Back in March, the Covid-19 lockdown hit South Africa. But just before restrictions were put into place, the I Love Foodies team visited the Louisvale Wine Estate at the foot of the Devon Valley near Stellenbosch. The estate has been closed for the last few months but has now finally opened its doors again, giving us the chance to share our review with you.
Welcome To Louisvale
Louisvale is well known in architectural circles due to the interesting designs of its wine tasting centre and restaurant. Architect Christof Albertyn was inspired by local history when he brought this design to life. Partly inspired by the Khoisan and their way of life, the building’s roof has a dome-like shape as a nod to the shape and structure of the reed mat huts of the Khoisan.
The Khoisan were mainly farmers and hunters but, in the summer months, they would trek to the coast and live off seafood, such as perlemoen (abalone) and alikreukel (giant periwinkle). Albertyn further incorporated this little piece of history by shaping the windows in the roof to remind you of the holes you’ll find on the rim of the perlemoen shell. The concrete floors are also dressed up by the addition of thousands of perlemoen shell chips.
Louisvale is one of the pioneers of Chardonnay in South Africa. They hand-harvest their grapes, which may be one of the reasons they produce outstanding award-winning wines.
The estate focused purely on Chardonnay until the 1990s, when they introduced red wines to their repertoire.
The labels on the bottles have definitely been designed to attract attention. The two flamboyant wine label designers used to incorporate bright pinks but you’ll see a dark, royal purple on the most recent labels.
Welcoming I Love Foodies
I Love Foodies was privileged to spend a whole afternoon in Louisvale’s sun-lit restaurant. Our incredibly knowledgable host, Mouton du Toit, greeted us and dove straight into the 100-year history of Louisvale.
In addition to the architectural delight, the decor, ceiling-to-floor windows, and generous additions of Spekboom (an incredibly versatile and eco-friendly indigenous plant) make for a delightful space. Paintings by local artists also create splashes of colour in both the tasting room and restaurant.
Louisvale MCC & Wine
Method Cap Classique
Because we are South African, we started our afternoon not with food but with some bubbly. Since Louisvale used to be a Chardonnay-only winery, they offer two variants of Method Cap Classique (MCC). We tasted both the Chardonnay Brut and, my current favourite cultivar, a Chardonnay Pinot Noir Rosé.
The fresh, crisp bubbles served cold in long-stem glasses soon had us giggling for more. The Brut is a drier bubbly with green apple aromas. I haven’t met a Pinot Noir Rosé that I didn’t like and this one did not disappoint. The colours of a Rosé always make me so happy and it tasted exactly how it looked – summery and full of berries.
We also tried numerous of the Louisvale wines during the course of the afternoon, including the notable Louisvale Chardonnay options.
I used to shy away from Wooded Chardonnay as I sometimes found it to have a spoilt wine taste. Then I grew up and learnt to love Wooded Chardonnay even more than its unwooded counterpart.
Both Chardonnay options were fresh but I found that I preferred the rich wooded one, while Benike enjoyed the fruitiness of the unwooded one.
When I go for a tasting, I don’t just drink the wine. I love to hear the history of how it was produced — how much time it spent lying in French or American oak and whether any spiders contribute to the extra flavour in my wine.
So when we heard the story behind two of the Louisvale wines that were made to commemorate the owners’ pets, my heart melted. The Boris is a beautiful Bordeaux-style limited private blend that was created especially to commemorate the owner’s Burmese Mountain Dog. It is not available for tasting but I can highly recommend buying this one by the case.
The Dominique 2017, which is another Bordeaux-type blend, was named after one of the previous owner’s dogs, a little schnauzer. This is the winemaker Simon Smith’s favourite Louisvale wine. I wholeheartedly agree with his choice.
After tasting some of the meals on their delectable menu, I am convinced that architecture and wine won’t be the only thing Louisvale will be known for. The executive chef, Kirstie du Toit, loves using fresh vegetables and herbs from the Louisvale gardens for the dishes.
The menu changes monthly but you’ll always find local South African fare like snoek, mackerel, and ostrich, on their own or in some shape or form. This keeps the dishes interesting to locals and tourists alike. Louisvale may usually see the like of many tourists but thankfully they also cater to locals, with pricing averaging at around R150 a meal.
You can’t drink on an empty stomach, so we began our Louisvale adventure with some pre-starters: Olive focaccia bread and banana bread. Having eaten many banana breads, I see myself as a bit of a banana bread connoisseur and can attest to the perfect taste of sweet banana flavour, only made better by a proper spread of butter.
Considering that I’m a foodie, I will always go for the most interesting and weird-sounding item on a menu. So, for starters, I had the beetroot ravioli (R85) filled with goat’s cheese and ricotta and served on a mint and walnut carrot pesto.
Benike decided on a South African classic with a twist: Smoked mackerel terrine (R90), served with a cucumber dill salad, caper berries, and melba toast.
Both were delicious but the mackerel terrine was something totally different. The fact that it is a more common South African fish should just be ignored here. Next time, don’t use tuna or hake in that fish pie and substitute with mackerel — you’d be surprised by the wonderful flavours present in this humble fish!
We decided to pair our red wines with some red meat. The grilled ostrich steak (R165) was delectable. It was served with sweet potato mash, minted creme fraiche, green beans, curried mango, and coriander. The flavours complemented each other exquisitely and I finished most of it even though I was supposed to share with Benike.
We also tried the slow-braised beef short rib (R155), served with creamy polenta, green beans, basil, feta, a red wine sauce, and olives.
Both dishes paired extremely well with the intense dark flavours of the red wines but I thought that the ostrich was a definite winner in the flavour department!
Our dessert taught me, once again, that I shouldn’t shy away from old South African favourites. Benike and I shared ice cream with caramel sauce and a cappuccino panna cotta. I thought these would be way too boring for my intricate taste buds but we both ended up cleaning our plates in record time.
Visit Louisvale Wine Estate
We stayed until we were the only guests left. Louisvale, you literally wined and dines us to our heart’s content.
I’m sure you’ll enjoy your visit as much as we did. You’ll find all the information on the Louisvale Wine Estate below.
Louisvale Wine Estate
Address: Devon Valley Road, Stellenbosch
Call: +27 21 865 2422
Article Date: September 2020
MISSED OUR LAST ARTICLE? IT’S ON SKINNY SCOOP LOW-CARB ICE CREAM.
All information correct at time of publication. We do not accept any liability caused by errors, including, but not limited to, changes in price, menu, opening times, address, or other contact details.
All images, unless otherwise stated, belong to I Love Foodies and may not be used for social media, websites, or any other form of advertising. Images are available at set rates. Please contact us for details.