West Coast hospitality and great wine makes Fryer's Cove a West Coast gem. (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)
In a nondescript section of the West Coast, there is a Western Cape dorpie that is so obscure and tiny that you may drive right past it without knowing. This is the heart of ‘gone-fishing’ land, a place where time slows to a virtual crawl and instead of an app, the sea and sky tell you what the weather will be like.
Welcome to Doringbaai and welcome to Fryers Cove.
Formerly known as Thornbay, this small predominantly Afrikaans-speaking town with an economy dominated by abalone-farming, crayfish exporting and packaging has been frothing with an exciting addition to the local economy - wine-making.
Set on a pier with an old, still-functioning, lighthouse marking its location, Fryers Cove winery is a landmark in an otherwise scant touched environment in classic Weskus, South Africa.
To get a true sense of the sheer size, or lack thereof, of Doringbaai it is useful to know that this is a place that has something like one streetlight per street - if that. The ever-looming lighthouse on the pier seems to be guiding, and illuminating, both ocean and land traffic away from incident.
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Having had our fill with a hearty breakfast and a hot cuppa, exploration of the surrounds and the vineyards was next on the agenda. With a small general goods store and a few bed-and-breakfast spots around, it would seem that there isn’t much to do for the urbane, cosmopolitan traveller. But if you take the time to look a little closer and listen a little harder you’ll find that there are a myriad of fun travels and adventures to be had in the area.
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From the otherworldly browns, muted greens, and soft sunbaked sand valleys of Papendorp a mere 8 kilometres away to the gentle, leisurely seaside small-town charm of Strandfontein 5 minutes away, you can enjoy the legendary Weskus hospitality here in buckets. Once one has had a chance to acquaint oneself with the sights in the area, the next stop surely must be the magnificent vineyards that supply Fryer’s Cove.
This maritime essence is a prevalent theme that continues throughout much of Fryer’s Cove’s wine-making process. From vine to wine, Fryer’s Cove truly is the quintessence of the West Coast - bottled.
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Winemakers have a specific French term to denote the variety of influences and environmental factors that shape the personality of a specific vineyard or wine-making region - terroir. The terroir of Fryer’s Cove is most certainly aflush with the unique features of the surrounding West Coast soul, topography and climate.
The ocean winds carry flakes of salt from ocean spray onto the vine leaves, the result of which is increased alkalinity, less mildew and a distinct minerality that carries over into the complexity of the wines.
The cove for which the vineyard is named provides natural cover against the vicious winds, reducing them to but a cooling breeze. This process helps produce a micro-climate which, in conjunction with an abundance of sunshine, allows the grapes to ripen slowly and over a longer period of time.
These processes are what improve aspects of the flavours associated with Fryer’s Cove wines. The terroir of Fryer’s Cove is so uncommon that Wine Magazine in 2005 gave Fryer’s Cove Sauvignon Blanc a 5-star rating, making it only the second Sauvignon Blanc to do so in 12 years.
With a full morning spent exploring the small dorpies surrounding Doringbaai, it was time to head back and sample some of the wares. Winemaker Derrick Koegelenberg was on hand to guide our palates through what turned out to be a sensory treat. The location of the winery itself is quite unique and seems like the type of place hipsters would, or will soon, hang out.