Paul Cluver and my love story with Gewürztraminer

Today’s blog is written by guest blogger, Janina Hundenborn.

I love Paul Cluver wines! So much so that allure of their wines was the only reason I made my way up those winding roads, from Cape Town to Hermanus, to visit their wine estate. It was the weekend after my birthday and I could not think of a better way to celebrate.

The Cluver wine estate is situated in the Elgin valley near Grabouw in the Western Cape. The climate is a little colder than what South Africans are used to, but Paul Cluver knew how to use this to grow wines from his home country. You can find German style Rieslings and Gewurztraminer among other wines on their tasting menu. The furniture of the tasting room is worth mentioning briefly as the benches and tables are actually made out of a massive Cyprus tree that fell over in the garden!

The road up to the tasting room and restaurant. 

We start the tasting with a 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is clear with a hint of green in the colour. The taste is crisp and fresh, citrus flavours are dominating. The wine is a little too zesty for my taste but I can imagine that sometimes one might look for just this kind of refreshing taste. I move on since the next wine is the whole reason I am here: the 2015 Gewürztraminer. A little bit of a tongue breaker but you are immediately rewarded for your efforts. I ask the lady to fill up my glass particularly well since this is my favourite. She happily complies and I can’t contain my excitement! The nose is spicy with a little bit of honey coming through. This is not surprising since “Gewürz” actually means spice in German.  The palate delivers on what the nose promised. Spices, honey and great length. I savour the wine as you have the perfect interplay between a soft sweetness on the tongue with some refreshing acidity in between. This interplay is both fascinating and delicious. I’m in love!

The Sauvignon Blanc with its clear and crisp colour. Paul Cluver has won several awards for their wine in recent years, which are displayed on the tables around the tasting area.


It is time to move on to the next wine, the 2015 Dry Encounter Riesling. As the name suggests, this is a dry wine. Clear in colour, the taste is rich in minerals as typical from the Elgin soil. The Riesling is delicious but may not cater to everyone’s taste. It’s dry and some might prefer a little more sweetness. But fear not, Paul Cluver has you covered! With the 2015 Close Encounter Riesling, a Spätlese wine (Spätlese in German means a late harvest, not quite so late as your dessert wines but late enough to let the sugar content increase in the grapes) much higher in sugar content. I love the name “Close Encounter”, it hints at the sexy yet cosy feeling you get from this sweet and smooth wine. The Close Encounter Riesling is so rich in flavour, it reminds you of taking a big bite out of one of those green and slightly sour apples. If the Dry Encounter is too dry for you, you will love the slightly sweeter and perfectly balanced Close Encounter.

We are moving on to the Reds now. I am not a fan of red wines. It’s not that I don’t like the taste of red wine but my body cannot handle it. When I have just one glass, my cheeks turn red, my tongue starts feeling funny and I just cannot see the appeal of purple lips and teeth. However, I was positively enlightened by the 2013 Pinot Noir. The colour is delicate and the wine is relatively clear for a red. You find your typical bundle of berries on the nose. The palate is smooth, berries with hints of chocolate. It’s quite a light and fresh taste yet matured and low in acidity. This 2013 Pinot Noir may just have me converted! Excited, I move on to the next: a 2014 Pinot Noir. I am surprised that you would give out the younger wine second but I give it a try. You can still detect the berries and the freshness of the older brother, however, as young wines do, this one is high in acidity and not nearly as pleasant and well behaved as the 2013 Pinot Noir. I may not have been converted after all.

Finally, we taste the Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest. This is a delicious dessert wine, with lots of apricot and honey on the nose and the palate delivers on these promises. It’s surprisingly fresh given its sweetness and the perfect way to end our tasting experience.

Couldn’t leave without some of these treasures!!!

We did not get to taste their flagship red or their Chardonnay but you don’t pay for the tasting so I think that’s okay. I leave Paul Cluver with a bottle of the Gewürztraminer, the Close Encounter and top it off with a 2013 Pinot Noir, looking forward to the next time I get to open one of these.




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