Two trains travelling to Angola, via the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), at the same time, is beyond anything we could have ever imagined completing. In our 33 years, we at Rovos Rail have managed to pull off some pretty crazy things but this could possibly top the list!
The first journey to depart Pretoria was Trail of Two Oceans, which left Rovos Rail Station on the 28th of June. It travelled six separate journeys with six different groups of guests:
Pretoria to Cape Town
Cape Town to Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam to Lobito
Lobito to Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam to Cape Town
Cape Town to Pretoria
With manager, Hennie, at its helm, the train travelled about 23 400kms (14 540 miles). It was gone so long that at times we forgot it was out but Hennie and his team returned safely back to Pretoria on Friday, 9 September after 73 days travelling through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, the DRC and Angola.
The Copper Trail train departed Pretoria on the 29th of June for Victoria Falls after which train manager, Lawrence, and his team had a few days to make their train sparkle before welcoming guests on July 7th for the maiden voyage of the Copper Trail.
The train travelled four separate trips with four different groups of guests:
Pretoria to Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls to Lobito (Angola)
Lobito to Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls to Pretoria
About 9 000kms was travelled with the team being out for 39 days. They returned safely on August, 15th to a warm welcome and many guys from all of us.
Neither journey came without challenges which included the Chambeshi bridge closure, unexpected mining debris left on the railway line causing minor derailments, unforeseen and costly Covid-19 testing enforced by over-zealous border control authorities, visa acquisition as well as water supply.
One of the ways we tried to alleviate the stress of the water issue was to sponsor three 10,000L tanks on six-metre stands right next to the existing water supply infrastructure in Kolwezi, DRC. Things did not go as planned as only one 5,000L tank was installed so we had to purchase a bigger volume pump in Kolwezi to fill the train faster.
One has to make a decision when travelling through countries such as the DRC and to some extent, Angola, because a culture exists of greasing palms in order to get anything done. We chose not to participate in this because we do not want to be part of what perpetuates this cycle but it made our planning and operational objectives a great deal more difficult and things moved extremely slowly. This was by far the most stressful aspect of coordinating these two journeys and we would like to say a big thank you to our operations manager, Joe Mathala, for flying back-and-forth between Angola, the DRC and South Africa to keep things moving along. We feel the process might have aged Joe by hundreds of years but as always, he got the job done and on time so we are deeply grateful for his hustle!
Our intrepid band of travellers hailed from countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Rovos Rail welcomes an award-winning rum. Die Warm Rasta Rum is now part of our already extensive range of spirits. Die Warm Rasta Rum is produced at De Vry Distillery situated in the Free State. This distillery is an authentic South African distillery producing premium local spirits made from natural, home-grown ingredients.
Who makes it?
The rum was founded by the Du Plooy brothers, who believe their authentic distillery should be all about producing 100% farm-grown spirits. They were inspired to establish a fine local spirits company by a love for country, a passion for farming, South African tourism, and the creative freedom offered by a new generation.
How is it made?
The process of creating the rum starts with the finest imported molasses. The fermentation process is then enabled by specific yeast cultures in combination with a blend of Borehole and RO water, ensuring that there is no harmful effects on the environment.
What does it taste like?
Die Warm Rasta Rum has a distinctive flavour as a result of the charred barrels used for culturing. Barrels are selected at the optimum ageing time; the rum is then blended, filtered and bottled. The tasting notes of this rum is full-bodied with upfront notes of cigar smoke and oak. You will also find subtle sweet American oak tannins and a sweet finish.
Rovos Rail proudly welcomes this award-winning rum. You can enjoy Die Warm Rusta Rum all Rovos Rail journeys.
Awaken your spirit with our new addition, Vusa Vodka
Rovos Rail added a distinctly African vodka to our already extensive range of spirits. Vusa Vodka is a multi-award winning premium vodka from Africa. They are changing the narrative on what a vodka can be. Vusa puts the best of African quality, style and flavour into each bottle. In addition, their belief is to make the best tasting vodka. To achieve this, you need the best ingredients together with an optimal environment to grow them in. Vusa makes use of homegrown sugar-cane from the heart of the sub-tropical climate of KwaZulu-Natal. This makes Vusa Vodka a little bit sweet and authentically Africa.
