Travelling up the winding road from Hermanus into the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, the bold signage and unmissable bright pink accents of the La Vierge winery stand out against the picture-perfect scenery of mountain and sea views. Located in South Africa’s premium terroir for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, La Vierge specialises in these classic Burgundy wines that are so at home in the region’s cool, maritime climate and clay-rich soils, and does so in award-winning style.
The latest accolade is from the Investec Trophy Wine Show – an outstanding 97 points and a gold medal for La Vierge Jezebelle Chardonnay 2021 and 92 points for La Vierge The Affair Pinot Noir 2021. The La Vierge visitor centre – winery, cellar, restaurant and tasting room – is in the heart of the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, where the lower reaches give way to the cool upper valley and Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. The vineyards themselves are 10km further up the winding road, at Babylon Farm on the ridge. The cool climate of Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge with ocean breezes and sea mists channelled up through the valley from Walker Bay below, means slower ripening of grapes for concentrated flavours and a distinct ocean minerality in the wines.
La Vierge is French for “the virgin”, the name inspired by the unspoiled beauty of the virgin land, reminiscent of a Garden of Eden before the first vines were planted. From there came the link with Adam and Eve, depicted on the La Vierge logo pondering the apple and the serpent. The names of the wines, and the La Vierge tagline “wines of desire”, flow from the eternal conflict between unspoiled innocence and temptation that started with the story of Adam and Eve – capturing Garden of Eden themes from Original Sin to the Last Temptation, via Jezebelle, Greco-Roman nymphs and satyrs, and more modern-day affairs and seductions.
In the lushness of the valley with its high rainfall, La Vierge practices dryland farming so that the roots of the vines are forced to seek out water deep in the clay/shale soils. The harder the vines have to work, the more concentration of flavour in the grapes, and the lower-yielding vines produce better quality fruit.
While Hemel-en-Aarde is famed for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, La Vierge also grows Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Semillon and Riesling in their approximately 44-hectare vineyards.
Wines & Awards
La Vierge produces three styles of Chardonnay, and four distinctively different Pinot Noirs – wines made for life’s pleasures, sensuality balanced with earthiness and minerality.
- Jezebelle Chardonnay 2021 – Barrel-matured for eight months, textured and zippy with aromatic lime, white flowers and stone fruit underlined with ocean minerality. Platters 4.5*, Winemag Top 10 Chardonnay – 93 points (2020 vintage)
- Redemption Chardonnay 2020 – Unwooded but full-bodied with florals, crisp citrus and luscious white peach. Platter’s 4*.
- Apogée Chardonnay 2018 – The ultimate expression of La Vierge’s premium Chardonnay terroir. A site-driven single vineyard wine, matured in barrel for 14 months, the wine is the epitome of our efforts in vineyard and winery. Robert Parker 91, Platter’s 4.5*, SAWI 95+ Platinum, Gilbert & Gaillard 94, Tim Atkin MW 94.
- The Affair Pinot Noir 2021 – Gentle and refined, the story of the love affair between Pinot Noir’s soft, feminine florals and silkiness, and the linear masculinity of fine tannins and dark, brooding forest floor. Platter’s 4*, Veritas Gold.
- Seduction Pinot Noir 2020 – Youthful, vibrant cool-climate Pinot Noir expression, showcasing the softer side of Pinot Noir. Vitis Vinifera Gold, Platter’s 3.5*.
- La Vierge Noir 2017 – Classically styled and luxurious, typical Burgundy-style earthiness and savouriness. Dark, textured and fit for the feminine power of a goddess. Platter’s 4*, Tim Atkin MW 91, Gilbert & Gaillard 92, Pinot Noir SA Top 5.
The Apogée Pinot Noir 2016 – The ultimate Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir, savoury and spicy with cloves and black pepper, textured and fruit-forward
- with a soft forest floor and spice finish. Robert Parker 90, SAWI 93+/Grand Gold/Multi-Vintage Excellence, IWSC Silver, Tim Atkin MW 91, Winemag Top 10/92, Platter’s 4.5*.
Beyond Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, La Vierge also ventures into other equally seductive wines:
- Original Sin Sauvignon Blanc 2021 – Semillon adds intrigue and complexity to touches of melon, pear drops and lemongrass with salty minerality following through. Platter’s 4*, Winemag Top 10/93 points.
- The Last Temptation Riesling 2017 – A crisp, Alsace-style Riesling ideal with aromatic and spicy foods.
- Anthelia Syrah 2019 – Elegant, cool-climate Syrah, soft plums and dark cherries, with spicy complexity.
- Satyricon Sangiovese 2020 – Italian-style, smooth palate and chalky finish, with bright cherry fruit and savoury-spicy character.
- Nymphomane 2020 – A heavenly marriage of Bordeaux varieties from the Hemel-en-Aarde, structured and fruity.
- The Royal Nymphomane 2016 – The pinnacle of site expression in a cool-climate Bordeaux blend. Gilbert & Gaillard 92, IWSC Silver/94, Platter’s 4.5*.
Wine Tasting, Restaurant, Functions
The La Vierge tasting room forms a bright and funky entrance to the restaurant and winery, a visual feast of eclectic contemporary interior décor with vivid colours and bold artworks from around the globe. The tasting room offers tasting flights and sales at cellar door prices by the bottle or case, along with a choc-nougat and wine pairing experience. Chef Bruce Henderson, the “steak master of Hermanus”, heads up the B’s Stro Restaurant, offering an array of bistro-style dishes designed to complement the wines of La Vierge. The restaurant has regular special promotions such as Spanish-style tapas platters infused with South African flavours, paired with a tasting flight of La Vierge wines, or a winter-warming soup and samoosas meal for two to share.
The large open-air deck with stunning views across the valley is the ideal spot for a wine tasting, canapés or sundowners, and the restaurant is a great stopover for lunch or a late afternoon wind-down after a day of wine tasting in the Hemel-en-Aarde. La Vierge is an ideal destination for a wedding in the vineyards, with a function venue seating up to 100. The venue is also popular for conferences, corporate retreats, tour groups and private events for special occasions, with on-site catering by the restaurant team.
Stay in the vineyards
Oak Cottage on Babylon Farm offers self-catering accommodation overlooking the vineyards and Babylon’s Tower Mountain, perfect for a family, couple’s getaway or as a base for wine touring in the area. The cottage accommodates up to 6 guests in three supremely comfortable bedrooms, each with its own en suite bathroom.
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