Travel Review: An Exclusive Tasting – Warwick Wine Estate for the Win

If there’s one way to describe Warwick Wine Estate – it would be as: pretty inspirational. Not least of all because this Ratcliffe family-owned and run estate has successfully raked in the wine awards over the years – but, perhaps more importantly, because of its pioneering original winemaker, Norma Ratcliffe.

During the 1970s, Norma became South Africa’s first female winemaker and a precedence for aspiring women winemakers was set… To honour her achievement, Warwick’s ‘The First Lady’ wine was born.

Having visited Warwick twice to date in the past year (first for one of their gourmet picnics, before this most recent follow-up wine tasting) – for me, the most wonderful aspects of this Stellenbosch wine estate are its sense of close-knit intimacy, natural Cape beauty and family-friendly, quaint country atmosphere. This, in particular, ensures an easy and enjoyable day out every time.

This slower pace of life – in conjunction with one of the Stellenbosch wine valley’s prettiest estates – makes Warwick a wonderful place to visit for a lovely picnic, platter or excellent wine tasting… and now, I’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed all three.

From the moment you turn down its oak-tree-dappled drive (flanked by lush grass paddocks, home to two lovely bay horses) towards the tasting centre, Warwick, a hidden, green oasis, reveals itself…

Photo credit: Alicia Chamaille 

And while Warwick is not one of the biggest estates by any account – it’s certainly one of the prettiest to me. Aside from the majestic oaks, a delightful, playing fountain and peaceful dam – surrounded by a rolling lawn and really stunning garden spaces – help complete Warwick’s serene Cape Dutch scene.

Recently, my friend and I were scheduled to enjoy an early afternoon specialty wine tasting at Warwick – and, when we arrived just before 2pm on a sunny Saturday, the estate was pumping. Not only with a lovely wedding set-up, but with couples, groups of friends and young families too.

For children, Warwick is a paradise, especially with the long water feature, which runs down into the lawn; awesome jungle gyms and expansive lawn and garden areas, too.

After exploring the garden – which is edged by crisp vineyards, and filled with Warwick’s unique, private picnic pods – we made our way over to the tasting centre.

Here, the two rooms are striking with their simple, yet impressive wine-themed decor, which even includes the occasional glance at Warwick’s fabled wedding cup. The tasting centre also overlooks the lawn-facing wooden deck, which was where we sat in the end in a nice shaded area, overlooking the garden and dam.

At Warwick, you have the option of choosing between two wine tasting options: standard (R50) or exclusive (R100). (Note: For both the standard and exclusive option, the tasting fee is refundable on the purchase of wine.)

Our exclusive tasting option included the following six premium wines (subject to availability): 1) The White Lady Chardonnay 2016, 2) The Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 3) Cabernet Franc 2014 (a rather rare wine, which is, nevertheless, quite famous in the Stellenbosch valley), 4) Black Lady Syrah 2014, 5) Three Cape Ladies 2013 and finally, 6) Trilogy Bordeaux Blend 2014.

Photo credit: Alicia Chamaille 

The White Lady Chardonnay 2016 was a lovely wine to start with, as it was a particularly fresh, fruity wine, perfect for such a hot day in the winelands! I found it absolutely great… Honestly, fruity, light white wines are my favourite type of wines, so it was a close tie for first between this and the Trilogy Blend for me.

Next, we enjoyed the Black Lady Syrah. It was a very strong red, and, as someone who is not a huge fan of Syrahs by default, it was probably my least favourite of the six wines. Having said that though, for those who love rich, spicy, full-bodied reds, it is a certain winner!

Next, The Blue Lady entered the centrestage… This limited 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is now found only at the Cellar door so we were very lucky to taste it. Lately, I usually enjoy Cab Sauvs (even though I have heard a few wine lovers say they’re not quite their favourites) – and to some, they are known as the ‘king of the reds’ … The Blue Lady is indeed a special one.