How it is produced
Part of the distinctly African process is to distill the vodka in small batches using copper pot stills named “kaisgo”. This gives the spirit a silky smooth finish. To ensure exceptional quality, Vusa uses the purest water of the Lions River in the hills of the KwaZulu-Natal national park to blend the vodka. The next step is to filter the vodka through the shells of local baobab fruit. This step guarantees a super crisp and clean finish. The patterns and unique typeface on the bottle is inspired by Zulu art. Furthermore, it is specifically chosen to express a renewed natural energy and distinctiveness when on a South African tour.
The Vusa Foundation
Vusa is on a mission to change lives and the world of spirits. They achieve this through the liquid, the ingredients, and their commitment to the local community from which the spirit hails. They have established the Vusa Foundation, through which they commit to donate a proportion of their profits to support the Khulisani Foundation. The Khulisani Foudation is a South African organisation that supports urban farming and drives positive change in South African communities.
Lastly, this is only the start of the Vusa Vodka journey. In addition, they are also planning on travelling through Africa with a mobile distillery while producing amazing spirits from the countries they visit.
You can find Vusa Vodka all Rovos Rail journeys where guests can enjoy a flavourful vodka while sharing different stories.
Please note that items on our wine list and bar menus are subject to availability and not always in stock and available on board.
We have mentioned a few times that Rovos Rail has overhauled many of the products available on board so that they are earth-friendlier. We’ve spoken about Katavi and Fortis X and now we would like to introduce your lips to Msulwa Life.
Msulwa is an African isiZulu word meaning Pure, Innocent and Clean. Based in Kwa Zulu Natal, the company’s focus is living life with more natural biological products, choosing anti-cruelty, chemical-free, plant-based ingredients as well as vegan, non-animal based materials.
It was a challenge finding a local business who produced an earth-friendly lip balm in recyclable packaging. When guests board our trains, in each of their suites is an amenities bag stocked full of natural goodies including lip balm so we require high volumes of product and want none of it to be wasteful.
In addition to their commitment to the environment, the company created a non-profit called Msulwa Life’s Giving Back Foundation by supporting small and local NGO’s across South Africa that are dedicated to selflessly caring for animals, humanity and the planet.
There are thousands of small projects started by everyday people who work tirelessly to give huge amounts of their resources to help animals and other charitable groups in need. These small organisations are often overlooked, mostly having to rely on their own pockets to take on financial and community burdens in order to help a cause.
Msulwa Life’s Giving Back Foundation shows its appreciation to these local heroes by supporting them with donations whether they be financial, food parcels or any other much needed supplies.
We are so thrilled to be working with this mindful and lovely company and look forward to them creating beautiful, earth-friendly magic.
February 2022 was an important month for us at Rovos Rail. The first of the month marked 677 days since South Africa went into hard lockdown and it also marked the day we were officially back on track.
With the ever-moving goal posts of the Covid-19 pandemic we found ourselves holding on a little tighter with each announcement from our own government, politicians overseas and from the WHO. It felt like every few weeks we were postponing our contingency plans until at last we were able to say that February would realistically be when we could let our industry partners know that we were back on track and fully operational. It was indeed a relief and also a very happy month!
We have operated numerous journeys since February, including exceptional private charters which have been lovely successes. Our first advertised Cape Town to Dar es Salaam trip departed on 2 July with train manager, Hennie, at its helm. Despite one or two unforeseen challenges, guests and staff enjoyed a fabulous trip with the team receiving the highest of compliments! Thank you to our wonderful group of guests for their joviality and positivity.
Hennie’s and his team had a few days off in Dar es Salaam before the train, carrying a new band of intrepid travellers, set off on our second ever Trail of Two Oceans sojourn which will take guests from the Tanzanian capital through Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with journey’s end in Angola. The sojourn was certainly an adventure and the train arrived safely into Lobito on 3 August.
The maiden voyage of our 15-day Copper Trail trip also departed in July and the first leg of the journey was a lovely success with guests thoroughly enjoying themselves and giving us constructive feedback so that we can further improve the itinerary. Train manager, Lawrence, and his team travelled through parts of Africa none of us have ever seen and sent through some funny, heartwarming and wild stories!
