Vergelegen Estate in Somerset West, just outside Cape Town in the Western Cape, is among the premier infield wine destinations accessible from Cape Town. Somerset West is a little bit of a bedroom community for the Cape, and on the surface has a slightly industrial flavor, with the main freeway running through towards Cape Town being dominated by a large strip mall complex of the type that has ruined significant expanses of the United States over the last twenty or more years. Off the main strip, however, a far more agricultural aspect dominates, and then turning into the gates of Vergelegen Estate an immediate ambiance of another age floods the senses.
There was a time, not a dominating period in the history of the Cape, but certainly a time when a rare gentility and cultural sensitivity invaded this part of South Africa. It is beyond the scope of this review to plunge into the multilayered history of this region, other than perhaps to say some of the finest sensibilities of European culture were grafted onto this landscape. The growth of this phenomena was perhaps guided, but certainly it was affected, by the extraordinary natural gifts of the country, perhaps amplified by a simple quirk of timing and personalities that in combination produced the magnificent attributes of what we now know as Cape Dutch culture. The northern European influences here are inescapable, but at the same time a certain rustic underlay defines its colonial circumstance, reflecting the stolid, immovable and enduring temperament of those men and women who stamped their mark on this place. Among those attributes, perhaps the greatest is the Cape wine culture.
This 7,400-acre Vergelegen estate, origionally settled by Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1700. offers superbly laid out gardens featuring sumptuous hydrangea, camellia and rose gardens, and of course a forest of venerable oak and camphor trees, including a number that are 300-years old or more. A full tasting room an restaurant are also features of the estate.
I will hasten to add before I dip my fingers into that delicious fructum vitis that Vergelegen is a great deal more than simply a wine tasting venue. It is a showcase of period history, a magnificent concert venue and a botanical garden wherein, rather like the grandeur of a Gothic cathedral aligning the faculties for the sacrament, here one’s finer sensibilities are more acutely tuned into the sensory gifts that await.
And so it is. Vergelegen is part of the Helderberg Wine Route, offering a variety of award winning wines. In 2001 and 2003, Vergelegen won the Pichon Trophy for best blended red at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London, and was voted best New World winery in 2005 by the Wine Enthusiast, and named the country’s best winery in 2006 for the third year in a row by Wine magazine. The 2005 Vergelegen is a white, a highly prized, crisp, citrusy semillon-sauvignon blanc blend. Here is a link to the official website wine list.
If you are contemplating a wine tour of South Africa, Vergelegen is a venue deserving of a large red colored pin n your map of the Cape, for all the best reasons. Contact us for more details on the how and where of South African wine.