It is said, horns blasted by ancient mariners could be heard as far as the Paarl mountains from Cape Town port. Farmers mounted their carts for the journey in anticipation of potential trade.
Exotic spices, particularly pepper, arrived via Europe from Kerala, the “Spice Garden of India”, on the Cape Route pioneered by the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama.
Charles Back, another pioneer created Paarl’s Spice Route Destination, a reflection of the diversity from those trading days in the 15th century.
Are you ready for a road trip? Let’s head to Paarl and Spice Route Destination!
About Charles Back.
Third generation owner of South African wine and cheese producer Fairview, Back studied winemaking in Stellenbosch at Elsenburg Agricultural College. Joining the family business in 1978, he took the reins in 1995 after his dad, Cyril died.
Recognising the wine-growing potential in the Swartland, or Black Land, (named for the colour an indigenous bush turns when wet), he created Spice Route Wine.
Still a new industry in what’s known as the breadbasket of the Cape wheatfields, dryland growing practices are used with minimal irrigation producing fruit with an intensity of flavour.
In 1997, Back introduced The Fairvalley Workers Association. With the aid of a government grant and his personal finances, he purchased a piece of land adjacent to his Fairview property.
Assisting in the development of Fairvalley Wines and handing over this 16-hectare property to the workers association, he has initiated land ownership to Fairview workers and their families.
The funds raised through Fairvalley wines have been used to build housing for founding members of the association.
A beer enthusiast, he was instrumental in the birth of Cape Brewing Company and created Spice Route Destination, a celebration of Cape culture with a collection of flavours and products brought together by local artisans.
Each Spice Route Destination artisan provides a unique contribution that complements the other with quality and individual style. From chocolate and coffee to spices, beer, and much more, each artisan’s passion is evident in the end product.
Embarking on a journey with no more than an idea, these artisans have created businesses through something they love. Let’s meet some of them.
It seems appropriate to begin exploring Spice Route at Brenda’s Deli. Indian, Middle Eastern and Moroccan scents greet you at the door. Using all fresh, natural ingredients, Brenda’s products are all additive free.
Take home the famous South African Chakalaka premixed in grinders ready to use immediately. Grind this mixture of sea salt, black & pink peppercorns, onions, chillies, ginger, cloves, garlic, coriander, bay leaves, cumin, cardamom and mustard over chicken, fish, steak, salad, in fact, just about anything and you’ll see why this is a South African kitchen staple.
Charles Back’s Spice Route Wines are produced by Charl Du Plessis and shipped to the Paarl location for tastings. Enjoy them in the rustic underground tasting room or outside under the pergola.
Begin with the Swartland Wine Journey with a daily selection of 5 wines. Feeling a little peckish? Try the Wine and Charcuterie Journey with 4 wines and a selection of Richard Bosman’s cured meats, fresh seasonal fruits and condiments. More on Richard later.
Spice Route Wine’s Malabar Tasting is a glass of the flagship red. If you love it and purchase, the tasting price is deducted.
Recognising an opening in the South African Brewing Company dominated market, Back joined forces with Andy Kung to develop a craft beer microbrewery. When Swedish brewer Henrik Dunge joined the team, all they needed was a location and the most important ingredient in an excellent brew, pure clean water.
Remembering a mountain stream from his childhood, Back went searching. That stream is now the water source for Cape Brewing Company.
CBC is brewed on site at Spice Route Destination and is now helmed by master brewer Wolfgang Koedel. The philosophy is to use only the best ingredients, including that clear Paarl Mountain water, and it will be evident in the flavour.
While imbibing of the tasting, you can watch the line. Bottling, labelling and packing are all done here.
Another on-site producer is Wilderer Distillery. Following master distiller, Helmut Wilderer’s acquisition of the first distilling license in South Africa in the 90’s, he obtained the expertise of world-renowned distillery designer Ulrich Kothe to create 700L copper pots with the ability to triple distil in one step.
Take a tasting journey through their grappa, gin, and schnapps before sitting down to tapas, wood-fired pizza and their famous grappa-based cocktails at La Grapperia. In a past life, Wilderer was a restauranteur in Germany and brought Flammkuchen, the German pizza, to South Africa. Thin, crisp and smoky, this style of pizza is ideal after a few tastings.
Richard Bosman combined his love of food and his career in retail and opened a deli in Hermanus in 2004. He began dabbling in charcuterie at home with the help of a fleishmeister (meat master) to then sell it in his deli. 5 years on, he opened a charcuterie in Cape Town following the success of his home endeavours.
The combination of sourcing exceptional raw produce and using traditional hand salting, hanging and curing for up to 12 months has resulted in superior quality charcuterie you can sample at Spice Route Destination.
After 25 years automating factories, Pieter de Villiers was looking for a new challenge. Realising most of the world’s cocoa beans came from Africa, yet very little chocolate was made on the continent, he set up his garage with machines made from recycled home appliances.
A single origin chocolate obsession commenced and continues today. De Villiers Chocolate is authentically African, made in a small factory in the Western Cape from cocoa beans from Uganda’s Bundibugyo district. A natural progression into ice cream and coffee followed.
Step in for a taste of 6 of their single origin 70% dark chocolates or an array of chocolates and confections. At De Villiers, truffle workshops are arranged for you to get up to your elbows in chocolate. They need 3 days notice and a minimum of 6 people, but it’s chocolate, so how hard could gathering a few friends be.
Spice Route Destination Passport.
A great ‘pay-once’ option for tastings of wine, beer, gin, charcuterie and chocolate is the Spice Route Destination Passport. All 5 tastings are included. You can indulge in them on a single occasion or if you’re in the area the passport lasts for 12 months for return visits.
Passports are available from Spice Route Wine for your journey or grab them as gifts for your foodie/ boozie family and friends.
Spice Route Destination is a fantastic one-stop-shop of unique artisans’ wares. Spending the entire day eating, drinking, exploring and shopping their specialities: it’s a thing we love….
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