Things To Do in Lions RiverHighgate Wine Estate
Where? Highgate Wine Estate, R103, Lions River, Natal Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
How? Call +27 (0)33 234-2911
How much? Price on request
Most people know about Piggly Wiggly Village in the Midlands of KZN. What started off as only a couple of shops – a coffee shop cum deli and a shop full of collectables - expanded over time to become the closest thing to a farm shopping mall.
The shops are arranged in an oval around a central grassy area and children's playground, perfect for parents with children; they can drink a cup of coffee whilst still keeping any eye on their children. There is even a little steam train (though you may need to phone ahead to reserve your table at the coffee shop, as it's a popular spot, probably because of the all-day breakfast).
But what you may not know is that Piggly Wiggly is part of a greater wine estate, known as Highgate. Highgate Estate was the first winery to make a KwaZulu Natal certified Chardonnay, in 2010.
And a Chardonnay with a unique flavour and character, given that the area lies in a mistbelt and is often cold and misty as a result. Highgate's grapes grow in heavy soils and the wine is aged in French oak for six months, delivering a fruity, slightly wooded flavour.
Other grape varieties grown at Highgate are Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon. The estate's first vintage was followed with a further planting of Cabernet Sauvignon and the plans to increase the hectarage.
The very first polo field was on Highgate Farm, and is still close enough to remain historically viable, on a neighbouring property. Originally a vegetable farm the owners were part of the series of trails for growing vines in the area and in 2005, one hectare was planted with Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinotage and Shiraz. Followed soon afterwards by Cabernet Sauvignon
There are challenges. Viticulture relies heavily on the Cape's wine area knowledge and the Midlands is a summer rainfall area with different quality soils.
You can sample Highgate's wines at Piggly Wiggly.
For those interested in living in the Midlands on a wine estate, Highgate is busy developing a residential area as well as a Boutique Hotel and conference centre. They plan to plant further vineyards in amongst the development.
Take the Howick north/Tweedie glide-off just past Midmar Dam. Highgate lies between Pietermaritzburg and Nottingham Road.