With music by Cyndi Lauper, several Tonys and a Laurence Olivier Award
Peter Falke Wine Farm in Stellenbosch
The boutique winery that will blow your socks off with its elegant vino and old-meets-new verve
Peter Falke Wines crouches against the slopes of the Helderberg Mountains, a bright beacon amidst rampant nature within the Stellenbosch area known as the ‘Golden Triangle’, so-called for its phenomenal terroir (meaning great soil for growing wine).
The property, which sits on Groenvlei Farm, is owned by German hosiery mogul Franz-Peter Falke and his wife, Parisian designer Danièle Falke. Peter Falke socks, luxury foot garments for the well-heeled, are famous throughout the world, and much like the elegant footwear, a day spent on the wine estate also evokes a sense of indulgence.
When the company opened a factory on South African soil in 1960, Franz-Peter became a regular visitor to our shores, but the couple soon tired of hotel life, which led them to buy the wine farm in 1995. Now, two decades later, they’re still passionate about our nation, continue to visit frequently and still derive much joy from their little Stellenbosch winery.
“The farm is a statement of their lifestyle,” says winemaker Werner Schrenk. “When they bought it, it was a spur of the moment decision to make wine and was a choice made solely for enjoyment”.
Werner comes from good South African farming stock and seems slightly bemused when I ask him how long he’s been involved in agriculture. “Always,” he says, leaving no room for doubt.
With this type of pastoral pedigree it comes as no surprise that Werner’s focus isn’t just on wine: he’s added a few slashes to his job description. Tucked under the umbrella of ‘farm manager’, he’s actively involved in the viticulture and has even planted a vegetable and herb garden.
These rustic roots feel especially alien in the Peter Falke tasting room, a space unlike any other I’ve seen. It’s edgy and modern, yet retains warmth, a feat helped along by the deep rouge accents that dominate the estate – as sure a signature from Danièle as lipstick on a mirror would be.
The ‘bar’ is lit with red strip lighting and wouldn’t be out of place in a nightclub, and behind it reaches a tree fashioned out of dead wood, painted white and adorned with a flock of fabulous birds and butterflies – individually decorated with glitter, glass beads and pink and blue feathers.
We’re painting the roses red
We swap the surreal nature scene for the real thing.
Alongside the tasting room is the old manor house, a picture perfect example of 18th-century traditional Cape Dutch architecture. Waterfalls of bright bougainvillea drape over the walls like an assortment of feather boas.
At the rear and in the style of a formal French garden, the property has expansive green lawns hemmed in by low, whitewashed walls. Encased in some of the curves are rose beds – Danièle is said to be a fan of roses (of the red blooms in particular, I’m sure) – and when in season, the roses are for sale to guests visiting the farm.
To add an even more dream-like quality to the estate, randomly placed corkscrews the size of telephone boxes are twirled into the surrounding greenery. The tops of the corkscrews bear the ‘PF’ emblem.
Werner leads us around the side to the vegetable and herb garden. He’s designed it so that each block is planted with a combination of vegetables and edible flowers, as well as different fruit trees. “We’ve got apricots, plums, cherries,” he says, pointing to the beds, which are bordered by thickets of rosemary – an aesthetically pleasing, yet effective method of organic pest control.
Off in the distance I spy a row of trees wrapped in white material flanking a dirt road. “Planted at the base of each tree is an agapanthus bush,” says Werner. “Danièle uses the white background to accentuate the blue-purple colour of the flowers.”
Cotton candy and mushroom
“Every vine grows on its own pole,” Werner explains his approach to viticulture while opening a bottle of wine back in the tasting room (with a regular size corkscrew).
“It’s high density planting: the yield is less per vine, but there are more vines per hectare.” This method is known in Afrikaans as stokke by paal, and Werner believes it results in better quality grapes; although, he admits you need to have suitable soil for it.
He pours a splash of Blanc de Noir, the farm’s top-selling varietal, in our wine glasses. The wine, which is crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, has a colour reminiscent of a pastel pink winter sunset, a light coppery hue that’s a typical hallmark of a French Rosé-style wine. On the nose, it’s all cotton candy and red fruit, and in the mouth, it’s a creamy marriage of strawberries and rhubarb.
“Every time you taste it, it’s different,” says Werner, topping our glasses next with Pinot Noir, which the estate has fast become known for. Swirling the glass by his nose, he says, “Mushrooms, earth tones and a hint of cherry.”
This varietal is delicious; South African Pinot Noirs are too often flat tasting and can be thin on the palate, but this wine is textured, full and rich – a layering of scent and flavour.
We taste through the rest of the farm’s elegant wines, many of which have done the property proud recently by bringing in silver and gold medals at the 2014 Michelangelo International Wine and Spirit Awards (in particular, the spicy Syrah, the velvety Ruby Blend and the crisp, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc). We do the quality of these prize-winners justice by sipping them out of crystal glasses imported from France. Each glass has an interior curved ridge that acts as a decanter would; exposing the wine to air as it’s swished around. The glasses are available to buy directly from the estate.
Also for sale are homeware, tableware and objets d'art (sculptures and ornaments), which are imported by Danièle from around the world.
Vintage watering cans filled with an array of vibrant summer flower and original white-washed walls mark the entrance to The Little Store at Peter Falke Wines.
Situated alongside the wine cellar and a short walk from the entrance to the Tasting Room (one passes the shop entrance on the way from the newly-established parking area), The Little Store is housed in a recently renovated farm building. Inside, a carefully curated selection of local and imported arts, crafts and décor items are displayed alongside farm-grown fresh produce.
Guests can browse everything from ceramics, elegant wooden jewellery and Laguiole knives to French oak serving boards, sweet-scented lavender bags, a range of FALKE socks and Peter Falke golf shirts and caps.
A variety of seasonal produce grown on the farm is also available. Visitors can expect the likes of onions, granadillas, pumpkins, herbs, lavender and roses, harvested daily (subject to availability).
It's often the little touches that add that something extra to a gift or celebration. Already hailed as the destination for leisurely visits with friends over a bottle of wine and delicious food platters, Peter Falke Wines now offers guests the opportunity to take a special, lasting memory home.
The luxury items in the boutique tie in neatly with the couple’s overall philosophy, says Werner: “They never want to be second best.”
The farm produces two ranges of wine: the Signature range, for the ‘discerning wine connoisseur’, and the more accessible, relaxed PF range. A wine tasting costs R45p/p and includes a sampling of both selections (around six to seven wines, depending on availability). Complimentary nuts and olives are served with the wines, but if that doesn’t satisfy your hunger, you can create your own decadent cheese platter or tuck into a fresh European-style salad (in summer): there’s everything from a Caprese salad to a cucumber toss with Swiss cheese and chives to a platter with Parma ham and melon.
Plus, since the tasting room stays open until 7pm (the last round of food and wine will be at 6:30pm), which is quite significantly later than most other farms, Peter Falke Wines is a perfect spot to stop over for serene sundowners on the lawn just before dinner.
A ladybug flits inside and lands on the base of my empty wine glass; her red-and-black polka dot shell fits in so seamlessly with the décor, it takes a second look to confirm she’s not an objet d'art.
By Malu Lambert
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