Living in Cape Town is pretty darn amazing. One of the reasons it’s so amazing is thanks to the ease of access to all the most incredible spots – including the land of the vine, just a 30 minute drive from the city centre. Having just experienced 3 bone chilling winters in a row, it’s no surprise that the moment the beautiful hot summer started, I (Gosia) was at the ready to taste, test and teach myself about what’s new in the zoo of local wine. And it’s no surprise that the new stud of Stellenbosch, Cavalli Wine & Stud Horse Farm, was top of my list.
I first heard about Cavalli from a childhood friend who lives in Somerset West. In between her doting descriptions of ‘the horses basically live in a mansion!’ and the ‘it’s the most impressive and new wine estate out there!’, I knew I had to go. So, I invited 4 friends (not that it’s too tricky to coerce people into going wine tasting) to join me one hot Sunday.
Built in 2013 by Cipla Medpro ex-CEO Jerome Smith, Cavalli is a ‘small side-project’ (from a multi-millionaire’s perspective) located along the R44 right between Somerset West and Stellenbosch. And yes. While the stud horses do have their very own, new age version of what can’t even be called a stable and the innovative architecture of the building still smells of fresh paint, one can quickly tell two things about the farm: these guys are invested in producing high quality wines and they have a talented team of people doing it.
After a meander through what can only be described as immaculately maintained gardens complete with stunning bronze sculptures, the 5 of us wandered into the air conditioned indoors, where we were greeted by a contemporary gallery space, housing a permanent exhibition of notable local works including Stern and Tretchikoff. Unlike most of the Western world, South Africa still has to up its game when it comes to curated art spaces (although exciting projects such as this give me hope), but Cavalli is certainly setting a new standard for the classic combination of wine and art.
Now for the main part of the show. The wine. At present, Cavalli makes two ranges, all named after the studs that Jerome’s clearly talented daughter, Lauren, owns. The lifestyle selection is called the Passions Range (White Knight, Pink Pony and Black Beauty) and the more premium offering is dubbed the Vendetta range (Cremello, Valykrie, Nightmare and Warlord). While the Passions range is made for easy drinking, the Vendetta offering is clearly where the winemaker’s efforts come to light.
So the obvious question stands: Does all this big money and fancy vineyard upkeep a good wine make?
Well … yes and no. At the moment, the wines pass the test – they taste good, are easily swiggable and have outstanding branding (really, I love it). Yet, there is still this certain, practically palpable newness to the wines and the tasting room experience that tainted the wines a little for me. The Tasting Room’s leather couches still need wearing in, and in my humble, so do the wines. They just need more time, a little more refining, before they really shine. But that’s not to say they don’t have potential. They are already good things, but as they say, they’ll get better with time. And boy, will I be back for that.