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Avontuur Wine and Thoroughbred Estate

August 31, 2012

South Africa’s home of fine wines and fast horses in the Cape Winelands

A local attraction within just 10 minutes drive of my guest house, Penny Lane Lodge, Avontuur is well worth a visit!

On the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain around 40 proud horses show off their thoroughbred status amongst the vines. Avontuur Wine and Thoroughbred Estate lies on the R44, the scenic highway that cuts through the Cape Winelands and connects Somerset West with Stellenbosch.

The drive up to the Avontuur tasting room and the Avontuur Estate Resturant, both of which are open daily, takes you through the horses’ paddocks up to the cellar building in its commanding setting high up against the mountain. The spectacular view of the Cape Winelands also goes beyond the paddocks, from the Helderberg Mountain right across to the Simonsberg in Stellenbosch – which is especially impressive from the restaurant terrace.

A blend of wine and horses

Experienced winemaker, Jan van Rooyen, is in charge of the medium-sized winemaking operation. The focus is on red wine (70% red wines and 30% white wines), but don’t forget to ask for their five- and ten-year matured cognac-style brandy, both beautifully packaged.

Jan describes working at Avontuur as an adventure. “I learn a lot about wines every day and also about horses from the expert team on the thoroughbred side of the operation. My most important task is to raise the quality level of wines and to build on the good work of my predecessors.” Jan loves to share his wine knowledge with visitors, so book a vineyard and cellar tour or a wine blending, where guests blend their own wines and take it home after the session. It’s one of the most fun things to do in the winelands. Avontuur Estate approaches wine tours in a light-hearted way and armed with a wine glass, you’ll quickly relax.

Jan gave the Avontuur Brut (a bottle-aged bubbly) his own signature. His vision is to make a world class champagne-style wine that has been matured for a minimum of three years. “Wines must be balanced and enjoyable. Wine is a consumer item. It’s about enjoyment and quality.”

At the right time of the year, the winemaker will give you a taster of two or more different wines to show you how the blends that eventually make it into the bottle are made up. It requires tasting after tasting until the optimal potential of the estate’s vines have been reached.

Avontuur has a relatively small annual wine production of 30,000 cases – a total production of 360,000 bottles. Two thirds of this is sold at the estate itself while only 120 000 bottles are exported to China, Europe, Great Britain and the USA.

All the wines in Avontuur’s premier range are named after the finest horses that ever graced the paddocks on this farm. It’s this combination of great wine and thoroughbred horses and the way they interact with each other that makes Avontuur so special.

At the heart of Avontuur their prized stallion, Var flicks his mane proudly. The Taberer family who owns the estate bought the European Sprint Champion in 2006 and in 2008/09 he became the Champion First Season Sire of South Africa. Dark, gracious and imposing, Var keeps himself busy covering some of South Africa’s top mares for six months of the year, earning his keep by sending more champion race horses into the world. Tough life!

Avontuur’s commitment to the racing industry is proven annually by their sponsorship of the R750 000 Grade 1 Cape Fillies Guineas race day at Kenilworth which always takes place on the first Saturday of December and traditionally leads in the Cape Summer Racing Season.

Jan van Rooyen’s next task is to push the wines to their potential and build on that foundation. “One must always seek to make use of new technology, new inventions and read a lot of wine research, but too never forget the basics. The ultimate is in successfully combining all of these aspects…”

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