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Viva la Difference at Marianne Wine Estate and Floréal Brasserie
A boutique winery and restaurant near Stellenbosch distinguish themselves by adding a little European magic in their approach to food and wine
It’s not difficult to find top-quality South African wines – particularly in the Cape Winelands. It’s trickier though to find quality older South African wines. To keep cash flows vigorous, many wineries produce wines that are best drunk young. These are sold as soon as they come off the bottling line. However, a boutique winery nestled in the foothills of the Simonsberg between Paarl and Stellenbosch is swimming against the tide by adding a little à la française to the way it does things.
The estate’s recently relaunched restaurant is simultaneously making its mark as a relaxing and picturesque setting for families to enjoy great food created from the finest local ingredients in a modern European style.
Owned by Frenchman Christian Dauriac and named for the iconic, fictional French symbol of liberté (freedom), égalité (equality) and fraternité (camaraderie), Marianne Wine Estate was established in 2004 with the idea of treating some of the Cape’s finest fruit to a bit of Bordeaux pampering. Christian owns three chateaux in the Bordeaux area, including Chateau Destieux, a member of the famous Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classe and Chateau La Clemence in world renown Pomerol, home to some of the most expensive and collectable wines in the world. On arriving in the Cape he and his friend, eminent Bordeaux-based winemaker Michel Rolland, set about creating a blueprint to produce French-style wines that pay homage both to the terroir of the Cape and the Bordeaux’s 2 000-year-old winemaking heritage.
The result? A range of rich, nuanced wines that, while delightful earlier than historically typical of Bordeaux-style wines, have exemplary ageing potential. These days, with the now 20-year-old vineyards delivering fabulous fruit, South African winemaker Francois Haasbroek continues the tradition, producing characterful and beautifully balanced wines, which are released a minimum of three years after the harvest but have bottle-ageing potential of at least ten years.
“A wine’s quality is greatly influenced by the yield of the vineyard,” explains Marketing and Sales Director for Marianne, Tom Prior. “We use only estate fruit, managing our vineyards all year round. Importantly, we limit yields to around 5 tonnes per hectare. Essentially, we could double the yield and the quantity of our production but Christian’s overiding mantra is quality of quantity. He did not get into the wine game to create another supermarket brand en mass. He’s made his money elsewhere and this success has allowed him to find land in prime Bordeaux and Stellensboch from which to produce his pride and joy… and show off a little no doubt.”
Proof of this is in the tasting and the estate has pulled out all the stops in this regard. A stylish and spacious tasting room offers several different options,
including the revered Wine and Biltong Pairing experience, a line- up of five different wines; three red wines paired with beef, kudu and springbok biltong. Insightful cellar tours are also available all year round – great fun when harvest time is on. Get in touch directly with due notice and Marianne will pull out the stops for bespoke experiences, accommodating vineyard drives, a winemaker experience, wine blending experience, barrel tastings and even wine and music pairings.
“Between us, we’ve visited a lot of tasting rooms here and abroad. The team sit weekly to discuss the experience we can offer… what they’ve enjoyed elsewhere, what they haven’t. We want the experience here to be approachable, engaging and to offer something to guests of varying interest or knowledge in wine. Many of our guests are visiting SA for the first time – it may even be a once in a lifetime trip and if we’ve been singled out as a destination, we want them to be rewarded.
Similarly local guests may visit off the back of trying our wine over a restaurant dinner, arriving with an affinity and story to tell. Some of our Wine Club members visit weekly, enthusiastic to show the farm to friends and family, or to see what is new. Loyalty is really important to us, so we have to keep them guessing each time they visit! Perhaps opening a an impromptu barrel tasting, a future vintage or something from our reserve stock. The reviews and social media interaction has been really encouraging since we launched the tasting room in 2013. We take genuine pride in the experience and heartily celebrate in-house a staff member receiving top feedback.” says Tom.
And if you’re keen to continue learning after you leave, you can become a member of the Marianne Wine Club, which keeps you informed about events and releases. Members also enjoy discounted access to purchases from the cellar door with free delivery, complimentary tastings and preferential rates on Marianne Wine Estate Country House bookings. Accommodation is offered on the farm by way of eight luxurious en suite rooms.
But the Marianne tasting venue isn’t only about pleasing your palate and learning as you do so, the centre also has a spectacular 360-degree view of the Winelands. To the north, the Simonsberg rises up in craggy glory. Gaze out front from the deck and the vineyards of the Cape stretch out endlessly before you in pastoral splendour. To the southeast, you’ll see an unusual corner view of Table Mountain, which is breathtakingly beautiful at sunset. And because, unlike most other wine tasting venues that close at 5pm, Marianne’s tasting room is open until 7pm every day of the week, tasting wine at sunset is an attractive proposition on the farm, which is just 35 minutes from Cape Town.
Certainly, it’s well worth taking the short drive from the city to enjoy the Marianne Wine Estate experience, more so if you include a meal at the farm’s restaurant Floréal Brasserie at Marianne.
Located in a shady, cool spot alongside a pretty lily pond, the revamped 60-seater restaurant is in the capable hands of chef Ian Lilley. Having earned his culinary stripes as head chef in some of London’s most acclaimed kitchens before wielding the spoon at his own catering company as executive chef for years, Ian moved to the Cape with his South African-born wife Ulrike and their two young children earlier this year to open Floréal.
“Working in the hospitality industry makes spending time with your family difficult,” he says. “Ulrike and I decided we wanted to create an environment that would give us the chance to demonstrate to our children the value of good quality family time. When I first visited Marianne Wine Estate, I saw that it would be possible to create a relaxed but superb dining experience here for the entire family while enjoying life as a working family man.”
Family is at the centre of the child-friendly restaurant. A cleverly positioned play area on one side of the ample-windowed building means you can watch your children as you dine without being disturbed by their happy noises, which also pleases those guests who prefer child-free dining. Ian and his team also serve meals on shaded picnic tables alongside the pond. Or if you prefer, you can order a picnic basket and take your lunch, blanket and pillows a distance away.
“The idea is to offer great value for money and also great tasting food,” says Ian. “We’re taking South African ingredients and giving them a modern European twist. Because we are a small, hands-on team, we’re flexible and creative, and work closely with local suppliers to create the kind of meals and experiences our customers want.”
Floréal’s kudu burger, ostrich carpaccio and open springbok lasagne are particularly popular with tourists, while locals love Ian’s steak, pork belly and Sunday lunch. A yoga class followed by breakfast is offered at Floréal each Wednesday morning and on Friday nights you can enjoy live jazz with your steak meal.
It’s not difficult to find quality food and wine in the Cape Winelands. It’s harder however to find estates and restaurants that aren’t afraid of doing things differently, which is why a visit to Marianne and Floréal should be on the top of your list of places to visit this season.
Tip: The Marianne Wine Estate and Floréal Brasserie teams pride themselves on their ability to provide bespoke food and wine experiences. Don’t hesitate to contact them should you wish to organise an event or do something out of the ordinary. And don’t forget, if you want to stay over the Marianne Wine Estate Country House accommodates eight couples.
The bill: Wine tasting options include five wines, plus a welcoming glass of Rosé for R50p/p; wine and biltong pairing R75p/p;bespoke experiences subject to budget. Meals served at Floréal Brasserie are excellent value for money. For example, you can enjoy a Winelands platter for two for just R130, a gourmet kudu burger for R95, three-course Sunday lunch with a complementary glass of wine for R225 per adult and R95 per child under 12. Keep an eye out for the launch of Friday jazz evenings, you can listen to live jazz while enjoying a steak or burger for R250p/p, including a cheeseboard for the table.
by Penny Haw
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