Wine and Feminism in South Africa

Winery South Africa
Wistful views at DeMorgenzon

This week on the blog, I thought we should have a chat about feminism over a wine (or in our case, a LOT of wine). By that I mean, I’d like to share with you some of the remarkable wineries we’ve visited in S.A whilst explaining a little about the feminist issues facing S.A, that I picked up on. Rest assured boys, the patriarchy is alive and thriving within the Afrikaans community down in S.A. But we’ll get onto that shortly…

The one thing you need to know is that S.A is the birthplace of the pinot noir and hermitage blend: Pinotage. While I found it a little too acidic for my tastes, we did find plenty to sample and what’s the harm in trying as many as possible, finding one that suited our palate? Amiright?

Also worth noting, the cellar doors in S.A are always extremely lavish. We found that each had a tremendously well kept garden, water features, featured walking tracks and dining options. We were amazed at how well kept each estate was. And let’s not forget the distinct Dutch remains (S.A was colonised by the dutch in 1795 and 1803) where the architecture of most houses contain whitewashed walls, rounded gables and thatch roofing. They’re very distinct and ornately beautiful.

Babylonstoren, South Africa
The Dutch left a beautiful mark on S.A architecture.

Vineyards to visit in Stellenbosch:

With over 15,000 hectares of land under vine, Stellies is a great place to start your S.A wine journey. The top red planted vines are: cabernet sauvingnon, shiraz and pinotage. The top white planted vines are: chenin blanc, colombard and sauvignon blanc. S.A is the 7th largest wine producer in the world, which I was surprised about – not having tried much back in Australia – mostly likely due to cost and the fact that the postal service here has completely collapsed, among other things.

It took a little while to come around to sauvignon blanc again, after feeling like I’d overdosed with it in my early 20’s, but I assure you it didn’t take long for us to get back on board with the crisp, lemon coloured, peach and melon flavoured drop.

Unlike the stuffy, highbrow cellar doors of Tuscany, we found most cellar doors throughout S.A to be warm and welcoming. Tastings were either free or for a small nominal amount and bottle prices were outrageously affordable. A vintage bottle might set you back anywhere from $23 – $50, on average prices were around $10 – $16 per bottle.

Stellenbosch wineries.

  • Jordan (favourite) beautiful setting and drool-worthy brunch menu. Their unoaked chardonnay was sublime (and purchased), but the barrel chardonnay is worth a taste, it won best in S.A.
  • DeMorgenzon gorgeous setting with the most intriguing method of looking after their vines by playing soft classical music to them through large speakers sporadically placed throughout the estate. It must work, their wines were exceptional. We bought the reserve syrah.
  • Spier
  • Alto was a premium red varietal cellar door, although we did sample the rose too. We couldn’t fault a single tasting.
  • Rust en Vrede (favourite) we would have loved to buy every bottle from Rust en Vrede but we couldn’t justify the expense, it was a little out of our budget.
The tasting room windows at Mauratie
  • Mauratie the tasting room, still used today, was last cleaned in April 1977. Why is that important? See above! There are cobwebs hanging from every corner of the room. It was a little (a lot) haunting. Rest assured the rest of the room was exceptionally clean.
  • Delheim was where we had our first ever wine and cupcake pairing. It was a little odd. But we couldn’t go past the pinotage and chardonnay.
  • Knorhoek
  • Joostenberg

If you’re ever in need of a wine fanatic to show you where to go based on your tastes, I would definitely recommend taking a tour with Colin Bridger. He was so passionate, knowledgeable, and genuinely just loved everything about the region and it’s glorious grapes. You can contact him via email: ctbridger(AT)gmail.com. I’d also highly recommend you stop in town for lunch at De Warenmarkt for freshly shucked oysters, a burger or salad. The food was mooi lekker!

I love the use of the soil in between the vines!

Onto feminism in South Africa…

For the last month or so we’ve been getting to know the Africaans community on different dimensions of society. At home, at the gym, at café’s and through friends. For me, it was incredibly eye opening. I rather naïvely assumed that the S.A community was less complicated than it was. I assumed they had the same western values as us in Australia and that their boundaries were as open as ours in terms of their relationships with others. After our time here, I’m left feeling there is still much growth required to afford Afrikaan’s woman the same choices and opportunities that women receive in some other western societies.

Historically, huge differences have shaped the lives of S.A women from different racial backgrounds, but patriarchy has been the one constant ‘profoundly non-racial institution’ across all communities. Cited.

And so, without needing to mention racial background, I found Africaans women overall to be generally conservative and mostly in relationships (rarely dating, or promiscuous). The women’s role is primarily a domestic one, in essence, they were not expected to concern themselves with matters outside the home cited. Rarely were women openly LBGTQIA (most feedback seemed as if they were less accepted in nature).

