One of the most renowned heritage wine estates, Allesverloren epitomizes the best of what the Swartland region has to offer. I spent a sunny afternoon exploring a few of the epicurean offerings available in the area before ending up on the verandah of the old Allesverloren manor house for a harvest table lunch. The estate itself can be found between the twin towns of Riebeek-Kasteel and Riebeek-Wes and looks out over the beautiful Riebeek Valley.
Home to an abundance of produce, the Riebeek Valley is known for their wine, bread, olives and meat – all of which I was introduced to during my visit. A picturesque town that relies strongly on it’s sense of community, Riebeek-Kasteel makes the idea weekend getaway destination – a mere 70kms from Cape Town. Country charm is evident in the quaint storefronts and family-run eateries while a dose of colonial charm comes from the old Royal Hotel where afternoon tea (or gin cocktails) can be taken on their shaded stoep. Any morning cravings for a hot croissant and a fresh cup of coffee are assuaged by Panera Bistro – a small bakery that has quickly gained popularity with locals and visitors alike thanks to owner/baker David’s tempting creations. David, who comes from a family of bakers, took an artisan baking coarse and opened Panera’s doors a year ago and his pastries and breads are testament to his skill. Stop by for one of his famed croissants or take home a slice of baked cheesecake, carrot cake or a homemade pie. Further along one can find Deli-Co. A family-run butchery, Deli-Co specialises in fresh, quality meat farmed in the Swartland with a strong emphasis on community upliftment and employment. Noted for their lamb, a weekend braai just wouldn’t be complete without a few of Deli-Co’s delicious chops sizzling away over the coals.
No visit to Riebeek-Kasteel or indeed the Swartland would be complete without olives. Each year the valley plays host to the Olive Festival – a popular event that celebrates this unique fruit in all its briny glory. At the forefront of olive production and curing in the area is the Olive Boutique. Run by Derek and Susan – a former development consultant and lawyer respectively – the Olive Boutique specialises in bottling olives in all their flavourful forms. Naturally advocates of the health benefits of olives and their oil, Susan and Derek take visitors on a tour of taste, introducing them to Olive Boutique’s myriad varietals of preserved olives, olive oil, olive tapenade, Greek Tsakistes, roasted olives and a rather cheeky green olive mustard. Joking that farmers in the Riebeek Valley never admit to farming olives but rather have the trees on their land for decorative purposes, Derek says that its a different story come harvest time, when Olive Boutique are kept busy with the lengthy process of curing – from plant to pip.
Olives might get a festival all their own but in the Swartland it’s the grape that is glorified. The veritable maverick of wine farming in the valley, Allesverloren is the oldest established estate in the area and currently owned by cellar master and fifth generation occupant Danie Malan. It was he who hosted a lucky group of us at his beautiful ancestral home overlooking the valley. Found on the slopes of the Kasteelberg range, Allesverloren’s location is ideal for full-bodied, hearty and fortified wines with excellent fruit concentration. Think robust reds made in the traditional Old-World style with a strong influence from Portuguese cultivars. Reds that result in such significant depth, character and ageing potential have won Danie various awards including Diners Club Winemaker of the Year for his signature wine, the 1996 Allesverloren Shiraz. Now having handed the reigns over to winemaker Wilhelm, who continues to produce an excellent range of varietals – namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Tinta Barocca. Crediting his wine’s popularity to the fact that Swartland reds are lighter in tannins due to being grown in a climate that is both warm and cool, Allesverloren reds provide the drinker with a softer sip and nose redolent of red fruit.
It was two of these wines – a 2017 Shiraz and a 2016 Tres Vermelhos – that inspired me to create a recipe in homage to the unique character, heritage and hospitality of the valley. Enter my Mediterranean lamb shanks, slow-braised in red wine with rosemary and served on a bed of creamy mashed potato. You can find the full recipe here.