The wine business can be ruthless; with so many wine farms competing for foot traffic and attention in any given wine valley in the Western Cape, many estates have had to start thinking outside the box to draw in visitors. Of course, this is great news for wine lovers and keen travellers, as it means more exciting and unique experiences to enjoy. For me, the most exciting trend that has emerged from the healthy competition between wine estates is the underground ‘cave’ wine tasting.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing a winery cave tour, then you’re in for a treat! Many wineries in the Western Cape winelands have been searching for new ways to showcase their wines, and they’re looking to the past for a little help. While wine storage methods and the process of ageing wine has progressed, with most wineries now using barrels, the massive, underground wine tanks that were built into the ground by their forefathers stood empty and unused. Luckily for adventurous wine lovers, a number of estates have decided to make use of these unused tanks in a novel way.
Rather than leave them to gather dust, they’ve broken through the walls of the huge tanks to create magical caverns and pathways for wine lovers to explore. Each estate usually has its own take on the underground cave tasting experience, with no two experiences the same, so one can become a bit of a winelands cave hunter and tick them all off your bucket list. I’ve been lucky enough to experience quite a few wine tasting experiences in a subterranean chamber, but Weltevrede’s new Captivated by Chardonnay and Captivated by Cap Classique underground tours really stand out from the crowd for me.
Breaking new ground
Weltevrede’s guided underground tasting experiences are not only the best way to savour Weltevrede’s wines in all their organoleptic splendour, but they also offer visitors insight into the estate’s history while giving a super cool story to go home with. A fair amount of wineries in the Cape winelands have wine grottos that are open to visitors, offering sit-down tastings or guided walks, but Weltevrede’s recently re-vamped tasting experiences are the best of the bunch for me.
After 109 years in the South African wine industry, Weltevrede Estate has decided to focus solely on Chardonnay and Cap Classique, and is further wowing visitors with a complete overhaul of the tasting room and awe-inspiring underground tasting experiences. I was lucky enough to be one of the first guests to experience the new tasting room and wine experiences on offer and was blown away.
The new tasting room is chic, inviting, and oh-so-modern, serving as a gateway to the new wine tasting and other experiences on offer at the estate. Guests can choose to book a number of experiences at Weltevrede including the Captivated by Chardonnay underground tour, Captivated by Cap Classique underground tour, Create Cap Classique experience, and Cap Classique Sabrage. The tasting room also offers sit-down tastings. Plus, on summer days, guests can enjoy the tranquil, and stylish outdoor tasting space with sweeping views of the vineyards.
Sip and see
For the unique underground tours, Weltevrede has brilliantly interwoven the fun and excitement of a wine tasting experience with history and an element of adventure. The tours take you deep underground to explore the cooling vaults that were dug into the ground at Weltevrede. Cast in cement and then sealed with molten beeswax, to prevent the wine from coming into contact with the concrete, these vaults are now home to an extraordinary collection of wines and memorabilia.
Both tours are accessible for adults of all ages, although there are a few stairs involved to enter and exit the underground tasting areas. The tours are 2-hours each and will see you being led through a series of winding passages and hidden caverns.
Carefully placed dimmed lighting and candles places throughout the underground tunnels casts a warm glow across the walls of the once wine-filled tanks, which now serve as an exhibition space for wine lovers to learn about the history of winemaking as well as the history of the farm and Jonker family who have lived on Weltevrede since 1912.
I loved the air of mystery and adventure that Weltevrede has created with these experiences. Throughout the experiences, I felt like an explorer who had stumbled across something quite extraordinary. Each cavern offered something new to discover, whether it be a sip of wine, historical artefacts dug up on the farm, or dusty bottles of Weltevrede’s first vintages dating back more than 100 years.
Captivated by Chardonnay
The 2-hour Captivated by Chardonnay underground experience invites visitors to share in the worldwide fascination of Chardonnay and taste the new collection of Weltevrede Chardonnays in a unique setting. The tour offers the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of Chardonnay and about the history of the Jonker family.
The family has a fascinating collection of family stories and memorabilia on display throughout the cavern walls, dating back to their early ancestors, one of whom was a slave of Indonesian heritage. The entire experience is expertly curated and is laid out similar to a museum, with detailed plaques and exhibition-style displays to take you on a journey you won’t soon forget. It’s a captivating tour that is both emotional and celebratory and if you’re a fan of Chardonnay, one that is not to be missed.
The experience offers 3 wine tastings, and you get the opportunity to taste the Weltevrede Calcrete, Weltevrede Place of Rocks, and Weltevrede Poet’s Prayer Chardonnays. I adored the Calcrete which is bright and vibrant with a brilliant minerality. Beautifully quaffable, this wine is the first taster on the tour and helps to set the scene for what’s to come.
The tour is offered daily at 14:00 and costs R250 per person.
Captivated by Cap Classique
This 2-hour tour offers bubbly lovers a chance to join the world celebration of Cap Classique and Champagne and taste the latest vintages of Philip Jonker Brut. Throughout the tour, you’ll learn about the fascinating Cap Classique production process, and about the history of Cap Classiue and Champagne. If you’re a fan of bubbly, it’s a must-do experience.
The tour offers 2 tastings, and you get the chance to sip on the Philip Jonker Brut Entheos Chardonnay–Pinot Noir and The Ring Blanc de Blancs. My favourite of the two is definitely The Ring; it’s a complex, elegant 100% Chardonnay bubbly that dances on the palate, giving you cause for celebration no matter the occasion.
What’s more, you can also choose to add on a ‘Create Your own Cap Classique’ experience. This fun hands-on activity offers guests the opportunity to create their own Cap Classique and go through the final processes that bring the Philip Jonker Cap Classique Entheos Chardonnay – Pinot Noir Cap Classique to the shelf. Disgorge, dossage, cork, and label your own bottle of Philip Jonker Cap Classique and take it home with you to enjoy.
The Captivated by Cap Classique tour takes place every day at 10:00 and is R250 per person. Add in the ‘Create Your Own’ experience and enjoy both for R400. The ‘Create Your own Cap Classique’ experience can also be booked on its own at R200 per person.
You can also enjoy a Sabrage experience at R150 per bottle. This experience allows a guest to buy a bottle of Cap Classique at Weltevrede and do the traditional sabrage themselves.
Sit-down tastings at Weltevrede are priced at R60 for a Chardonnay tasting (3 Chardonnays), R60 for a Cap Classique tasting (2 Cap Classiques), and R100 for a Weltevrede tasting (taste all 5 varietals). A single serving tasting is R30 per tasting. You can also pick up a few bottles of Weltevrede wines at great cellar door prices starting from R99 for a bottle of Calcrete up to R260 for a bottle of The Ring.
Booking for the underground tasting tours is essential. Click here to visit the Weltevrede website and book online now.
After years of working as an Editor and writer for popular websites like Joburg’s Darling, Cape Town’s Darling and Joburg.co.za, Crystal left her sanity and an established career in lifestyle journalism behind to follow her dream of creating a website for the intellectual and discerning woman. Today she spends her time chasing the thrill of being the first to know about ‘the next big thing’. She’ll try anything once and has been known to put her body, hair and health on the line – all in the name of research.