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Haute Cabrière Wine Estate: A Playful yet Powerful Approach to Wine
Sample, share and enjoy award-winning wines and exquisite MCC’s at this esteemed Franschhoek winery
“Drinking Champagne is like jumping onto a cloud,” says Cellar Master and Production Director Takuan von Arnim, a glass of his Pierre Jourdan Brut in hand. “And it’s your decision if you want to get off.”
Today, I’m at Haute Cabrière Wine Estate located approximately 75-kms from Cape Town in one of South Africa’s oldest French heritage towns, Franschhoek. Situated high up on the Franschhoek Pass nestled between the towering mountain tops, the family-run winery – and home of Pierre Jourdan – overlooks the spectacular wine valley boasting some of the most breathtaking views of the Cape Winelands region.
We’re down in the auditorium, which is situated within the working Pinot Noir barrel maturation cellar beneath the estate’s Tasting Room. One of the few underground cellars in the Cape, it was developed in the traditional structure to produce quality wine due to gentle gravity flow rather than aggressive pumping while the cool darkness helps to prevent oxidisation during the sizzling summer months.
Currently set up with church-like pews for seats, the seating arrangement lends a cheeky reverence to the present proceedings and as I take in my surroundings, I realise that visiting Haute Cabriére is like stepping into the home of the von Arnims, the gregarious farm owners whose love of wine and food is infectious. As the oldest son, Takuan is legendary proprietor Achim von Arnim’s ‘heir to the throne’, and with a father who’s often credited as having a larger than life personality, Takuan doesn’t need much help in the cheeky department: quick-witted and with a wealth of one-liners, he makes for a fun and engaging host.
“My parents created a diamond, and we’re polishing it,” says Takuan, who has taken over the reins and the day-to-day running of the estate. History and tradition are integral to this family, so there won’t be any major changes: “We’re just keeping things interesting”, Takuan explains. What is most important to them, you might ask? Sharing and experiencing is the answer and as Takuan explains the family has always just wanted to experience and share their wines with others. “The whole thing about wine is sharing and we want people to share and enjoy the entire Haute Cabriére experience from the food to the wine.”
The wine estate, which is located just two minutes from the centre of Franschhoek, is truly a whimsical sight that’s reminiscent of a dwelling in the Shire. Two arched doorways sitting adjacent to one another are neatly tucked into the side of the mountain, one leads to the upstairs Tasting Room, the other to the eponymous Haute Cabriére Restaurant. Red and white roses as well as lavender abound framing the magnificent view of the Franschhoek valley that spreads out below.
“Length of flavour, length of flavour, length of flavour…,” Takuan is saying. “That’s the most important thing for me when it comes to wine. Nothing worse than drinking something that goes down your throat like lightning.”
It was in the early 80’s that Achim first began producing wine on the farm in the traditional style of the French Champagne region – a rather risky decision in the market owing to the fact that during that time bubbles were considered a celebratory drink and not for everyday drinking. Following the practice of the famous French Champagne houses, Achim planted noble cultivars of Chardonnay and Pinot Nior later producing his first Champagne-equivalent, known in South Africa as MCC (Méthode Cap Classique). Slowly but surely the farm progressed – Haute Cabriére now comprises three working vino farms – as did its deep passion for wine, culture of food and wine pairing as well as the art of sabrage (more on that later!)
These days the estate also makes Haute Cabriére Chardonnay Pinot Noir – a first of its kind – as well as a pure Haute Cabriére Pinot Noir, the revolutionary Haute Cabriére Unwooded Pinot Noir, a Pierre Jourdan Tranquille and a Pierre Jourdan Ratafia (perfect as either an aperitif with duck liver pate or as a dessert wine). The ever-popular MCC is under second label Pierre Jourdan, named after the French Huguenot who was the original founder of the estate. In this range there are three bubblies, one of which we’re currently tasting: the Pierre Jourdan Belle Rose is a blushing beauty that’s copper pink in colour. All of the estate’s wines are fantastically versatile and can be enjoyed on their own or with a variety of different cuisines.
Wandering around the cavernous belly of the cellar, one can see the usual tanks and barrels, but also a side room set up for talks or tastings (happy couples can also get married in the cellar). The moody lighting and Achim’s (and friends) Cubist-inspired colourful artworks on the walls also add to the dramatic yet tasteful effect. “Wine is art, culture and science”, Takuan continues. “It is truly just about having fun and just enjoying yourself.”
