud that often rests on it, is a beacon erected by Sir Thomas Maclear, astronomer royal…..standing on that hill one gets a lovely view of the country for almost a hundred miles around.’

Her grandfather William Duckitt, appointed by the Brits to upgrade the farming in the colony, arrived in the Cape in1800 with a boatload of equipment, livestock and his family and worked Groote Post as an experimental farm for cattle, sheep and crops. Prior to that the Dutch East India Company had used it, together with the neighbouring Klawer Valley for the same purpose also growing grapes in sea breeze swept vineyards.)

Meanwhile, what happened to dear Hildagonda Duckitt, who entertained so lavishly the British officers who visited Groote Post. It's said her heart was broken by a British officer who, after the whispering promises over dances in the drawing room, returned to England?

Is there a saying somewhere, “Don’t give your heart to a sailor?” Well, Hilda's was broken, and her dreams shattered, by the dashing young officer. Word is, he forgot all about her once aboard his Majesty's ship and sailing the high seas to Portsmouth.

And Hildagonda didn’t let on how she felt at being jettisoned. In lieu of London, she moved to Cape Town from her beloved Groote Post, and she never married in the end.

On the Alexanderfontein farm, olive tastings take place. These processed olives are sold in a variety of ways.

Right next to the olive tastings room is one for wine tastings. You won’t be sorry if you spend some time here, as well. The Darling area offers such an excellent terroir for wines, it's not surprising that Alexanderfontein has racked up a number of awards for their wines.

Did I mention the music festivals -- rock, blues and classical -- as well as the theatre productions? Have a look at the Darling website because if I had to go into detail we’d be here for days...

STAY TUNED FOR DARLING, THE TOWN OF FLOWERS, PART THREE.

Darling, Town of Flowers and accompanying photos (with the exception of one from Darling Tourism, as noted) are © 2016 Johan Liebenberg


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