We are spoilt for choice when it comes to wine tasting in and around Cape Town. So many wine estates with so many great offerings, it’s often quite difficult to actually decide where to go. But on a recent visit to La Motte in Franschhoek, I found my kind of tasting experience. Something a little more sophisticated, unusual and informative.
Cape Town is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and that is largely because the Western Cape is a world leader in wine tourism. Our wine routes are well developed and offer a broad selection of experiences. The large number of wine estates means that there is healthy competition between them and that competition leads to continual innovation and improvement of every aspect of the various offerings.
While restaurants are often a draw card, the focus of a wine estate should be the actual wine tasting experience. Many estates offer a top class wine tasting experience in a stylish tasting centre, with knowledgeable staff and perhaps a stunning view. In order to differentiate themselves, many wineries have developed novel paired tastings. There are more traditional pairings like cheese, chocolate or canapés, and then there are the avante-garde pairings like pancakes, artisanal salts, pizza and olives. Some estates take unusual to the extreme by pairing their wines with crazy things like cupcakes, ice cream and nougat!
While I realise there are many that will enjoy these novel and fun pairings, I’m personally more interested in learning more about wine when I do a tasting. I’ve done a million tasting in my life so I really enjoy a wine tasting that gives me the opportunity to taste wines that I might not get to taste ordinarily and I like to have my questions answered by someone knowledgeable. That is what I experienced at La Motte when I was invited to enjoy their Vinoteque Tasting.
La Motte has a lovely, stylish tasting facility with tables that can accommodate large and small groups. It’s not a very large wine tasting facility, that’s because the tasting staff will present the wines at your table personally and the La Motte wines are serious wines that deserve consideration and time. This tasting of current vintages is R50 per person. I’ve done the current vintage tasting a few times before, but on my most recent visit we were there specifically for the Vinoteque Tasting.
The Vinoteque tasting experience is hosted in a private tasting room, accessed through the barrel maturation cellar. Groups of up to 8 people can be accommodated but they will do the tasting for as few as 2 people. Groups larger than 8 would be split into 2 smaller groups. The cost is R200 per person and when you consider the wines that are presented, it’s good value.
We were hosted by Werner Briedenham, the facility manager at La Motte. He presented us with 2 vertical tastings, one was the Millennium and the other was the Cabernet Sauvignon. For both of them we tasted 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009. I love vertical tastings, it’s always interesting to see how wine develops over time. We were given printed notes on each wine which was useful in comparing the different variables as Werner walked us through each vintage and explained the winemaker’s approach to each. This sort of tasting is when you learn the impact of terroir and climate on the wines. For every vintage the winemaker has to determine how the grapes have been affected and adjust various things like the amount of wood and time required to ensure the wine is consistently at the standard to which La Motte holds themselves.
What I love about vertical tastings is the reminder that when you work with nature, things are never the same. In a world of homogeneity where we equate consistency with quality, sometimes it’s important to be reminded that nature is not consistent. You can take the grapes from the same vineyard each year and make wine from the in exactly the same way and each year you’ll get different results. As much as the winemaker can tweak certain variables to try and keep the wine within a certain flavour profile, a vertical tasting reveals how different each year is.
In addition to the Vinoteque Tasting, La Motte offers a Shiraz Comparative Tasting. Shiraz is the flagship variety at La Motte and in this tasting visitors are treated to a tasting of young Shiraz in the barrel to understand the influence of wood on the wine. Various blends, vintages and styles of Shiraz are presented while the intricacies of this popular variety are explained.
If you’re look for a special wine tasting experience, both the Vinoteque and Shiraz Comparative tastings are perfect for those who either take their wine a bit more seriously or would just like to learn more about wine in context. Find more details at the La Motte website.
If you do choose to visit La Motte, I highly recommend booking a table at the restaurant, Pierneef à La Motte. It’s one of the top restaurants in the country and if you can get a table, you should grab it.
La Motte Wine Estate
R45 Main Road, Franschhoek
Tel: +27 (0)21 876 8000
A big thank you to La Motte for inviting me to the estate to experience the Vinoteque Tasting. I did not know that this tasting was available but now it will be my number one recommendation for wine aficionados.