Eating Out in Lions RiverAbingdon Wine Estate
Where? Abingdon Wine Estate, Lion's River, Natal Midlands, KwaZulu Natal (See directions below).
When? Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays from 10h00 to 17h00.
How? Call +27 (0)83 463-8503 or +27 (0)33 234-4335
Many farmers have tried to make a go of viticulture in the Natal Midlands. The altitude, the cool climate (it gets below freezing in winter) and the summer rainfall, in complete contrast to the traditional Mediterranean climate of the Cape, is rather like the Continental climate experienced by the French, even if the summer rainfall is longer.
Of the 40 or so farmers who have tried, only a handful have managed to make a success of the venture. One of these is Abingdon Estate, near Howick. The interesting part of the estate's success is that neither Jane nor Ian Smorthwaite was a viticulturist before they began wine making (their daughter, Laurie, has subsequently joined the team and started the KZN School of Wine on the estate). Ian is completely self taught.
Lying on the Curry's Post / Lion's River Road on the Midlands Meander the three hectare farm produces a single vineyard boutique wine. The estate grows Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon only planted in 2004, yet the wine produced from these grapes is 'old world style', rich in minerals with a taste of cool fruit.
Lying 1140m above sea level the estate has the only certified single vineyards in the province. Grapes are picked by hand, basket pressed, and stored in wooden barrels in the cellars.
Visitors rave about their visits – the wine tasting, the food available and the atmosphere. The restaurant serves meals and platters over weekends, and tastings run throughout the day between 10am and 4pm - father and daughter give first-hand accounts of their wines (and if all feedback is to be believed, these accounts are both knowledgeable and enjoyable).
The restaurant overlooks the vineyard or, in winter, is served near the three fireplaces to ward off the Midlands cold. It is essential to book ahead as the estate is no longer a well-kept secret.
Abingdon Estate's wine is only available at a few outlets, hotels and restaurants for resale. The estate has produced 20 wines since its first harvest in 2007. Their first wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2007, was sold out in three weeks.
From Durban take exit 114 off the N3 towards Lion's River / Curry's Post. Turn left onto the D369 to Lion's River. Abingdon Estate is on your left after about 2 km.