There can be few landscapes more evocative of the rural Cape than that of Val du Charron – the iconic gabled farmstead, the whitewashed ringmuur, orchards and vines all set in an exquisite valley edged with mountain ranges.
Nicely named to encompass Wellington’s earlier name - Valley of the Wagonmakers - while adding a Gallic tribute to the Huguenot founders, the beautiful 45ha Val du Charron is in the Bovlei, in itself a district worth visiting for beauty, history, hospitality and good wine.
Just over a decade ago the Entwistle family bought the neglected fruit farm, first registered at the close of the 17th century, and set about restoring it. Once again English settlers have joined Afrikaners in this region, confirming a pattern that has been developing over the last few decades with beneficial, even synergetic, results.
Val du Charron is today a renowned destination offering a choice of luxurious accommodation, fine fare and some fascinating wines. The farm acquired estate status some five years ago and today produces two wine ranges, the Val du Charron Reserve, comprising chardonnay, pinot gris, shiraz and cab, while their Theatre of Wine presents a trio of blends.
Catherine Entwistle sent me a pair of blends, plus the 2017 pinot gris from the reserve range. Pinot Gris is an uncommon cultivar at the Cape, consisting of just .35% of the Cape vineyard area. I have found some previous examples rather characterless, so was keen to see what Bovlei terroir produced. This one is pleasing without overwhelming, crisp and fresh, offering sufficient fruit, both citrus and melon, along with discernible structure and with moderate 13% alcohol levels. A portion of the harvest from the eight-year-old vines was barrel fermented which no doubt helps account for fullness and good mouthfeel. Cellar door price is R89.
My favourite wines of the moment are chenin-led blends, so it did not take me long to unscrew Four White Legs, a 2015 vintage comprising 38% chenin blanc, 28% pinot gris, 18% roussanne and 16% viognier. In a word – delicious! From its complex nose combining stone fruit with vanilla to wafts of flavour on the palate, fruit, cream and honey, full-bodied but retaining freshness. Fourie harvested the components over two and half months, and matured a portion of each in French oak, mostly second fill, for eight months. Alcohol levels at 14% are a little high for today’s tastes, but at R59 from the farm, I certainly would not let that detract me from a great buy.
This is also a chenin blend with a delightful story behind its unusual name which is spelled out on the back label - suffice it to reveal that the four legs are those of a horse.
The tale behind the Black Countess red blend is also printed on the back label – this involves a British remittance man from Wellington who met the daughter of a freed slave in the Northern Cape. The couple settled in Wellington and in 1883 the man, Harry Grey inherited the title of Earl of Stamford and his wife became the Countess. They stayed in this country, undertaking the building of schools and uplifting the poor.
The wine is a shiraz-led blend finished with 21% mourvèdre and 5% grenache. Medium-bodied, well-rounded with berry flavours alongside some herbiness, the oak adding a dash of vanilla. French and American oak were used for 12 months maturation. Alcohol levels just over 14% and the farm price is R99.
Val du Charron also produces a merlot, malbec and other red blends.