After that, our cheese and preserve platter arrived. Boasting an assortment of eats, it came with: mature cheddar, unsalted, mixed nuts (a nice change from the usual cheese and wine platters I’ve had in the past), fig preserve, smoked butter, crumble blue cheese, salt crackers, homemade sweet chili basil pesto and fresh slivers of sliced pear.

Photo credit: Alicia Chamaille 

We really enjoyed this platter and, while it’s the perfect wine companion, I must confess it’s not the biggest I’ve eaten to date… So, if you are feeling more peckish, it would be best to go for Warwick’s delicious-looking charcuterie platter option, which looks like a real feast. 🙂

My favourites were certainly the yummy blue cheese, the divine sweet chili basil pesto (I adore sweet chili and basil pesto in equal amounts so this was an exceptional treat… and something you can buy at Warwick too!), fresh mixed nuts and the smoked butter, which was so good I could have happily eaten it on its own. The mature cheddar was also very good and especially soft.

Photo credit: Alicia Chamaille 

Next, we tried the Cabernet Franc 2014. This was the first time I have ever had (or even heard of) a Cab Franc, so it was especially interesting to learn about its history and equally exciting to try a new wine type! The Cab Franc is a velvety, strong red, which pairs especially well with the sweet chili-basil pesto (my weakness).

Warwick is one of the few estates in South Africa to have been successfully producing the Cab Franc since 1988.

From there, we tried the Three Cape Ladies 2013 wine. This is a blend of rich Pinotage, spicy Syrah and the classic Cab Sauvernet. Not only is it the first Cape blend in South Africa – but it also pays homage to three generations of women at Warwick, which is a lovely touch. I really enjoyed this blend and can definitely recommend it!

The last of the six we enjoyed was the special Trilogy 2014 wine. This is perhaps the purest embodiment of Warwick wine, and includes 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Cabernet Franc and 17% Merlot. Along with the White Lady, this was a firm favourite of mine.

And then, lastly, we were unexpectedly treated to the Chardonnay Methode Cap Classique 2014. (For those who don’t know, MCC sparkling wines are SA’s version of French champagne.)

This was a really delicious MCC and a special way to end our tasting, which was made great by our excellent, well-informed tasting advisor.

The Warwick Exclusive wine tasting was certainly a memorable, value-for-money wine tasting and made for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in the Stellenbosch winelands.

Service was friendly and efficient, despite how busy the estate was at the time of our visit, and the staff are all well-educated on the Warwick wines, which was particularly nice to see.

We both felt that, overall, the Exclusive wine tasting at Warwick garnered a well-earned 8/10 rating.

I can easily recommend the exclusive tasting for the following:

  • A top-class, leading South African estate;

  • A peaceful, beautiful setting;

  • Prime location, just outside Stellenbosch;

  • A delicious cheese and preserve platter, which really complemented the Warwick wines – and included Warwick’s exceptional sweet chili-basil pesto jar of deliciousness;

  • Six delicious, premium wines of the highest quality (none of which remotely disappointed);

  • And finally, for an efficient, beautiful and well-run estate, manned by friendly and well-informed staff, across the board.

So, if you are looking for a wonderful wine tasting in the Stellenbosch valley, head to Warwick for the win!

Photo credit: Alicia Chamaille 

Thank you very much to Warwick Wine Estate for this exclusive wine tasting and cheese platter! We loved every sip and moment – and I’m sure that will not be the last time I return to wonderful Warwick.

Also, a special thanks in closing to my friend, Alicia, who supplied me with some great photos for this travel review!

For more information on Warwick Wine Estate and its excellent offerings, please contact: (021)  884 4410 or email them at: visit@warwickwine.com or info@warwickwine.com.

You can also visit their website or find them for yourself at: Warwick Wine Estate, on the R44 (between Stellenbosch and Klapmuts), Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa.

Warwick Wine Estate is also on all leading social media platforms, so be sure to connect with and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Author: Tamlyn Amber Ryan

Tamlyn Ryan is a writer and blogger, who runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust. Despite a national diploma in Journalism, her preferred niche remains travel writing. She is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and above all else, the great outdoors.

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