In amongst these two long trips, we have also operated shorter journeys to Durban, Cape Town and Victoria Falls so it is safe to say we are back on track! Our train teams are busy, Rovos Rail Station is once again a busting hive of activity and our inboxes are full.
To celebrate our restart and in many ways a new beginning, we put together a photo and video shoot with new faces, new coaches and new energy!
We would like to sincerely thank Simone Dominique Shapiro from The Safari Gals for being our lady of the day, Jonathan Boynton-Lee for being our dapper gentleman, Ross Hillier for his phenomenal photographic talent and Dylan Hohls from Motionworx for capturing it all on video. You were a dream team and we hope to be able to work with you all again one day soon.
We are delighted to be able to share our video with you and will be releasing our new photographic content soon.
It feels so good to be back on track and we can’t wait to welcome you on board one of our journeys soon.
How many ways are there to applaud Hannes Myburgh and his Meerlust team? Rovos Rail has enjoyed the happiest and longest relationship with the iconic wine farm and it’s little wonder that Meerlust is regarded as a South African national treasure.
It’s one of the oldest family-run wine farms in the country having been owned since 1756 by the Myburgh family for a remarkable eight generations. The gracious Cape Dutch Manor House is also the oldest surviving grand farmhouse in the Stellenbosch district.
Meerlust also produced the second Bordeaux blend ever produced in South Africa – the Meerlust Rubicon – which soon became a benchmark of local red wine quality and gained iconic status in the global marketplace.
“Alea iacta est” (The die is cast) are the words that Julius Caesar is supposed to have said as he led his troops towards Rome in 49BC. The crucial border of the ancient capital was the Rubicon River and the decision to cross it marked an irrevocable point in history. It would profoundly shift the course of Roman politics; there could be no turning back.
Some 2000 years later, a watershed event occurred in the life of Nico Myburgh, father of the current custodian of Meerlust, Hannes Myburgh. Holidaying in Bordeaux, he discovered that the terroir in this area of France was similar to that of the Eerste River Valley. Both have a distinctive climate, characterised by a cooling sea breeze. And both have a soil structure made up of decomposed granite and clay.
Nico returned determined to create a blend of his own that would match those of the French. In 1980, after several years of experimentation together with winemaker Giorgio Dalla Cia, he announced the birth of the new blend. With proportions of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, a new style of wine was created in South Africa. Like Caesar, there could be no turning back.
Nico and Giorgio had already considered a number of names for the new blend when Professor Dirk Opperman from the University of Stellenbosch, a friend of Nico’s, suggested that “Rubicon” might be appropriate. The pair had, after all, crossed a new frontier – and changed the way South Africans thought about red wine.
An interesting point to note is that Billy Hofmeyr of Welgemeend released the first Bordeaux blend in 1979. Meerlust has, however, discovered bottles of the 1978 Meerlust Rubicon although these were never released commercially. These were found at the Tabernacle at Distell, the famous underground wine cellar in Stellenbosch, and four bottles were sold five years ago at the Nederburg Auction for ZAR16 000 each.
Today Rubicon is only made in quality years and the portions of each variety vary according to vintage (it also now includes a little Petit Verdot). Since its beginnings in 1980, five vintages have been declassified and not released – the 1985, 1990, 2002, 2011 and the 2019.
The 2018 Rubicon, currently being served on all Rovos Rail journeys, is a classically proportioned blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot.
The harvest season was really challenging, due to a prolonged drought which some believe to be the worst in 100 years.
Each vineyard block is hand-harvested and fermented separately, run off into 300-litre oak barrels and large foudre*, and monitored until it is time to blend; in this vintage it was after eight months. At that point, a careful assessment of the merits of each parcel is assessed and the blend decided upon. It spends another 10 months in barrel for harmonisation before bottling, where it will see out another two years before it is released. However, further bottle maturation is advised for the intriguing complexity of this classic wine to unfold and reveal itself.