After the working cellar tour I’m drawn like a moth to a chandelier made entirely out of (empty) Dom Perignon bottles located near the auditorium. “Mom and dad celebrated my first birthday with a couple of cases of Dom at the exact hour of my birth,” says Takuan indicating to the light fixture. “Luckily it was 4:30 in the afternoon; my sister, Tanja, was born at 6:30 in the morning. Apparently that party was also legendary; people came from all over the world.” Pointing to his family crest, a red and white (the von Arnim family colours) motif on a tile inlaid into the wall: “It stands for blood and honour, but we’re more diplomatic these days and say Chardonnay and Pinot Noir,” he continues with a wink.
Another beautiful Haute Cabriére quality is its commitment to the Franschhoek and farm community. In 2010, the estate founded their Education Centre offering tutoring and day-care facilities for its employee’s children – a wonderful cause that once again demonstrates the estate’s passion to experience and share life (and wine) with others.
Exiting the cellar and Tasting Room via a low-ceiling winding stairwell and onto the estate’s warm and welcoming terrace (perfect for late summer afternoon wine indulging), Takuan hands me a heavy silver sword and gives me a bottle of Brut. He means for me to lop the head off, a technique known as sabrage. With steady aim, he guides my hand holding the magnificent blade along the bottle’s neck connecting the head expertly. It’s a perfect beheading, as well as a perfect ending to the wine-derful day.
Weddings and Functions
What’s more, Haute Cabriére Wine Estate also offers guests their spectacular cellar and restaurant for hire and is well-known for hosting weddings as well as an array of other functions and events. With a variety of venue options to choose from, each with its own unique setting and offering, Haute Cabriére takes pride in offering its visitors the rare opportunity to custom-design and tailor-make an event package to suit the specific needs of their occasion. The wine farm will work alongside the hosts inviting them to view the space, meet Takuan and Executive Chef, Dennis Strydom to taste and discuss the possible menu and wine offering.
More specifically, wedding ceremonies at Haute Cabriére are four-fold: The estate’s magnificent working Pinot Noir barrel maturation cellar (with its soaring cathedral-like arches) offers a unique serene for weddings ceremonies, while the Haute Cabriére Terrace acts as the ideal space to enjoy canapés and drinks after the ceremony. From there the Haute Cabriére Restaurant – which can seat up to 100 quests comfortably – is perfect for the reception dinner and even comes complete with a dance floor. For groups larger than 100 guests, the extension venue (the Tasting Room) sitting adjacent (and inter-leading) to the restaurant can be hired at an additional cost. For more information and quotes, please contact +27 (0) 876 3688 or email [email protected].
NOTE: Every Saturday morning at 11am, Achim von Arnim and Takuan take visitors on a journey through Haute Cabrière's history and wine philosophy in the form of the Cellar Master’s Tour. The tour is capped off with a lesson in sabrage. The wine tasting tour costs R70p/p and although booking is not necessary, it is recommended for larger groups.
Tip: Although largely funded by Haute Cabriére, donations for the Haute Cabriére Education Centre (toys, educational materials or even financial contributions) are always welcomed and appreciated. To learn more about this amazing initiative, please contact Hildegard von Arnim on [email protected].
Opening Hours: Haute Cabriére Restaurant: Tuesday to Saturday: 12pm – 3pm for lunch and Friday and Saturday: 7pm – 9pm for dinner | Terrace: Friday and Saturday: 3pm – 6:30pm
Tasting Room: Monday to Friday: 9am – 5pm | Saturdays and Public Holidays: 10am – 4pm | Sunday: 11am – 4pm
Cellar Tours: Monday to Friday: 11am | Saturday Cellar Master Tour: 11am | Private Tours: By Appointment
The Bill: There is no fee to enter the wine farm, however, the various wine tasting and cellar tour options are billed per person depending on the tasting or tour. Tours and tastings cost between R40 and R80 per person respectively. The Haute Cabriére Restaurant also has its own pricing list.
Haute Cabriére Wine Estate | Lambrechts Road | Franschhoek | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 876 8500 | [email protected]
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