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Linger in the Cape-Mediterranean courtyard at Waterford Estate for a taste of chocolate and wine
Ducks greet us happily as we slowly cross over a small pond, and a dust road lined with citrus trees and lavender takes us further towards the Mediterranean-style villa. We are about to ease into the wine-and-chocolate tasting at Waterford, one of Stellenbosch’s premiere wine estates.
More lavender frames the simple stone stairs that lead up to a Cape-Tuscan designed courtyard. At the centre is a fountain around which seating areas, trees and walkways are symmetrically arranged. Everything seems to be in its place. Orange roses on the tables. Even the sand is perfectly raked, for playing boules. No one is in a hurry at Waterford Estate and our city pulse stayed behind in Cape Town. We opt for the inside seating area, which includes couches next to a fireplace.
Unique taste sensation of handcrafted chocolate paired with fine wine
A dedicated wine expert joins us at a table set for the wine-and-chocolate tasting(for which the wine estate is famous for). Three unique wines and three special chocolates are displayed on a wooden board. Cocoa beans and wine both contain tannins, which means they should complement each other nicely. At Waterford, however, the fine Belgian chocolates are specially crafted by Richard von Geusau to match the wines produced on the estate.
First up is the Kevin Arnold Shiraz, paired with Masala Chai Dark Chocolate. Kevin Arnold is the widely acclaimed and much loved senior winemaker that helped to make Waterford famous in South Africa, and by his side work winemakers Francois Haasbroek and Marc le Roux. The terroir of the Helderberg is said to give wine grapes grown here some chocolate mocha flavours, which fuses well with the comforting Asian spices of the chocolate. In fact the smoothness of the shiraz heightens the spice flavours in the wine.
Then the wine tasting continues with a cabernet sauvignon, a varietal that’s said to generally contain the most tannins of all. This classic cabernet is all bitter cherry and cigar smoke; and is paired with Rock Salt Dark Chocolate. The salt neutralizes the tannins, which then gives the wine a significantly smoother edge.
The dessert wine is called the Waterford Heatherleigh (first names of Jeremy Ord and Kevin Arnold’s wives), made from muscat and semillon and paired with Rose Geranium Milk Chocolate. Not being a fan of very sweet wine, I enjoy this milder version when paired with the chocolate.
See, smell, touch and taste what’s inside, and outside the bottle
For a little bit more of an active adventure, Waterford Estate also offers two hour wine drive safaris. This includes a drive through the vineyards with the winemakers themselves and a chance to discover the natural elements that help to create the wine you taste along the way.
The Cape winelands is home to the most intense concentration of flowers and plants on earth, known as the Cape Floral Kingdom. Small bucks and unique birds like the Cape eagle owl may also be spotted along the way. That’s if you can take your eyes off the spectacular vistas of Table Mountain, the Helderberg Mountains.
For a small extra free you also get to taste Waterford’s top wine The Jem (named after the owner of the estate, Jeremy Ord), made from 11 grape varieties. With 93 points in Wine Spectator and 4½ stars in the John Platter Guide, this is the flagship wine of Waterford Estate.
Winemaker Kevin Arnold likes to say that this is "the best wine we can make with what we’ve got". It’s a personal style of wine, unique to Waterford Estate. It’s made of predominantly cabernet grapes, which gives it heavy cassis and berry flavours. The addition of shiraz and mourvedre adds a bit of spice, while some other smaller varieties balance out the flavours. It’s still quite easy drinking for a full-bodied wine and should go quite well with red meat, especially springbok.
The red wine cellar, where the wine is kept in French oak barrels, is decorated with African art and elaborate chandeliers. The wine barrels are neatly stacked and clearly kept with pride.
Waterford Estate doesn’t have a restaurant: it’s all about the wine and the slow pace at which you should be lingering over a glass and a piece of chocolate in the courtyard. "We stick to our business and try to be the best," says Kevin Arnold. Waterford Estate feels like a home, a service-orientated brand with a difference. The people at Waterford feel strong about what’s inside and outside the bottle.
Read more about Waterford's famed wine and chocolate tasting.