It boasts the quintessential Rubicon nose with violets, ripe plum, cedar wood, fennel and intense spiciness. A typical liquorice note also evident on the nose. Still young and intense, the palate is full bodied, structured but packed with fresh dark fruit and rounded tannins. This is a vintage that is more approachable in youth because of the ripeness and richness levels attained in 2018 but will provide great complexity with further maturation.
It is a stellar advertisement for Meerlust and an illustration of the commitment to quality that underpins this famous old estate.
It is a wine that demands food! Feed it a roast beef done rare. This iconic Bordeaux red blend also pairs well with venison, game, pot roast and noble cheese. Or serve with slow roasted lamb shank and oven roasted sweet potato.
Meerlust was one of the early pioneers of Pinot Noir as well with the release of its first Pinot Noir also in 1980. This was around the same time that Hamilton Russell near Hermanus released its first vintage.
Stellenbosch is typically considered to be too warm for growing Pinot Noir, however Meerlust’s proximity to False Bay makes it at least three degrees cooler than the typical average temperature in Stellenbosch.
The Meerlust Pinot Noir 2020 is an exciting fusion of the refreshingly modern and the tirelessly classical. The grapes are selected from three clones of Pinot Noir with an average age of 21 years. Grapes were handpicked from two blocks. The majority of grapes are destemmed and crushed to small fermenters, but a portion of the harvest is only destemmed, and another portion is fermented as whole bunch. Light handling during fermentation allows gentle extractions resulting in elegant structure. The wine was matured in new and second fill barrels for 10 months before bottling.
On the nose the wine shows pronounced floral perfume with brooding and alluring red berry fruit, earthy, wild mushrooms and hints of spice.
On the palate there are very pure Pinot fruit flavours on entry with red cherry and musk flavours tied together by a fresh acidity. The wine has layered complexity with great elegance and finesse. There is a fine and delicate, almost powdery, tannin on the finish.
It pairs with various food dishes including white and red meats, duck, Parma ham, grilled line fish, tuna, wild mushrooms and traditional cheeses.
Meerlust Rubicon 2018
Residual sugar: 2.6 g/l
Total acidity: 5.54 g/l
Alcohol: 14.3vol %
Meerlust Pinot Noir 2020
Residual sugar: 2.51g/ l
Total acidity: 5.71g/l
Alcohol: 12.5vol %
* A foudre is a large wooden vat, popular in France’s Rhône Valley, significantly larger than typical oak barrels, often with the capacity to hold more than a 1000 litres of wine. Using a larger vat or barrel than a typical barrique means there is less wine to wood exposure and less obvious wood or oak flavours.
We feel privileged to work with this icon in the South African wine industry and we are thrilled to be able to serve these two delicious wines on our trains.
The Journey to the Sun has begun, with Suncamino Floral Rum!
The journey to the sun
Rovos Rail added the world’s first floral rum to our already impressive range of spirits. Suncamino Floral Rum is the brainchild of three Capetonian friends who shares a love of adventure, the outdoors, and the ocean. These friends got together and created something magical. Suncamino is a Spanish word, which means “Journey to the sun”, and what a journey it has been. Part of what makes the Suncamino journey so special is their mantra, which is simply: bring good company, a bottle of Suncamino, and pick a spot on the map – The rest will take care of itself.
Where it all began
The idea behind Suncamino rum originated in Cape Town. Thereafter the three friends travelled to Barbedos and developed their signature 8yo blend with the help of a local distiller. This incredibly smooth rum ages for 8 years in a typical Caribbean climate in ex-bourbon barrels. As the world’s first floral rum, the intention behind aging the rum is to preserve the naturally beautiful aromas. As well as to develop a rum that is perfect in its natural form without having to add a lot of extra trimmings.
Why choose Suncamino on Rovos Rail
Once the blend was perfect, the friends travelled to sunny Cape Town where a local botanist subtly infused the rum with natural floral extracts typical of the Cape. It is a beautiful bouquet of floral botanicals that complement the rum’s signature notes. What makes this rum so incredibly unique is some of the exceptional flavours found in the rum which includes Hibiscus, Honeybush and Orange Blossom. Suncamino Floral Rum can be enjoyed in a range of ways, it is only dependant on your mood. We invite the dreamers, the travellers, the chance-takers, and those who know the quality of life to bring their passion for everyday adventure to enjoy the rum on our train journeys.
