What do 1954 edition Tintin comic books, original Star War toys and old French pastis bottles have in common?
They are all colourful manifestations of winemaker Marc Kent’s maverick personality and eclectic tastes. Along with unusual stemware, they are amongst the intriguing displays in the curiosity cabinets in the revamped Boekenhoutskloof tasting room.
The tasting room now has loads more natural light, deep red walls and a bar-like counter behind which are ranged rows of bottles of the wine from all over the world, currently being savoured by Marc and his team.
Giant glass jars from Hungary hang above the tasting table and the walls are full of funky art and unusual displays. As Marc says “I wanted the tasting room to reflect something of me, what I like, what I believe in.”
Along with the revamp has come a total rethink of what role the tasting room, and Marc himself, should play in interacting with their guests.
Marc has been at the helm of Boekenhoutskloof since December 1994, and in those two decades has quietly built The Wolftrap, Porcupine Ridge and The Chocolate Block into some of South Africa ‘s most successful brands, while the Boekenhoutskloof wines are right at the very top rung of South Africa’s premium wines. The problem with the previous tasting room model, Mark explains, was that only the popular brands were poured because Boekenhoutskloof is always sold out, and the visitor experience had become pretty average by comparison with some of the other tourist oriented wineries in the valley. And Mark doesn’t like to do average.
So the tasting room is now only by appointment. The plan is to involve wine lovers in a personal and interactive way. Visitors will meet Marc himself, taste Boekenhoutskloof wines and The Chocolate Block, and talk wine the way wine lovers love to talk wine – in a leisurely fashion, with the best stemware, lots of open bottles, different vintages, and with other wines opened for comparison. Marc will explain the workings of the organic vineyards on Boekenhoutskloof, the conservation of the farm’s natural biodiversity, and add in his personal stories, including how an aspirant pilot ended up making wine. There is no charge for the tastings and individuals can join a group by phoning for an appointment.
And then there is the cherry on the top. The riverine boardwalk. It isn’t long….850 metres, but every step is a joyful experience. The wooden walkway, built by a master carpenter, winds through the indigenous forest alongside the Franschhoek River. Signs posted along the walk identify the different trees, and as you meander you are surprised and delighted by mythical wolves…extraordinary sculptures made from pallets by artist Simon Bannister. The walk is open to everyone, but again, you need to phone for an appointment.