You don't have to be a winemaker to blend wine + 10 wine farms that offer this unique experience

2019-10-14 11:50 - Gabi Zietsman
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While making your own wine from scratch requires a lot of resources and know-how, you don't need to be a winemaker to blend your own wine.

You'll probably even feel more like a scientist, mixing ratios trying to find the key to the elixir of youth - or just a decent wine to drink around a fire.

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wine farm house in stellenbosch

The tasting room at Middelvlei. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

I got to try my hand at my first blending experience at Stellenbosch's Middelvlei Wine Estate - farm animals, an old-school farmhouse and rolling lawns make up this quaint off-the-beaten-track wine farm.

Separated in groups on a tour with Google, we had one goal - who could make the best wine? With Shiraz, Pinotage and Merlot as our ingredients, my group took our task very seriously. I grew up in this very Stellenbosch region and have been living in Cape Town for half-a-decade, so eyes were on me to help suss out the winning combo.

You have one small measuring tube to test drive the combinations you can think of before blending the chosen ratio in the bigger bottle-sized measuring tube. You have the option to add sweetener and/or wood flavouring to your wine, but that was instantly scoffed at by our team. 

wines used in a wine blending session in stellenbo

Your wine blending kit - it can get a bit messy. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman

Next to us, another team had other ideas though, as they added something like 20 drops of the sweetener to their wine, especially poignant seeing as the wine expert recommended between two and three drops beforehand.

We started with a blend dominated by Pinotage and a small base of Merlot, but opted instead for a dominant Shiraz blend for fruitier tones. 

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Lou from Google pouring our best blend. (Video: Gabi Zietsman)

After pouring our final masterpiece into our bottle, giving it the name of Airport Vino (our team leader said it's a good enough wine for grabbing at the airport before a flight) and it went for judgement by the experts of Middelvlei.

Munching nervously on the most scrumptious farm bread, they returned with their verdict - we were a close second! The team with 70% Shiraz stole the hearts of Middelvlei, but in our minds, we were still the real winners. 

The sweetener team just received a laugh when asked for comment on their wine.

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potbrood with butter

The delectable potbrood. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

What you should know about wine blending at Middelvlei:

  • It costs R180 per person and booking is essential.
  • The session is one-and-a-half hours long and available every day of the week between 11:00 and 15:00.
  • The experience is designed for two participants, while bigger groups will be divided into teams to compete for the best blend.
  • It also includes 'potbrood' with home-made snoek pâté.
  • If it's for a special occasion, you can order additional bottles of your blend with personalised labels at an extra charge of R150 per bottle.

Here are more wine farms where you can do a wine blending experience:

Meerendal Wine Estate

If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of how wine is made, including a blending course, Meerendal has a Wine Academy that teaches you from picking to bottling how the process works over six days.'

Where: Durbanville

Cost: About R9 800 

Need to know: Includes all meals, training and equipment, the wine and a certificate at the end, and takes place over harvest season around February.

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Backsberg Estate Cellars

The environmentally sustainable farm you'll get a crash-course on what makes a well-balanced wine, and would make a great party alternative.

Where: Paarl

Cost: R125 per person.

Need to know: Only available for groups of 10 or more, booking essential and takes two hours to do.

Marianne Wine Estate

Steeped in French winemaking traditions from Bordeaux, at Marianne you'll get to blend your own creation with Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Where: Stellenbosch

Cost: Available on request.

Need to know: Booking is essential, takes about two hours and you'll get a personalised label for your wine.

READ: This is the 50 best vineyards in the world - and 3 SA estates made the cut 

Slanghoek Cellar

When winemakers are taking a break after harvest season, Slanghoek's winemakers want to share their blending and bottling skills with interested visitors.

Where: Rawsonville

Cost: R90 per person

Need to know: Their blending sessions are only available on certain Saturdays of the year (see here for dates) for a maximum of 25 people, to booking is essential. It's also available to private groups on mornings Monday to Friday.

Rickety Bridge Winery

The luxurious wine estate offers the perfect surroundings to channel your inner winemaker - even if you need a little coaching beforehand.

Where: Franschhoek

Cost: R250 per person

Need to know: Takes just more than an hour to do.

PICS: Get lost in a fairy tale garden at this R42k per night, Franschhoek luxury villa 

Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate

If you want to go big, Grande Provence offers various wine blending sessions combined with picnics, three-course lunch and even lunch with their winemaker!

Where: Franschhoek

Cost: R400 per person for wine blending only; R700 per person including picnic lunch; R845 per person including three-course lunch; R1 250 per person including lunch with their winemaker.

Need to know: Picnics are only available from October to April, the winemaker isn't available from January to April and a blending session needs to be booked three days in advance.


Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate

Besides learning how to blend your own wine on this lifestyle estate, you'll also get a welcome drink and a cellar tour included in this all-rounder vino experience.

Where: Walker Bay

Cost: R400 per person

Need to know: Takes just over two hours, bookings need to be made two to four days prior and cater to a minimum of four guests and a maximum of 15.

Zandvliet Wine Estate

The home of Shiraz, see old Muscat tanks, blend Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre and finish off with a wine and citrus pairing.

Where: Robertson

Cost: R150 per person

Need to know: Takes 45 minutes and a session can have a minimum of two people and a maximum of 20 people.

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Stellenrust

At Stellenrust you can completely make your own wine, from picking the grapes to stomping them yourselves, this is a truly hands-on wine experience. Stellenrust also hosts blending competitions to groups throughout the year, turning it into a day-long festivity. 

Where: Stellenbosch

Cost: Available on request.

Need to know: The grape-stomping experience is only available from middle January to the end of March every year, and you'll receive six bottles of your wine 14 months after the event.

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