Franschhoek Valley - South Africa's French Corner
Franschhoek Valley literally translates as 'French Corner' and thrives on its history of French influenced viticulture. Lined with wine estates, it is proud to be a haven for wine tourism in the Paarl region of South Africa. We take a look at what makes this area so special with new ranges of the best wines to match.
Although viticulture was introduced to the valley by the Dutch in the mid 17th century, winemaking was really boosted with the arrival of French Huguenot refugees in the 1680's and this French influence is core to its localised industry today.
Nestled in the south east corner of Paarl, the small coastal valley boasts over 40 wine farms and excels in producing rich, robust fruit-forward wines. A key to its success is the surrounding mountainous terroir, which trap southerly winds to help cool the warm climes. This provides a longer growing season to help grapes reach full potential.
Soils are mainly made up of sandstone, with the steep mountain slopes providing excellent granite soils. Favourite grapes for the region include the traditional Pinotage and Chenin Blanc, as well as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Old vines are numerous due to the long history of some vineyards, which only adds to the richness of many wines.
Located at the entrance to the valley, Franschhoek Cellar is a beautiful estate, home to an exquisite range of award-winning wines (pictured above) created by their head winemaker and chef joining forces for a menu of food and wine that fully complement each other. We were highly impressed by their varietal range that shows great quality for a good price. Each wine is named after a key local landmark, and each manages to express the terroir with expert food pairing recommendations. Classic Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay all appear, as well as the more unusual Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and a refreshing Provence-style Rose.
Another of our new favourites is Rickety Bridge Wine Estate, nestled against the mountainous slopes and overlooking the majestic Wemmershoek Mountain range. A luxurious wine tour stop, they have 27 hectares of vines and their Chenin Blanc and Pinotage wines use hand harvested old bush vine grapes from their low yielding vineyards to bring out the best in these South African flagship varietals. If you like your wines full of texture and lingering in the mouth, they are certainly worth a try.
Finally, one of the newest wine estates shows a cosmopolitan edge; Old Road Wine Co is a blossoming wine brand and venue that opened in 2018, yet their wines had been a long time in the making. Their aim is to encourage wine lovers to ‘savour the interesting’, with prized single vineyard wines. alongside carefully crafted Rhone-style blends.
Numerous awards already took our attention, and it is their French Corner blends that have been added to our range. The French Corner red skilfully combines Grenache and Mourvedre with touches of Shiraz and Viognier, whilst the French Corner white brings together Verdelho, Viognier and Grenache Blanc. Great value, these wines represent tradition with a twist.