Chakalaka is Spice Route’s signature Rhône-style red blend, synonymous with the extraordinary success of this pioneering winery that initiated the renaissance of the Swartland wine region. A blend of six classic Rhône varieties selected for their ability to harmoniously express the unique terroir of the Swartland, Chakalaka is a distinguished aromatic, rich and robust velvety wine with layers of ripe juicy dark berry fruit and savoury spice.
SPICE ROUTE CHAKALAKA – THE NAME
The name Chakalaka speaks to the art of blending and South Africa’s cultural diversity. From the Zulu language, it relays a sense of “togetherness,” best mirrored by the popular spicy proudly South African icon relish of the same name, a similar fusion of different flavours. A staple throughout the country, the Chakalaka relish is a perfect example of South Africa’s Rainbow Cuisine, a kaleidoscope of cultural and ethnic influences. Believed to have originated amongst the gold miners in the townships of Johannesburg, it was probably a simple mix of leftover tomatoes, onions and spices to add flavour to traditional local dishes. Subsequently Chakalaka took on a life of its own in our Rainbow Nation. Today everyone has their own unique recipe, with their own spin on choice of vegetables, spices and herbs, often including beans. Very popular at braais, this colourful versatile relish is commonly served with meat and starches such as bread, pap, samp and rice.
SPICE ROUTE CHAKALAKA – THE STORY
In search of new and interesting places to produce wines in the late 1990s, Charles Back of Fairview Wines stumbled upon a very old dryland Sauvignon Blanc bush vine vineyard that surprisingly produced exceptional wine. Bewildered by the quality of grapes in a barren region better known for wheat and heat, Charles, driven by both excitement and disbelief, set forth to acquire the farm. Thus began the Spice Route Wine Company, Chakalaka and the new age of the Swartland. While investing in the Swartland seemed a crazy idea to many people at the time, the visionary adventurer Charles Back saw the enormous viticulltural and winemaking potential. Exploration of the extreme climate, viticultural heritage, geological composition and the uncharted potential of the land followed with soil testing, planting new vines (mainly Rhône/Mediterranean varietals suited to the terroir) and training of dryland bush vines to best suit the harsh conditions. The farm did not have a cellar so an old tobacco drying shed was converted into a fermentation and maturation cellar, adapted to the style of winemaking required to handle Swartland fruit with care.
Spice Route’s first vintage was 1998 and the rest is history! Matching traditional practices in the vineyards with modern, minimalist approaches in the cellar, Spice Route began producing exceptionally ripe and deep-flavoured wines – with terroir at the heart of every crafted bottle. An astonishing journey had begun. In just a few years, Spice Route became a cult label experiencing enormous acclaim both locally and abroad, setting in motion “an extraordinary revival of the Swartland that later crystalised under the banner of the non-interventionist movement, Swartland Revolution” – Platter’s 2013 SA Wine Guide. “Without Charles… the Swartland would still be regarded as a rural backwater,” wrote Tim Atkin, who awarded the winery ‘Cru Bourgeois’ status in his South Africa Classification in 2019 and named Charles Back Winemaking Legend of the Year in his 2021 South Africa Report.
Amidst the hype that surrounds the Swartland today, Spice Route remains one of the best and most credible producers in the region, due largely to the fact that they own their own vineyards. At the heart of this incredible story, standing tall and proud is the highly acclaimed Spice Route Chakalaka, the winery’s signature rich and robust Rhône-style red blend synonymous with Spice Route’s remarkable success.
MORE ABOUT SPICE ROUTE
Spice Route Winery’s name, a testament to their signature style of robust, spicy red wines, recalls the ancient mariners of the 15th century who went in search of exotic spices. In much the same way Charles Back’s search for exceptional vineyards took him sailing into the uncharted waters of the Swartland. Synonymous with exploration, adventure and innovation, Spice Route’s’ Journey of Discovery’ is on-going, venturing out further into the Western Cape’s wine regions in a quest to discover more extraordinary vineyards to expand their wine offering.
The handcrafted Spice Route wines have been brought from their Swartland farm to a more conveniently located Tasting Room at the Spice Route Destination in Paarl next to Fairview.
SPICE ROUTE CHAKALAKA 2019 – THE WINE
The blend: Spice Route Chakalaka is a unique blend of 6 Rhône varietals, always the same 6 varietals selected for their suitability to the Swartland’s harsh growing conditions and blended to express the region’s unique terroir. The percentages of the blend change according to the vintage with the 2019 vintage a blend of 25% Carignan | 22% Shiraz | 20% Mataro (Mourvèdre) | 16% Durif (Petite Sirah) | 14% Grenache Noir | 3% Tannat.
