Fryer’s Cove wines… sipping the sea on the West Coast.
- Author: Linda Chivell
- Tuesday, 19 January 2016
- Travel Blog
“When you taste Fryer’s Cove wines, it’s a little like sipping the sea – fresh and clean with a just a hint of saltiness.”
On the waterfront in a derelict old crayfish factory right at the seaside in the bay you will find a tiny winery, tasting room and alfresco jetty restaurant that brought much-needed commercial activity back to a village which had suffered from a declining fishing industry. This is the address of Fryer’s Cove wines, forged of the earth and tempered by the sea.
The Tasting room
Proximity to the Atlantic provided a unique energy-saving cooling system in the winery, using fresh water in a closed pipe system that’s cooled by the icy seawater beneath the pier.
”The icy-cold Benguela current flows from Antartica northwards along the West Coast of Africa. Here they planted four hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and two hectares of Pinot Noir vineyards among scrubby beach vegetation on the very edge of the coast at Bamboes Bay, a mere 850m from the icy ocean. It rains an average of only 50mm per year and the Southwesterly wind constantly buffets the coastline. This is extreme winemaking.
Our wine tasting experience..
Jacques is the assistant wine maker with an extensive knowledge and admiration for the Fryer’s Cove Wines. This was obvious in the way he explained how the grapes were handpicked and the sorted at the vineyard from where the good grapes are then transported to the cellar. Here is where the magic takes place!
Fryer’s Cove wines are mostly made from the grapes that are grown locally. It is only for the Doring Bay range that they buy grapes from other cellars and only because they need big volumes.
The Bamboes Bay range of wines are produced one hundred percent from their own grapes. There is a significant difference between grapes from this area and other wine growing areas. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are the two cultivars that favor the cold West Coast conditions. This unique taste is the reason why people buy these unique wines.
Extreme Frontiers had a very distinctive maritime taste that appealed to only two people in our group but The Jetty was an immediate favorite with us all. The Jetty is not commercially available and can only be purchased at the cellar. A percentage of these sales are donated to the Doring Bay Local Community Fund.
The Jetty Restaurant
On the water’s edge right next door to the tasting room, is The Jetty Restaurant, located in an the former Doring Bay crayfish factory. A perfect setting to appreciate the distinct maritime influence on Fryer’s Cove wines.
By the time we arrived all the tables on the jetty were already filled with hungry visitors and noisy seagulls. Our reserved table was inside the disused old crayfish factory, a building with no doors, no windows, a sea symphony for music and resident cormorants to depict a constantly changing decoration.
The food was locally perfected, the service authentic and the view even more spectacular !! I can go on about the vineyards, about the weather, the whales in winter, the soft-sand beaches. But it is the wine that does the talking. In a major way.
The Fryer’s Cove Story
The original owner of the land at Strandfontein was Richard Fryer a British settler who farmed sheep and ostriches.Just outside of Strandfontein is a cove, named after Fryer and planting a vineyard with a sea view provoked an instant sense of place. A name was born. Incidentally their biggest client is also a gentleman called Fryer who lives in Durban. He fell in love with the Fryer’s Cove wines at are early day tasting in Vredendal, and since then orders pallets of wine on a regular basis; for personal enjoyment and as gifts for his clients.
Water to Wine
The idea of Fryer’s Cove Winery was born as far back as 1985, Wynand’s matric year, while holidaying with his now brother-in-law, Jan Ponk van Zyl in Standfontein, just north of Bamboes Bay. Together they dreamed of planting a vineyard so close to the sea that the vines would synthesise salt, giving new meaning to the wine term minerality.
The dream stayed with this aspirant winemaker while studying at Elsenburg and 14 years later Fryer’s Cove was born. However, without a reliable water source the venture could never get off the ground. They investigated using existing groundwater, but the salt content was too high and desalinisation proved too expensive. Eventually in 1999 Jan finally realized that the water problem will not miraculously solve itself and he built a pipeline from Vredendal – 29,5km away.
The pipeline had to cross three adjacent farms to get there, but it proved to be a win-win situation as previously the framers had to pump water by making use of electricity or windmills. In exchange for their co-operation the three farmers were given water from the pipeline which naturally they then monitored and repaired.
A small abalone farm is situated right next to the winery at the water’ edge. Although it is a private enterprise the majority share of this visionary enterprise belongs to the local community. The abalone is cultured in Doring Bay and tinned in St Helena Bay.
“ I must tell you, these perlemoen are tough”, Johan marvelled, “ at Abagold in Hermanus the perlemoen are fed finely chopped and fortified kelp pellets and shaded under nets because they are apparently light sensitive. Here you simply cover them with kelp.”
A smiling Jan told us that after a storm at sea the locals scramble to pick up the fresh kelp from the beach and in no time it lands in the tanks.Cheaper this way as they do not have to pay to get the kelp,on which abalone feed, to the source.
Tinned abalone is sold in the tasting room @ R400 a tin
Kastaiing ( sea urchin) pale ale
Jan then told the story of Kastaiing ( sea urchin) , their micro brewery. They noticed that a lot of the men that came to the tastings were not big on wine but would rather have preferred something else. But then they were not a bar, wine was their business.
He and his son then did a beer making course and decided they would give it a go. The response far exceed their expectations! At first it was trial and error, but it seems they now have a winning recipe! Kastaiing (sea urchin) beer, the pale ale. is currently only sold at the cellar.
Our customers become our friends
Jan was visibly proud when Debbie told him about a delivery from Fryer’s Cove Winery in Doringbaai on the West Coast to their house in Lydenburg in Mpumalanga! “We like to go the extra mile for our clients,” he said, “for me it is important to build personal relationships with the people that buy our wines”.
The future belongs to those who dream with eyes wide open..
Jan Ponk Van Zyl lives in Vredendal and his brother in law and partner, Wynand Hamman, in Stellenbosch, both in full time jobs. But from Thursday to Sunday you will find them at the cellar in Doring Bay. “If you make your living out of your hobby no effort is too much”, Jan passionately quoted.
The last word goes to a humble Jan Ponk ; “Never in our wildest dreams have we anticipated the interest we have experienced right from the start. The visitors just keep on coming and coming, day after day. We are now already open every day of the week right through the year. We have created something that brought new life to this area.. a very rewarding feeling”