November 29, 2020

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Flowers and fine vines make Darling the small-town darling it is

3 min read

My hometown, the little “platteland dorpie” called Darling, is primarily known for its magnificent annual spring display of wild flowers.

What a joy it was to have to have them arrive bang on schedule, flaunting their beauty and Mother Nature confirming that she is alive and well!  Not only were the flowers absolutely exquisite this year, but they were in abundance – many say the best in 10 years.

Best floral display in a decade

Loads of visitors have been coming to Darling — only an hour’s drive from Cape town — as a result, probably more than usual for this time of the year. 

People have been in lockdown, both physically and mentally, and right now “far from the madding crowd” is just where they want to be.  

Fine wines can only come from fine vines, and no-one respects the influence of nature more than farmers and seafarers. Thought measurement and technology will make us more informed in our decisions and courses of action, but it is nature that has the last word. 

Darling flowers
Make time to stop and smell the wildflowers of the Western Cape. Image: Supplied

Nature ensures balance in Darling vineyards

This was perfectly illustrated during the big drought of two years ago.

The internationally respected viticulturalist Phil Freese was visiting us at the time and, being the fellow he is, had a good look at the vineyards as he drove into Darling.

His comment on looking at the old bush vines (which incidentally predominate in our region) was very pragmatic. 

“These vines have been around a long time; they have seen drought before in their lives – they have learnt they have to dig deep for moisture and nutrients, so developing really good roots in the process.

“You will have a smaller crop, the berries will be smaller, the canopy will be smaller, but nature will ensure that it is all in balance.

“The flavours will be more intense, and although you will have less crop, the quality should be great,” Freese said.

How right he was – a wonderful vintage indeed.

Darling vines
The old cinsaut vines of Darling Cellars have been tempered by nature. Image: Supplied

Darling’s vines more resilient in face of drought

Further inland, however, are those vineyards where sophisticated irrigation systems are in place, ensuring yields about eight times that of our dry-land vineyards. They are thus able to supply the price points demanded by the more aggressive of the UK supermarkets.

Those vines enjoy an easy life — water in abundance — so why make the effort to dig deep down when all they need is the press of a button! 

But then nature dealt another card – no water for the people and no irrigation water for the vines, and with such a shallow root base there were no options. Some of those vines managed to find enough strength to survive the drought, but, given no crop, others turned up their toes and simply died.

The Darling Wine Route

If you want to head out for some flowers and wine, the Darling Wine Route is less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town. Wine labels include Cloof, Groote Post, Darling Cellars, Ormonde and Tukulu. Farms offer wine tasting, and many have restaurants and accommodation on site.