Suncamina Floral Run can be enjoyed on a trip to Cape Town and all Rovos Rail journeys. Come as you are and you will be welcomed.
Please note that items on our wine list and bar menus are subject to availability and not always in stock and available on board.
Epitomizing a bygone era in train travel, Rovos Rail, The world’s most luxurious train provides a stylish experience on the 870-mile journey from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, to Pretoria in South Africa. Departing from Victoria Falls Railway Station – established in 1904 – insouciant baboons stroll on the platform, as rumpeter hornbills call from the canopies of Natal Mahogany trees. An à capella african choir serenades us enthusiastically, as we proceed along the red carpet to board the train. Like travelers of the Belle Époque, we are led by our hostess to our vintage sleeper coach, with its walls of burnished Mahogany. Our luggage is waiting, our double bed made up in crispy white linen and in our ensuite bathroom is immaculate. A canvas toiletry bag holds useful amenities. Low beams from the setting sun filter through three windows. The trainblows her high-pitched whistle, then with a chug, we are on the way.
Ladies and gentlemen are required to dress formally for dinner, so passengers arrive at the dining car looking elegant. Tables are made up of two-seaters and four-seaters, so guests may dine together or individually. White damask tablecloths, silver cutlery and cut glass crystalware complement fine china. Our sommelier, wearing a dapper waistcoat, pours the first wine with a flourish. We taste the iced Pecan Stream Chenin Blanc to be paired with the starter, declaring it to be delectable. Chosen carefully to be enjoyed any time during the journey, the wines are South African with 4-5 star ratings, including the renowned Meerlust Rubicon. The table d’hôte menu, with vegetarian options, has 3 courses, followed by a cheese plate, then dessert. Exceptionally tasty and presented with flair, the cuisine – with its accent on fresh local ingredients and traditional dishes – is a consistent highlight each day of the four-night journey on the world’s most luxurious train.
After the formal dinner, guests repair to their cabins, or stroll down carpeted corridors to the Lounge Car or Observation Car – that includes an open air balcony – for post-prandial conversation and a nightcap. Perfectly designed to mingle with fellow travelers, or to find a quiet corner, these cars have picture windows, comfortable sofas, wing backed chairs and booths. To re-create the feeling of timeless travel, in grandeur and quietude, the use of mobile phones is discouraged. This adds time for a game of cards, backgammon, scrabble, to peruse the leather-bound books, or to watch the scenery go by. The Club Car is a glass-enclosed space for smokers to take pleasure in their cigarettes, or cigars, while being able to watch the countryside on both sides of the train.
Returning to our sleeper carriage, we find the shutters closed, soft lighting over a turned down bed, plus a gift of Wedgwood nougat. Clothing that we had chosen for the excursion in the morning has already been pressed by our hostess. Though adrenalized by excitement and anticipation, the motion of the train and repetitive sound on the tracks eventually rocks us to sleep.
As the sun’s rays ease over the horizon at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, we enjoy a continental breakfast, including pastries still warm from the oven. Quality Twinings tea or cappuccinos are available. Disembarking for a game drive through this far-flung wilderness, an image of the savannah, in soft pastel light, is reflected on the side of the train. Sweeping plains of grass yield a rich reward of elephant sightings, including a breeding herd with tiny calves. We are driven through a forested area where the road is narrow and not often traversed, adding to our sense of being deep in remote Africa. We are surprised by a giraffe that peers down at us, seemingly curious, then he continues to strip leaves from a Camel-thorn tree.
Keeping up the tradition of excellence, for the morning coffee stop, a long serving table with a banquet of snacks has been prepared for us. Beneath spreading Leadwood trees is a semi-circle of canvas chairs. This is hosted by the owners of The Hide, a prize winning safari lodge.
Back at the train, we are greeted by staff, with champagne or pressed fruit juices. While we are savouring lunch in the dining car, the train is still traveling through Hwange National Park. With a mighty screech of breaks, the train stops! Someone has spotted lions on a kill, so we rush to the windows to watch the action of these big cats. Friendships are forged as we chatter about this sighting and how we are reveling in our Hwange venture. The adventurers of the Victorian era on the world’s most luxurious train could not have had it better than this.