In contrast, S.A has the largest percentage of women in parliament in the world, yet, the highest levels of rape and violence against women in the world.

Viognier = Yes please!!

Society in general is conventionally patriarchal (meaning: men have authority in society, where women are seen as subordinate to men) with misogynistic undertones (meaning: men have a prejudice against women).

The patriarchal nature of apartheid S.A, has resulted in ambiguous gender positionings that are emphasised by such opposed facts – where women are clearly both empowered and victimised, seen and unseen, included and excluded in different ways.

So while the above may read as being quite restricted in nature, it should be stated that many of the women we met were completely happy with their lifestyle and choices. I found them to be strong, inspiring and it was clear they felt comfortable, safe and valued in their lives. However, it would be great to meet some women drawn to a less patriarchal lifestyle, to explore their experiences and understand the choices and opportunities made available to them in comparison.

I was feeling somewhat confronted about the submissive behaviour of women, and sadly I can’t see much changing anytime soon. I’m left feeling like the societal actions of women within the Afrikaans community is still too far removed from a global cultural movement for women’s freedom, or maybe – just as it has for other cultures – change is coming, albeit at a much slower pace.

Vineyards to visit in Franschhoek:

Franschhoek is one of the most celebrated food and wine regions in S.A. The town itself was much smaller than Stellies, more quaint and with a little more charm, just much quieter!! For food, we highly recommend Foliage, and Tokara delicatessen (on the way there) and for beer lovers, you can’t go past Tuk Tuk brewery.

All aboard!

We opted to see the wineries sans a designated driver, the Franschhoek wine tram was highly recommended, and we went with the orange route (there are eight different routes). Simply arrive on time and the rest of your day is spent however you choose on your tram line, with whatever schedule you’re on. We were up for it all!

Franschhoek wineries

  • Noble hill was the first stop along our wine tram route, I always feel sorry for the first cellar door of the day. The first sip is always combined with freshly brushed teeth, with undertones of caffeine, tricky to get past at 10:30 in the morning. (BTW the wine was great!!)
  • Babylonstoren (favourite) this crowd pleaser of a venue is definitely worth a few hours. Complete with farm shop, perfume and soap shop, animal farm and a guided vineyard tour all requiring time. Both reds and whites were extremely pleasing.
  • Backsberg seemed a little outdated and seriously needing some TLC. The tasting room was a little sad in terms of lighting and ambiance.
  • Vrede en Lust has been producing wine since 1688 and received many double ticks from both of us. (We ended up having lunch here!)
  • Allee Bleue has a gorgeous setting, and while we couldn’t sit outside, we were looking longingly at the view for most of the tasting. Their pinotage was without a doubt my favourite so far.
  • Boshchendal was our last tasting on the tram tour, so we were doubtless a little dusty by now. My notes don’t say much, other than a big tick of approval for the syrah.
  • La Motte was a little too stuffy in both atmosphere and ambiance but their wine really is world class. (we visited La Motte independently from the wine tram)

I’ve since learned that it’s common to buy grapes from other estates within the industry – I just didn’t realise just how prominent it was until we’d learned about wine making in S.A.

Estates will bring in grapes from all over the country (the cooler climate is down near Elgin and the warmer, more sweeter grapes are from the west coast) so while we were hoping to taste and learn more about each estate’s best produce, it felt like more importance was placed on the varietals they wanted to make (by purchasing and transporting it in), rather than what they were best at producing and making.

If that is the way wine production is headed worldwide, then it feels like there should be more credit to the winemaker than the estate, in my opinion. The cellar door is merely the decorated shop front and the wine itself is the craftsmanship in a bottle.

Winery, South Africa
Stunning backdrop for lunch at Vrede en Lust

So while it’s tough to talk about feminist issues here in S.A, I thought it might be a little easy to chat about them over a glass (or bottle/s) of wine. I feel S.A has a long way to go to ensure the progression of Afrikaans women, and I really hope it doesn’t take too long to see some change.

Next week, all about our trip along the garden route, and our safari experience!

Until then xo

By the way! If you’re interested in reading more about our wine trails, you can read all about Margaret River, Tasmania, Orange, Barossa, Umbria, Greece in my previous posts. We like wine… A LOT!


3 thoughts on “Wine and Feminism in South Africa

  1. Hello, how interesting to read this, it’s like sitting down having a natter. No plans here to visit SA soon but when the time comes… boomarked! Now off tor ead your post on Orange, we shift between Orange and Sydney, still have plenty wineries to visit here.

    Liked by 1 person

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