In the vineyard: Fruit for this wine is sourced from dry-farmed bush vines (uniquely suited to surviving the baking summer sun of the Swartland) planted on Richter 99 rootstock, (known for producing deep rooted vines). The region’s deep iron-rich clay and decomposed granite soils have a good water retaining capacity and produce elegant and robust red wines. The grapes are hand harvested with an average yield between 2.5 and 4.5 tons per hectare.
The winemaker: Winemaker Charl du Plessis, who has been with Spice Route since 2002, has an intimate knowledge of the Swartland terroir and a great understanding of dryland farming and vintage variations. He is committed to ‘hands-off’ winemaking to capture the flavours and structure of the outstanding fruit they grow on the farm.
In the cellar: The six varietals are kept separate during the winemaking process until the final blending when they will each make their own unique contribution to create this exciting wine. Destalking and light crushing is followed by fermentation in open concrete fermenters (‘kuipe’) with regular manual punch downs. The wines were then racked off and sent to barrel for malolactic fermentation and 12 months maturation in older French and American oak for 12 months. Post blending, the final wine was returned to the oak barrels for further maturation.
In the glass: A deep ruby red in the glass, this rich and luscious wine displays ripe juicy black currant, cherry and plum notes with lovely purity, with white pepper, spiced meats, smoky cloves, nutmeg and vanilla complementing the wine’s bold fruit character. Full-bodied, intense, silky and smooth with a rich texture, the palate has Rhône-style depth with skilfully integrated oak, smooth structured tannins and a lingering spice finish. Like a perfect combination of spices, this wine is meant to harmoniously bring together many different vineyards and varieties, the profiles complementing each other to make the wine shine.
Awards: Spice Route Chakalaka’s acclaim over the years includes 5 stars, Gold medals and a Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards, Top 100 awards, Double Platinum and Grand Cru National Champion at the National Wine Challenge, excellent ratings by Tim Atkin and Platter’s SA Wine Guide and more.
Food pairing: Chakalaka is a fantastic food wine. Just as the Chakalaka spicy South African relish adds the WOW factor to any dish, so too the Spice Route Chakalaka, equally at home at a fancy restaurant or around the fire, enriches any occasion with delectable flavour and local flair. Chakalaka, of course, likes spice. After all, ‘spice is the spice of life!” Think intensely flavoured South African cuisine like curry, bobotie, braaied spicy meat (Shisa Nyama – served with Chakalaka relish and pap), Middle Eastern and Asian inspired cuisine.
Keeping it close to home, Chakalaka is a perfect complement to celebrated chef and charcuterie whizz, Neil Jewell’s famous charcuterie, available at Jewell’s Restaurant and Deli at the Spice Route Destination in Paarl.
While Neil works his magic in the kitchen at this farm-to-table eatery, his wife Tina, a baker par excellence, looks after front of house. Neil’s passion lies in his homemade artisanal charcuterie that he prepares with mountains of patience and bucket loads of love. So be sure to’ spice up your life’ and order his beautifully presented Charcuterie Board (a selection of his delicious, cured meats (which includes his delicious new Chakalaka sausage) with marinated olives and salad) together with Tina’s inimitable Daily Bread Board – and complement this yummy experience with a glass of Spice Route’s luscious rich and robust Chakalaka Rhône-style red blend.
Purchase: Spice Route Chakalaka is available for purchase at the Spice Route Destination in Paarl and at select wine merchants and restaurants nationally. Or shop online at https://www.spiceroutewines.co.za/product/chakalaka-2019/
Approximate retail price: R195
SPICE ROUTE – THE DESTINATION
Spice Route Destination, situated on the slopes of the scenic Paarl Mountains, offers sweeping views of the surrounding farmlands, with the Simonsberg Mountains and Table Mountain framing the scene.
Here you can enjoy tasting Spice Route wines, and wine pairing with Neil Jewell’s famous charcuterie, in the rustic underground tasting room, or outside under the pergola, whilst soaking up the panoramic scenery.
Spice Route, the ultimate family destination, is also home to a carefully curated selection of 13 exciting and varied artisanal producers including Jewell’s and other restaurants, Spice Route wines, a gin distillery, deli, art studio, ceramic studio, décor and gift shop, adventure trails, a pilates studio plus chocolate, ice-cream and craft beer tastings and a popular outdoor kids’ play area. A journey of discovery of exotic flavours and experiences is right on your doorstep, a mere 45-minute drive from Cape Town’s city centre. For more info visit https://www.spiceroute.co.za/
SPICE ROUTE DESTINATION
The Ultimate Family Destination in Paarl!
Winner of KFM 94.5 Best Wine Farm Experience | 2021 & 2022