Walk the cobbled pathway through the spekboom planted in the garden at Babylonstoren and you may step on one of the “secret stones” – these activate thin jets of water intended to “awaken” visitors to the various wonders to be found here.
Such touches are everywhere. The property on the Paarl side of the Simonsberg is owned by Karen Roos, former editor of Elle Decoration and her husband Koos Bekker, CEO of multinational media group Naspers and they’ve employed a crack team to ensure that this is one of the most stylish properties in the winelands – the garden had input from Patrice Taravella, a French architect who conceptualised the luxury hotel Prieuré Notre-Dame d’Orsan in the Loire while the property’s restaurant Babel sees Maranda Engelbrecht, originator of Manna Epicure and regular contributor to Taste magazine, in a consultancy role. Roos herself is overall creative director and on the occasion of my visit was assessing samples of paper fans to be available at the on-site spa.
What of the wine? There are some 50ha of vineyard on the 300ha property, production under own label in 2013 amounting to 70 000 litres or a little under 8 000 cases a year. Head winemaker is Charl Coetzee, who joined after stints firstly at Kaapzicht and then Clos Malverne.
I rated the wines for Platter’s 2014 and the stand-outs are the Chenin Blanc 2013 (R65 a bottle), the Shiraz 2011 (R135) and the Chardonnay 2011 (R170) – all rated 4 Stars. Coetzee also showed me a barrel sample of a five-way Bordeaux-style red blend from the 2012 vintage set to be called Nebuchadnezzar which I thought was very promising.
“The honeymoon period for wine is over. We’re currently operating at one-third of capacity and it’s the only aspect of the business which can really grow. We’re aiming for a complete offering – all segments of the business have to be up to standard,” says Coetzee. Expect the wines of Babylonstoren to be as talked about as everything else about this property in the not too distant future.