If you read yesterday’s review, you will have seen that Babylonstoren is a pretty cool place to drop your bags and soak up the beauty of the Cape Winelands.
Being a farm hotel, you won’t be surprised to know it’s also a pretty epic place to eat fresh-as-it-gets food and glug copious (er, I mean sensible) amounts of home-produced wine.
After two months of carrying a backpack and wearing the same old clothes day in day out, I got myself the most stylish floppy hat I could find (and some new clothes), switched on my tastebuds and nostrils and got into full-on vineyard mode. It was time for a Babylonstoren cellar tour and wine tasting.
Here’s the lowdown.
The Wine Tasting
Once we’d dropped our bags and freshened up in our lovely room, we darted over to the wine cellars for our wine tasting and cellar tour, which takes place every day on the hour from 11am-3pm.
Guests who aren’t staying at the hotel can also visit Babylonstoren for the restaurant, the farm shop, lunch at the Greenhouse, garden tours and various other activities, so it’s quite a buzzy place during the day.
A pint-sized lady named Janene introduced herself and took us to the doors of the winery to start our cellar tour.
There are three types of fermenters here – stainless steel, raised concrete and seven 500-litre French oak vats – and the Babylonstoren brand is fairly new, with the first branded bottle being produced in 2011. Before then the vineyards were owned by The Louws family.
From the breaking of the ‘cake’ (the layer of grape skins that form at the top of the wine cask to give the wine its colour) to the fermentation process and bottling procedure, Janene told us everything there is to know about transforming grapes into wine.
The story that will stick in my mind though was about the intoxicating effect of spending too much time in the cellar during wine-making season. The air can become thick with alcohol fumes. So if you ever find yourself in a cellar full of fermenting grapes, you’ve been warned!
Unlike some more traditional vineyards, Babylonstoren’s wine tour feels very contemporary and stylish too. The winery was designed by architect Gerard de Villier to preserve the same style of the Cape Dutch farm building that originally stood here.
And to give it a contemporary twist, a piece of steel wall art was commisioned to illustrate the story and the science behind their wine production.
A glass stairwell leads up to the recently built wine tasting room and half way up, we are asked to stop. A film about the wine making is then projected onto the wall in front of us. Fancy stuff.
Now for the important bit – tasting the finished product.
Wine Tasting at Babylonstoren
As I mentioned earlier, there are 13 wine varietals produced at Babylonstoren and it is so much fun sitting in their wine tasting room, trying out as a selection of them while you gaze out of the floor-to-ceiling glass walls, at the spectacular scenery.
What makes the Babylonstoren brand so striking is their contemporary packaging, which I love. Some of the bottles don’t have a paper labels like a lot of wine bottles do. They simply have the logo printed straight onto the glass which tells a story about the vineyard’s history. The pipe represents the farmer, the flower represents the garden and the bird represents nature.
The key wines they produce here are:
- Chenin Blanc
- Mourvèdre Rosé
- Babel Red
My favourites included the lightly oaked viognier and the Babylonstoren ‘sprankel’ – their sparkling wine – which was wonderful.
Their prettily pink Mourvèdre Rosé is also a winner and can be in huge demand when it’s first released, with many customers getting very upset when stocks run out!
BC loved the Babel – a rich and fruity red that’s won a string of awards.
The winemaker’s platter – was also pretty good.
And our waitress kept us well topped up…
We could have sat here all day, chatting to the knowledgeable and friendly staff but we had to get spruced up and ready for dinner…
Now which way was my room again…?
Oh and quick tip: if you don’t manage to get to Babylonstoren but you are flying in or out of South Africa, you may be able to pick up some of their tasty wines at the airport. We picked up a lovely bottle of their Babel in Duty Free when we flew home from Jo’burg – which made the end of our amazing Africa trip that little more bearable.