Hazendal Sensory Experience: An Underground Wine-Tasting Journey of Discovery

Hazendal Sensory Experience: An Underground Wine-Tasting Journey of Discovery Images: Bruce Tuck

Wine tasting just got a new look.

When you drive into Hazendal Wine Estate, it feels as if a rainbow of options has been offered to you. Art gallery! Vintage cars! Babushka Deli! Wonderdal Edutainment Centre for kids! Beer garden! Russian tea ceremony! Wine tasting… and that’s really where I’d like to pause because the wine tasting is a kaleidoscopic experience in itself.

First impressions

Hazendal Sensory Experience: Winemaker Clarise Sciocatti-Langeveldt

Chef Michelle Theron and winemaker Clarise Sciocatti-Langeveldt have created a wine pairing unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

So what makes it so different? Well, a few things. Let’s begin with the visuals: a custom-made base by ceramicist Hennie Meyer is topped with a delicate five-tiered glass contraption of bowls and lids that reveal hidden layers of beautifully prepared morsels of food. You start from the top and work your way down through six courses, each layer is only revealed as the one before is eaten. The experience is unpacked like a Babushka doll, one layer at a time – a ritual that resonates so beautifully with Hazendal’s Russian heritage, it feels like a line from a poem.

Flavour meets fun

Hazendal Sensory Experience Menu

The visual delight is only one aspect; what really shines is the taste: the part of the experience we’re all here for. Each of the six pairings is surprising and delightful – some are a single mouthful, some are a few hearty mouthfuls. As you scoop, spoon or slice your way into the food, you’ll experience an explosion of flavour that’s complemented and augmented by the wine. Think snoek bon bon with black garlic and chutney jelly paired with the 2017 Hazendal Chenin Blanc, or a savoury kalamata olive madeleine with a 2018 Hazendal Chardonnay. It is so delicious you want to close your eyes to let the flavours play more loudly. And it’s fun!

“We wanted to do food and wine pairing in a different way,” explains Michelle. “Each season the dishes will change to complement the wines – mostly white wines in summer, mostly red in winter.”

This sense of lightness and play is evident in each of the dishes. This is not a stiff fine-dining experience but one that is meant to be shared and relished.

Wine rejuvenation

Hazendal Sensory Experience Wine-tasting

Of course, Hazendal’s superb wines are the counterpoint to Michelle’s food. “Hazendal has experienced a wine rejuvenation over the past few years,” explains winemaker Clarise Sciocatti-Langeveldt. “Our winemaking philosophy is that most of the work happens in the vineyards. We want the fruit to really shine.”

Their exceptionally knowledgeable (and entertaining) tasting ambassadors are collaborators on this mission. We were told: “The wines can age – 10 years if you can, but 10 minutes is fine, too!” And also: “The wines are so delicious you don’t taste the alcohol, you only feel it when you get up.” Fair warning.

Going underground

Hazendal Sensory Experience

The last piece of the sensory puzzle is the setting: the fact that we’re doing all of this in an underground wine library, next to the cellar, only adds to the sense of fun and adventure. The oval bar is surrounded by walls of vintage wines and covered by a glass ceiling with people walking over your head. It feels a little cheeky to be eating such extraordinary food and drinking such delicious wine underground, while the real world continues overhead.

“Food and wine is a conversation,” says Michelle. And at Hazendal, the conversation starts like this: “Come in! Make yourself at home. Let us give you an experience you won’t forget for a long time.”

Cost R680 per person
Times Tuesday – Sunday, 12.30pm
Bookings should be made at least 24 hours in advance.

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Hazendal Wine Estate Bottelary Road Stellenbosch