Saturday, April 10, 2010

Port Dreams and Calitzdorp

A visit to Calitzdorp is sort of like a step back to another era – once off the main road, the streets are few, narrow, and lined with colourful Bougainvillea, the houses are thick-walled and set back in ample shade, the building that holds the town museum looks like part of the display, the police station is friendly and relaxed, and you get a quiet feeling of being in a place where time moves a little slower. This is an honest place, like a little welcoming gem in the dusty, lonely expanse of the hot Klein Karoo. It’s blessed with a climate perfect for growing sweet, sugary grapes and as a result is home to South Africa’s top two producers of port – Boplaas Family Vineyards and De Krans.

These winemakers consistently score the highest marks in the John Platter ratings guide and aren’t shy about telling you through the many sign-boards posted throughout town. Every few hundred meters there is a reminder peeking out through the flowers at you, making it nearly impossible to leave without stopping in for a try. I had to make a choice between the two wine farms and chose Boplaas because of its older history, since 1880. It was easy to find – I just followed the signboards like directions on a treasure hunt, and within moments I found the shaded car park and made my way up to the tasting room.

Dark and cool inside, I nearly forgot it was only 11AM and got stuck into tasting all versions of sweet and smooth goodness. The Cape Ruby port was dark, plumy and ripe with fruit – I imagined myself enjoying it with a rich, gooey, dark chocolate dessert, perhaps with raspberry sauce. The Cape Tawney is grown on 20-year old vines and aged for 12 months in Portuguese oak, and you can tell – it tasted like raisin molasses, perfect on its own or over a rich vanilla ice-cream. The Cape Vintage Reserve is aged for 2 years in Portuguese oak and was the Grand Daddy of them all, living up to its five-star reputation with ease. It has a dark, deep purple colour and tasted smooth, regal, and heavy with blackberries.

At the end of the tasting I found it difficult to choose which treasures to purchase – would it be ruby, tawny, dark and plumy, pink, raisin-like, or berry delicious? Finally I settled on the Cape Tawney and the Vintage Reserve and now that I’m back at home, I have the even more difficult task of waiting for the perfect opportunity to enjoy them again!

Details & Cellar Door Prices

-Tasting: R20 per person, unless you make a purchase over R200, then it’s complimentary

- Cape Tawny Port Vinter’s Reserve 2006, 4-stars JP Guide, R100 per 750ml bottle or R41 per 375ml bottle

- Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2006, 5-stars JP Guide, R150 per 750ml bottle


  1. Hello Theresa,

    Thank you for writing an article on the Boplaas wines. Boplaas is a relative big tourist destination with more than 25 000 visiting the tasting room per annum. I am very fortunate and proud to be part of the Nel family. It is true that time moves slower in this area. I travel often to different areas for business and is always grateful to return home to Boplaas and Calitzdorp.

    Thank you once again.

    Kind regards/ Groete,

    Rozanne Nel
    Marketing Manager
    Boplaas Family Vineyards, Since 1880

  2. Hi Theresa,
    Thank you for your eMail. The articleis great!

    Groete/Tourism Greetings
    Erina Meiring
    Toerisme Bestuurder/Tourism Manager
    Calitzdorp Toerisme/Tourism