By Nadim Nyker
The visage of colossal mountains under the peaking Sun, which overlooked the century-old churches approaching Karusa Wine Estate, is one that filled our imminent arrival with an esteemed view, an expectancy of greatness and of adventure. However, driving in to the estate, we discovered the setting to be unexpected, small yet even more novelistic than the town we left behind us. Just out of Oudtshoorn is a vineyard and tasting environment so unique, homely and aesthetically pleasing that upon entering, we already felt settled in.
The estate brings a sense of belonging like no other I’ve experienced. It is overwhelmingly green, beside a pool of water, and overlooked by a 1920’s movie-like farm house and a spacious porch. It made me want to put on my Timberland boots, gather a chequered picnic mat, and dine on fine wine all afternoon with my damsel in distress-turned farm girl. It was, indeed, my fairy-tale setting, the kind of place I’d propose; simple, elegant and hearty.
The only problem was that my girlfriend was over 1200 kilometers away, and I was accompanied by my strapping blonde German friend, Moritz. Nevertheless, we shoulder-nudged, announced our manliness, and approached the oh-so-lovely craft beer, before settling our senses into the even-better wine. Here’s how it went…
Karusa Craft Beers:
Craft beer is always an adventure, you never know what to expect, every brewer has a unique taste, and with the different tastes come different kicks, every time.
Karusa has the first full grain microbrewery in the Klein Karoo. Karusa craft beers can be best found online or by contacting the wine estate, where they will advise you as to where the beer is available in your area. They are hard to find and very little is brewed. This allows for a beer to be made with extreme attention to flavouring and overall detail, which is why these, in all their categories, are the best beers I’ve ever had. The beers were roughly R25, money well spent.
I had to ask Jacques Conradie (winemaker and brewer) if it was really a beer. It reminded me of a freshly squeezed passion fruit juice with lemon to add a touch of bitterness. A citrus-based drink; this is very similar to The Naked Mexican, it is light and refreshing but a lot less fizzy.
This is an India Pale Ale and the name is as fitting as can be. The Karoo Hopster is as spicy as a marinated piece of ostrich steak. This is a profoundly heavy and pungent beer with a slight bitterness and is definitely the most unique beer in the country. With a 6% alcohol level, it could be the most fun too.
Fire & Spice:
This is a ginger beer with a 4% alcohol volume. It is a lot more natural tasting than the Red Dragon’s Ginger Beer. It is bitter and tangy and not fizzy at all. However, it still gives you that ginger-beer-scratch at the back of your throat. Best served with lemon, it is much dryer and more digestible than the Dragon Brewing Co’s concoction.
For just R30, you can taste five wines of your choice, or a pre-selected red or white wine tray. Whichever you choose, the wines will be placed in the perfect order for your pallet to enjoy best. As seen above (from left to right), I chose my own wines, which were predominantly red. For their list critiques of white wine visit their site, if you’re into that kind of thing.
- Stonerock Viognier:
A very sweet and lightly fruity wine. It entails an aroma of honey blossom and yellow flower. The wine also has flavours of dried peach and light marmalade. This is the kind of wine that goes down perfectly with a chicken curry and compliments a spicy dish.
Price: R65 at Karusa- an absolute steal.
- The Ancients Pinot Noir:
A well-rounded red wine, not too strong, with a mild peppery taste and a rather bland red berry flavour. A classy wine which is gentle on the palate. This is a great wine to have with light meals, such as fish.
Price: R90 at Karusa.
- One Tree Hill Pinotage:
My favourite out of the lot. The Pinotage carries a sweet ripe tobacco flavour and is as satisfying as a cigar on your 21st birthday; a bold taste, yet one that is not overly matured. This also carries a strong chocolate and coffee flavour, which gives the wine a bit of a kick. This is the wine for that ostrich steak (or any heavy meats really).
Year: 2014 (I assume the previous years sold out really quickly)
Price: R90 at Karusa- honestly a better bargain than you’d get at an Indian flea market.
- Shiraz/ Cabernet Sauvignon:
This is a wine to have every day, a perfect blend of 70% Shiraz and 30% Cabernet. This has a structured and lengthy taste, coupled with a spicy but dark and heavy roasty taste. This is not as strong as the One Treet Hill Pinotage but a lot heavier. An everyday wine for an everyday meal, have it with pizza, pasta or maybe something less Italian? Uhmm.. some braai’ed meat could do!
Price: R60 at Karusa- at this price it is nothing but an overcompensation on their behalf.
- Double Black Petite Syrah:
Heavy. Heavy. Heavy. An extremely dark and austere taste. This wine is for your experienced wine drinker. This is the wine to have one glass, savour the sips, and then put away the bottle feeling satisfied. This is the Blue Label of wines, buy it for your girlfriend’s dad. It carries a meaty biltong-like flavour and is pitch black in colour, very liquorice-like and offers distinct notes of black pepper. This wine separates the boys from the men and the girls from the women. Bring out the steaks and the tomato stews, all the heavy dishes, this wine can handle it.
Price: R125 at Karusa- a very small price to pay to win over an imminent father-in-law’s heart.