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Spice Route Winery, South Africa

Spice Route is a new winery attraction in Paarl, 45 minutes from Cape Town and next to Fairview winery. Fairview, with its cheesery and goat tower is a long standing popular tourist destination. Two years ago, Fairview owner Charles back bought the adjacent property to show case his Spice Route label.

Spice Route wines are grown and made too far inland to attract much tourist traffic. Its new home has plenty of space for visitors and many attractions in addition to tasting the excellent Spice Route wines.

Locals tell me that there has been advertising, but both car parks were packed and the formal restaurant was fully booked inside.

The property has wonderful views from high over a valley of vineyards and reservoirs to a majestic range of mountains opposite. We lunched outside and watched clouds dramatically tumble over peaks.

Wine is not the only drink available. You can visit the craft brewery and drink its products at Barley and Biltong, a casual restaurant serving platters of dried meats and cheeses and German style sausages cooked for you over a braai (barbecue) in the garden. There’s seating inside a glass walled restaurant and tables on the lawn outside.

On another lawn, under the shade of huge oak trees and again with beautiful views, is a wood-fired pizzeria, flammkuchen and tapas restaurant. Next to that is a distillery where you can taste schnapps and grappa sitting on a balcony overlooking the valley.

A glass blowing studio produces colourful artistic works you can watch being made and purchase those that take your fancy.

But the highlight for me was ‘Bean to Bar’ on-site artisan chocolatier. Pieter de Villiers was making chocolate in his garage when Charles Back invited him to make use of a building on the Spice Route property. Starting with a sack of cocoa beans sourced from plantations in South America and Africa the de Villiers do everything here. I viewed chocolate being mixed, and the finished products being hand-packed through the glass walls of the small factory.

Then I sat at a U-shaped counter for a chocolate tasting (fee 35 rands). First we were invited to bite into raw cocoa beans which are the seeds of the cocoa fruit. Looking rather like a peanut with a thin skin, the pea sized beans tasted intensely of chocolate. Most commercial chocolate uses very few of these beans to flavour their products, but de Villiers’ chocolate is 70% cocoa butter and no other flavourings, giving a concentrated experience to savour. We tasted six chocolates, showing the subtle differences between cocoa varieties and countries where they were grown. You don’t need to eat much of these incredible chocolates to get your fill.

Next door is a coffee shop where you can see coffee beans being roasted and ground, with a selection of cakes and pastries and a ice-cream counter.

I’ve not said much about the wines. Spice Route — the name refers to the historic spice trade sea route around the Cape which was settled to replenish ships — are first rate wines. Charles Back was first to see the potential and to invest in Swartland where Spice Route grapes are grown. Newly added to the label is Grenache, not much grown in the Cape, which we enjoyed with lunch. Our friends raved about Viognier.

When you visit Cape Town, be sure to add Spice Route to your agenda.

Details at www.spiceroute.co.za

Talk about wine on our forum.

Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.

Peter F May visited Spice Route at his own expense and paid for the chocolate tasting, lunch and wine.

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