A gem! Muratie appeals as much on the eye as it does on the palate

THE MURATIE Wine Estate has become a favourite stop-over off the R44 along the Simonsberg stretch of the Stellenbosch Wine Route, particularly since the Melck family stepped up a gear hospitality wise by offering meals from their Cellar Kitchen  either outdoors in the courtyard under oak trees or inside where ‘The Longroom’ and ‘Die Gat’ double as an art gallery with fireplaces, oak barrels, pianos et al. Long before Muratie began serving lunches, the public’s appreciation of the farm mainly had to do with its intriguing history, a quaint old wine-tasting room complete with cobwebs, a quaffing red and an unpretentious port. Of late, however, while the farm retains its rustic appeal, proprietors Rijk and Kim Melck have been polishing away, upgrading and bolstering the estate’s reputation by various ways and means that extend to eco-tourism and musical delights.

Kim is in charge of the kitchen, amongst other things, with her husband holding the reins in terms of the business as a whole. A doctor for over 20 years before switching focus from a medical practice to the farm that his late father and former SA wine industry heavyweight Ronnie Melck (re)acquired for the family in 1987, Rijk is pleased with advances in the cellar where Francois Conradie has been winemaker since 2005. “People used to come for funky but we are now in pursuit of elegance,” he says, touching on how a leathery, sweaty-saddle style of reds has made way for cleaner wines all round.

The farm is planted mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, followed by Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Hanepoot and port varieties. The Ansela van de Caab Bordeaux-style blend, Ronnie Melck Shiraz and the GP Canitz Pinot Noir have the best track records, with the Isabella Chardonnay, Laurens Campher white blend and Cap Classique bubbly also doing Muratie proud.

Cellar tours will be introduced this year, as will a mountain bike trail spanning several farms in the area, and musical events encompassing jazz, folk and rock are increasing in regularity. Whereas it might once have been dismissed as a ramshackle place that you passed through en route to the Delheim tourist destination up the road, Muratie has blossomed to become a must on many a Cape wine router’s itinerary – especially should tradition, stories of days gone by and ‘out of the ordinary’ take your fancy.