Hartford House

The Home of Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses

Award-winning hotel and restaurant situated at Summerhill Stud on the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander, South Africa.

The fall (and rise) of Tulbagh : Emerging Giants

saronsberg shiraz

(Zsuzsanna Kilian/Saronsberg)

When it comes to seismic shocks, South Africa is a lucky country. We’re seldom disrupted by massive natural disasters, so that when we do feel the effects of one, we tend to recoil in greater horror than those countries that know them. 1969 Witnessed an earthquake which by international standards, was probably of relatively ordinary consequence, but which really rattled the minds of South Africans. The greatest casualty of this quake, which registered something of the order of 6 on the Richter scale, was the little hamlet of Tulbagh in the Western Cape, a village which boasts more national monuments in its main street per square metre than any other in South Africa. Sadly, it was these very monuments that incurred the greatest damage, so it’s a matter of some pride to South Africans that the high street has been restored completely to its former glory.

Largely unrecognised in the pantheon of the great wine producing areas of the Western Cape for the many centuries of its existence, Tulbagh has recently come into its own, prompting Wine magazine to feature a “shoot-out” between two of its leading protagonists in Saronsberg and Rijk’s in its most recent issue. That Wine mag should’ve seen fit to make a front cover fuss of these two wineries, is testimony to the emergence of Tulbagh as a major player in the wine-making world, and especially to the quality of what’s coming out of the cellars of these two estates.

Last week witnessed the arrival at Hartford House of a team of representatives from Saronsberg, headed by Bevan Rees, a bright and enterprising young man of a previous legal persuasion. Bevan is not only eloquent, he loves what he does, and he’s exactly what a wine maker needs in a job like his. At dinner, we were graced by the presence of visitors from the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Holland, as well as the usual sprinkling of South Africans, and there was pretty much unaniminity among the diners regarding the overall quality of Saronsberg’s offerings.

The real strength in recent times among the better wines from Tulbagh, has lain with their reds, where Shiraz appears to have a special liking for the area. However, the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay on offer was pretty good in itself, yet the red blends of the Full Circle and Seismic are verging on world-class.

National top ten chef, Jackie Cameron, was on hand to ensure the menu matched the wines. Her uncanny knack for guaranteeing this time and again, is part of the repertoire of skills what sets this young lady and her team in the Hartford kitchen apart from most.