When Rovos Rail halts at Gwanda, a village in Zimbabwe, we hop off the train for a leisurely walk to explore and to meet the local people. A donkey cart moves alongside pedestrians, while entrepreneurs hawk their array of goods, including vegetables, dried Mopane worms (protein rich), cigarettes, mobile phone time or second-hand clothing. Established premises in brick buildings sport names like Conquering Family General dealer, Liquid Sports Restaurant, and Mbalabala Cocktail Bar.
After a joyous time of street photography, I welcome the soothing air conditioning in the Lounge Car, as I quaff a chilled litchi virgin cocktail. Crossing the border from Zimbabwe – over the Limpopo River – into South Africa is a seamless process, organised by Rovos Rail staff. Panoramic views unfold as the train crosses the Tropic of Capricorn, heading southwards towards Pretoria and the olde world Rovos Rail Station.
For a change of tempo from the pace of city life, the demands of media and from one’s usual pre-occupations, this is a perfect way to slow down, to unwind, to allow thoughts to flow freely. Cuisine is superb, the wines and spirits par excellence and the service unobtrusive. It’s an enriching journey, a way to reconnect with yourself and with your partner, if you travel these tracks together on the world’s most luxurious train.
What better wine to enjoy on your next Rovos Rail adventure than with an acclaimed Cape dry white which defies perceptions of origin and which is tantalisingly called the Vagabond.
The Vagabond – made by The Fledge & Co. – is like a luxurious train journey; it is not about the destination but the level of satisfaction that you feel when you see the world at a more sedate pace. The wine is similar and takes a good few years to show at its best. Every vintage is like a voyage of discovery and can be compared to a cricket test match where each session should be played carefully and strategically.
The name Vagabond stems from the fact that the winemakers do not own vineyards but travel around diverse wine growing regions from Swartland to Agulhus in search of the best grapes they can find.
The Fledge & Co. is the remarkable undertaking by husband-and-wife team Leon Coetzee and Margaux Nel who have attracted plenty of attention for their nonconformist approach to winemaking.
Fledge is a passion project that started back in 2007 and is an expression of the couple’s desire to handcraft authentic wines to enjoy with fine food with good company. The wines are unflinching, eclectic and experimental and express their true sense of place (terroir) through a combination of “old school” techniques and innovative methods, while driving an agenda of concern for their soils and the environment with a carbon-neutral or carbon-sensitive footprint.
Margaux Nel has an impressive wine pedigree and is a seventh-generation winemaker from Calitzdorp (South Africa’s Cape port capital) in the Klein Karoo where the Nel family has plied their trade for many years. She is also the winemaker for Boplaas (the family estate) where The Fledge & Co. is also produced.
Margaux is in charge of the cellar while Leon collaborates with the farmers they work with and together they blend The Fledge & Co. wines. Explains Leon: “We are currently working with nearly 50 different vineyards and around 28 different varieties from across the Cape.”
The Vagabond is produced from vines planted from 1971 to as early as 2010; many are old dryland bush vines while others are grown more conventionally but all are produced by farmers who believe in sustainability.
The blend changes with each vintage but varietals generally included are Chardonnay, Steen (Chenin Blanc), Viognier, Verdelho, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne. Sometimes there is even a blast from the past with the inclusion of the rare Hungarian Hárslevelü – fully skin fermented as one would a red.
Says Leon: “Our aim is to showcase the best of the Cape in a glass and produce a wine which works well with food but can also be enjoyed on its own. We want to defy preconceptions which is why the Latin on the front of the bottle says Prudentia Sine Vino (An Independently Minded Wine). It is only in the Cape that one has the freedom to blend such a diverse (some may think mismatched) variety of different grapes together to craft a reflection of the diverse tapestry which makes up this wine.”
Vagabond’s components are vinified separately, either destemmed or whole bunch pressed and barrel fermented in old French oak for nine to 15 months until the final blend is made. It is racked into tank and left for another six to nine months on the lees. It is unfined and unfiltered when bottled and only sold when Margaux and Leon believe it is ready which is usually three years after vintage.
