THE WINE BOUTIQUE – MANTENGA CRAFT CENTRE, EZULWINI, SWAZILAND
Saturday 25 March 2017
There are no vineyards in Swaziland. It was the first evening of my holiday and the drive from Johannesburg was straightforward but tiring. The border crossing was relatively easy. Mbabane, the capital, was just an hour away. It is tiny – just the size of Stellenbosch or Grahamstown – and so I looked along the tourist belt to the South-East of the city for somewhere to stay. I wanted to visit the Mantenga Craft Centre and so booked into the nearby Legends Backpackers there.
A few shops were open at the Craft Centre together with a small restaurant with a chef from Naples who produced fabulous pasta dishes. Very much to my surprise though was to see a small wine store with a sign above proclaiming ‘The Wine Boutique’. More so, there was a good selection of wines from South African producers: Wolftrap, Waboomsrivier, Bergsig, Silk Bush, Landskroon, House of Mandela, JC Le Roux and more. There was Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Rose, Cinsault, Shiraz, Hanepoot, Cape Vintage and white and red blends.
It was truly bizarre. I bought a bottle of Stellenbosch Hills Chenin Blanc-Sauvignon Blanc Polkadraai to drink with my tagliatelle with blue cheese sauce. I don’t know if it paired well – a fuller bodied and lightly-wooded Chardonnay technically would have been better – but they tasted terrific in the cool evening.
y partner and I introduced ourselves to 2 local diners who were sitting at a nearby table. One worked in construction in a procurement role and the other was a teacher. They told us far more about Swazi culture than any guide ever could have done. Did you know, for example, that you need ask the surname of anyone you wish to date? The Swazi population is so small that you cannot date another person with the same surname. The teacher had the same surname as the King and so, technically was a Princess!
The evening, the food, wine and the company was magical and bizarre. It made a most welcome introduction to a new country and its people. Oh, and did I tell you that the day after I met a King ……. Bizarre indeed.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2016 Stellenbosch Hills Polkadraai Chenin Blanc-Sauvignon Blanc (70% Chenin Blanc, 30% Sauvignon Blanc) – Swazi Lilangeni E75 (R74)