WINE Spring day grazing at Villiera

Our conversation in the car on the first day of spring focused on eating habits and small versus large appetites, bringing to mind a colleague’s recent trip through the Kruger Park with inlaws. It’s that tricky situation we’ve all experienced when travelling with people we’re too polite to be forceful with about the catering arrangements, wondering whether their idea of a good meal is a slug of coffee or a full cook up.

Waking at the crack of dawn to witness animals in the wild at their best is only pleasant if you know you can expect breakfast or at least lunch after five hours. If not, there is little to focus your mind away from a rumbling stomach. My colleague and I are definitely of the hearty chomping variety, not grazers satisfied with ad hoc snacks.

Imagine our disappointment then after a 1pm start time to taste the new wine vintages at Villiera (website and the lure of a big-name chef, to discover that lunch was grazing-style and on the run. One clever touch was a Caesar salad served in sabraged bubbly bottle tops, upturned and stacked in the traditional wooden bubbly riddling racks. But that’s all I sampled, so we wouldn’t miss the first safari drive to view game in a section of Villiera’s new Stellenbosch conservancy.


Villiera will be opening the conservancy and wine safari drives to the public on appointment during the summer season and they seem like a lot of fun. Together with a neighbour’s collaboration, a 175ha property is being developed as a wildlife sanctuary. The area is stocked with game and includes 10 dams and marshy areas that attract birdlife.

Villiera’s Brut Natural 2007 was launched too. It’s bone dry at 2.14g per litre residual sugar but elegant nevertheless. I found it lovely and fresh. Cellarmaster Jeff Grier says the Brut Natural is a hit with health-orientated customers who believe they are allergic to sulphur in wine. In this wine’s favour: incredibly low levels of sulphur, low alcohol at 12 percent, and no additives. Villiera’s first vintage of Brut Natural was released in 1998, and it’s become such a popular drink that volumes routinely sell out. Grier would love to make still wines with low sulphur but it’s too risky. Bubbly it will be then.