Let’s be honest, the wine industry has a tendency to be a tad snooty – if you’ve ever had to sit through a wine tasting where an expert tells you to pick up on flavours of liquorice, honey, or roses in the your glass then you’ll know what I’m talking about. But the guys at Black Elephant Vintners in Franschhoek like to do things a little bit differently. The independent wine producer strives to demystify wines for wine enthusiasts and newbies alike and offer wine experiences without the pomp and ceremony commonly associated with the industry. One such experience is the divine Black Elephant food and wine tasting experiencing at Ryan’s Kitchen in Franschhoek – forget long, drawn out food and wine pairing dinners, this delightfully laid-back menu dégustation experience is a surefire way to shake up your taste buds and explore the wonderfully different range of wines from Black Elephant.

If you’ve never heard of Black Elephant wines before then it’s time to get familiar because these guys are doing great and oh-so-different things. The product of two reformed stockbrokers, Black Elephant is named after two of its owners, Kevin Swart (Black) and Raymond Ndlovu (ndlovu meaning elephant). But the quirkiness doesn’t stop there – the wines, their labels, and even their names are unique and oh-so-fun. There’s The Fox & Flamingo Rosé 2015 (a full-bodied Rosé with a bold flavour), Two Dogs, a Peacock and a Horse Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (a fresh Sauvignon Blanc that gives easy-drinking new meaning), the Amistad Syrah 2013 (a bold dry red with a spicy edge), and so much more to choose from. The thing I love most about Black Elephant is that their wines are incredibly delicious and of great quality, yet their prices are oh-so-fair. My favourite wine, Two Dogs, a Peacock and a Horse Sauvignon Blanc 2016, for example, retails for just R77 while the The Fox & Flamingo Rosé 2015 will only set you back R89. For wines this good, those prices are a steal!

Black Elephant Vintners

To truly experience the magic of the Black Elephant varietals you have to try the menu dégustation at Ryan’s Kitchen. It’s well worth the drive and you can choose between a four-course menu dégustation with four wines at R235, a seven-course menu dégustation with seven wines at R330, or a wine only tasting at R75 for four wines and R125 for seven wines. I got the chance to try the seven-course menu and loved how truly different it was. To be clear, the menu is more of a light lunch than a full meal and the portions are indeed just morsel-sized bites – beyond delicious morsel-sized bites!

Black Elephant Vintners

First up on the seven-course option was the Black Elephant Vintners Brut MCC paired with an octopus and apple ceviche. The refreshing dish is the perfect accompaniment to the beautiful Black Elephant bubbly – I could drink glass after glass of this MCC and it’s no surprise that it is one of their most popular varietals among those in the know. Some other noteworthy pairings from the tasting include the Fox and Flamingo Rosé paired with a salmon sashimi served in a seaweed stock (the bold flavour of the Black Elephant Rosé pairs exquisitely with the strong, delicious umami flavour of the seaweed stock and salmon), the Timothy White paired with a mouth-wateringly good dish of sous vide buttery baby potato with snoek and chives (this rich dish was expertly balanced with a sip or two of the Black Elephant Timothy White), and the Amistad Syrah paired with a melt-in-your-mouth, tender braised lamb (a sweet and sultry combination that will leave you begging for more!). Of course, there’s so much to try in the seven-course tasting option but these were just some of my stand-out favourites.

Black Elephant Vintners

The Black Elephant Vintners menu dégustation at Ryan’s Kitchen is a refreshing take on traditional food and wine pairings and is a fantastic way to while away the hours with a few friends when visiting Franschhoek. If you’re driving (or Ubering) through to Franschhoek for the day then I’d recommend you hit a few wineries in the area and then finish up at Ryan’s Kitchen and Black Elephant and linger for a while. It’s a great place to finish off a perfect day in Franschhoek and you’ll no doubt want to stay for dinner and then some.

Black Elephant Vintners

The Black Elephant menu dégustation at Ryan’s Kitchen is available from Monday to Saturday from 12:00 – 15:30. Find Ryan’s Kitchen at 1 Place Vendome, Huguenot Road, Franschhoek. To book contact +27 21 8762903 or email hello@bevintners.co.za. For more information on Black Elephant Vintners and their wines visit their website here.