At the southern tip of Africa the low-lying Strandveld at first appears as a barren landscape. But look closer and notice koppies overflowing with springs feeding into fertile soil writes KAREN WATKINS.

Dirk Human fondly recalls childhood camping holidays in the Strandveld with its wetlands and vast limestone and calcareous dunes. Later, in 1998, he and his family returned after making the brave decision to move to Moddervlei Farm. Located between Elim, Bredasdorp and Agulhas, cool Atlantic breezes blow past vineyards he planted in 2003. These wines are named after the rare Black Oystercatchers, which, like the grapes, thrive along this coastline.

Dirk Human, winemaker and viticulturist of Black Oystercatcher boutique wines. Picture: Karen Watkins
Dirk Human, winemaker and viticulturist of Black Oystercatcher boutique wines. Picture: Karen Watkins

Handpicked at optimum ripeness

Two years ago Dirk set out to test the relationship between the Sauvignon Blanc wines he creates and the soil the vines are grown in. He produced three wines from three different soil types – hard white quartzite, iron ferricrete (also known as koffie klip) and chalky, salty shale.

At a recent tasting at Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar in Strand Street, he said the Sauvignon Blanc grapes were handpicked at optimum ripeness from each of the three soils and used to make three separate wines, vinification otherwise kept constant.

Each was aged in a barrel, only one for each wine. What started as an experiment has produced three very different wines. He called the trio Secrets of Sauvignon, a collection that’s available in a three-pack with the labels containing the names of the soil types as a distinguisher.

The Black Oystercatcher is a two and a half hour drive from Cape Town and is a worthy destination. Around 2002, Dirk was one of 25 land owners who noticed that the wetlands were starting to disappear. They formed the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area to protect the underground water arteries that feed the 46 000 hectare Strandveld.

Tasting the three Secrets of Sauvignon collection with the standard release Black Oystercatcher Sauvignon Blanc 2018. Picture: Karen Watkins
Tasting the three Secrets of Sauvignon collection with the standard release Black Oystercatcher Sauvignon Blanc 2018. Picture: Karen Watkins

Run, hike, birding

With the Soetanysberg to the north, the ocean to the south and protected areas on either side they created a conservation corridor. At its heart is the Soetendalsvlei, named in 1673 it’s the largest natural freshwater lake in the country. Legend tells of an eastern princess who is said to be buried there.

Offshore, where the Atlantic and India oceans are said to meet, there are other tales of drunken sailors, slave revolts and salvage missions of ships wrecked along this treacherous coastline.

Bring your running or hiking shoes, bikes and binoculars to spot some of the 235 bird species including the Southern Black Korhaan, Secretarybird and Hottentot Buttonquail. Tick off plant species found in this biodiversity hotspot, many at risk because of becoming extinct due to invasive alien plants, harvesting and urban and agricultural development.

Or take a guided tour to see hippo, buffalo and hartebeest that were once extinct on the Agulhas Plain. Eland and bontebok have been reintroduced and in 2012 one of the quagga was selected as the best specimen in the country since this species became extinct in the late 1800s.

There is a range of accommodation from rustic to cottages and luxurious homes.

  • The Secrets of Sauvignon collection is available at R2000 for the set of three. They are available at selected trade outlets, from the farm and its online shop. The standard release Black Oystercatcher Sauvignon Blanc 2018 is a combination from grapes from of all three soil types and is priced at R105 a bottle.

What: The Black Oystercatcher Moddervlei Farm
Contact: taste@blackoystercatcher.co.za, 076 833 6341
WS