The wine profile is a mélange of orange blossom; ripe cling peach; yellow, orange and green citrus; pineapple; hay; hints of Rooibos and flint while honeyed almond and white spice abound on the bouquet. It is a perfect partner for roast fowl, duck or pork, traditional Cape Malay and mild Cantonese cuisine or enjoyed as an aperitif.
Devotees affectionately call this wine the “Geel Slang”, Afrikaans for the resplendently golden yellow Cape Cobra sometimes found in the vineyards, a beautiful reptile with an impressive strike.
South African sparkling wine and the name Pieter Ferreira, aka Mr Bubbles, are as synonymous as fish and chips, James Bond and a shaken martini and Rovos Rail and a world-class travel experience.
One of South Africa’s fastest growing wine categories, Cap Classique is the South African version of champagne with the wine made by the same “traditional method” used by the French whereby the second fermentation occurs in the bottle.
Pieter – who proudly carries the moniker “Bubbles” and who is chairman of the Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA) – is considered by many to be the godfather and the guru of the local industry which he has helped elevate on an international stage.
He has been instrumental in cementing Graham Beck as one of the world’s leading producers of premium Cap Classique and has been with the estate since its maiden vintage in 1991. He recently became Graham Beck’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) after 32 years in charge of the cellar.
However, a life in wine wasn’t always on the cards for the ebullient Ferreira. The Durban born, self-confessed “surfer dude” loved science and also considered becoming a dentist.
However, rugby Springbok and South African wine pioneer Jan Boland Coetzee arranged for a young Pieter to work as an apprentice to Achim von Arnim at Clos Cabriere in Franschhoek. The rest, as they say, is history and Ferreira helped Von Arnim launch his Pierre Jourdan bubbly with Ferreira also working in Champagne: at Mumm in 1987 and at Moët & Chandon two years later.
This new venture comes from their dogged pursuit of the perfect bubbly, striving to produce sparkling wine which showcases the very best expression of South African Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with their Blanc de Blancs, a 100% Pinot Noir Rosé and a blended Brut Vintage.
This 100% Chardonnay Cap Classique (Blanc de Blancs) 2015, currently being served by Rovos Rail, is sourced from carefully selected sites from the Robertson region, renowned for its rich limestone and weathered shale soils. The limestone content allows for an ideal platform for growing grapes with the acidic backbone and chemical composition required for the making of a perfect Cap Classique base wine.
A small portion of the base juice undergoes fermentation in French barrels. Once in bottle, it spent a minimum of 72 months on the lees.
Sip on a glass or two of the 2015 Pieter Ferreira Blanc de Blancs and you should pick up balanced flavours of citrus fruit and lime zest that are layered between notes of brioche and pastry combined with a vibrant mouth-feel with flavours of citrus, tropical fruits, honey and toast. It has a fine mousse and elegantly dry lingering finish.
Says Pieter, who happily admits that bubbles have consumed his life: “The beauty of Cap Classique is that it is uniquely South African. It will forever remain the better alternative for those who don’t want to do Champagne. There is a great amount of respect for Champagne but with our great weather and sunshine we will also always provide great value. I still believe it is the most ‘underrated’ wine category in the wine world.
“We’ve developed a uniquely New World style while remaining true to the essence, technique and tradition of champagne itself. Bubbly or Cap Classique has become a lifestyle drink and is not only there for celebrations anymore. A great glass of bubbly sets the tone for ‘what-ever-happens-next’! It is a great palate cleanser and makes for the best aperitif,” he explains.
Pieter says that bubbles are the most versatile wine for food pairing: “There is no right or wrong anymore. Bubbles have the ability to play the ‘enhancer’. My favourite pairings are Brut Blend – oysters on the rocks (anytime); Blanc de Blancs – fresh pan-seared fish with a beurre blanc sauce; Rosé – breast of duck (still moist and pink inside) with roasted vegetables and a matured Cap Classique– cheese board (mainly hard cheeses).”
We are so thrilled to welcome the Ferreira family to ours and look forward to serving this delicious bubbly on board our journeys.