A history stretching back 320 years. Renowned Polkadraai Hills terroir. A five-star hotel, gourmet and bistro restaurants. A Gin bar with impressive stock. A wide choice of wines in two ranges. An estate managed by hosts with heart.
Michael Olivier, who handles their PR, is meticulous in recording developments, events and releases on this large and diverse estate and sharing them on his widely read blog. While international visitors dominate at the height of the tourist season, now is the ideal time for locals to investigate and enjoy the many attractions available at Asara.
As always, I find the early history of our Cape wine farms a source of endless fascination with Verdun no exception. Back in the latter part of the 18th century the farm was part of Vredenburg , which, together with Vlottenburg was bought in 1772 by Paul Roux and inherited by descendant Kosie Roux, who named his farm Verdun after the WW I battle of Verdun which was raging at the time. Some decades later he and his son, also Kosie, marketed their Gamay , then the only one bottled under this name in the Cape.
In the mid-1990’s the farm’s fortunes were revived when Francois Tolken bought Verdun and committed to planting a full 83ha to vine, rebuilding the old cellar and appointing a highly regarded winemaker to oversee the project.
By 2 000 Verdun estate wines began making gentle waves on the Stellenbosch scene and its gamay production was revived after a break of about 15 years.
Four years on and the estate had changed ownership and was now called Asara (after a trio of venerable gods.)The wines continued increasing in quality, collecting both local and international awards.
Development in the form of luxury hotel, restaurant and specialty bar were in place a few years later, and today the Sansibar bistro and gin lounge bar boasts the largest selection of gin in the southern hemisphere. There is a choice of dining venues to follow visitors’ tastings. And there are vineyard walks to start the day after a good night’s sleep.
The staff at Asara find time to support those less fortunate than they are, and this extends to donations to animal welfare and the well-run Stellenbosch branch of the Animal Welfare society in particular. So it was in July, Mandela month, that their chef produced large quantities of peanut butter dog biscuits for the Society kennels, now headed by efficient animal lover and former winemaker Lorna Hughes. Buy a packet or two from the Asara Tasting room and deli, or from the society offices close by. They look tempting, but are not recommended for pairing with Asara’s flagship Bordeaux-style blend, the Bell Tower.