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  • Anji Connell

Dive Into the Delights of Paserene in the Lovely Franschhoek Valley


Set in the beautiful Franschhoek valley, the Paserene tasting room is an architectural vision overlooking a beautiful garden, pond wetlands, vineyards, and the magnificent Simonsburg mountains.

There are many amazing wine farms in the. Cape Winelands and the Franschhoek valley Paserene is a personal favourite. The architecture of the tasting room is pure form and function with such beauty, it's totally unique, and I love the thought behind it. The setting is stunning, and the garden gets me every time. It's so beautiful, a wonderful mix of the wild and the manicured. The gorgeous, graceful Pennisetum feather grasses rustling in the breeze, casting a fine white glow, is magical. The frangipani trees at the tasting room entrance and the wonderful topiary balls with their loose fluffyness are irresistible; they call out to you to touch them.

The name Paserene is adopted from the word passerine - which refers to any bird from the order Passeriformes, "traveling and free" birds, including swifts and swallows, and martins. A fitting moniker for viticulturist Martin Smith who flew the coop from his childhood home in the Breede River valley to hone his craft over many years in overseas vineyards.


The nest-like tasting room was conceptualised and designed by Etienne Stols, the Principle Architect of SCS Architects, as a Martins nest. Rough slate is used to resemble the mud and clay swallows used to build their nests. Glass stack doors allow the whole building to become an open structure that overlooks a small dam, a clever nod towards the swallow's habit of swooping over water.

This nest is home to a particular swallow Martin Smith, a third-generation winemaker. He has travelled far and wide searching for the best grape varietals to bring home to make exceptional wine. A Swallow is also the term generally given to foreigners who dip in and out of the very lovely Franschhoek.

After graduating in viticulture, Martin spent five years at Cosentino Winery in California's Napa Valley followed by a five-year stint at Caldwell Winery, working with high-profile winemakers Tim Mondavi and Phillipe Melka.


A job offer as winemaker at Vilafonté with well-known American Winemaker Zelda drew Martin home. He stayed for six years before setting up Paserene. A small family-operated winery, he co-owns with businessman Ndabe Mareda with the sole purpose of producing high-end boutique, authentic luxury wines with a sense of place and a lasting legacy that strives to produce fine wines that are truly authentic to the place and people that made them. Their grapes are grown in Elgin, and Tulbagh, and Franschhoek. A recent purchase of land in Tulbagh is where confessed Cabernet junkie Martin sees the grape's greatest potential in the Cape and where they are planting for the future.

There are three limited and sought-after wines under the Paserene range and five wines under the name Elements range-which are perfect wines to enjoy while you wait for your Paserene wines to mature in your cellar, have been released since their first vintage in 2013.


The new Elements range includes the fresh and fruity Emerald Sauvignon Blanc, the moreish Carignan-based Rosie, the zesty, lightly wooded Bright Chardonnay, and two red wines, Dark and Midnight, an inky Syrah, and robust Cabernet Sauvignon.


Martin wanted to make a Napa-style Chardonnay when they started, but after tasting the Elgin realised they were better suited to a Chablis style.


Marathon, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and a dash of Carménère – and the “lost” sixth Bordeaux varietal. The word means "crimson" and refers to the colour of the autumn foliage of the vines. In 1867 the phylloxera plague destroyed almost all the vineyards in Europe, afflicting the Carménère grapevines in particular. They were presumed extinct for many years. However, Martin has resurrected them here in the Cape. Elgin region is "the holy grail of chardonnay." Martin sources a chardonnay block from a notable grower there.

Art underscores everything Martin does; he believes winemaking in its purest form is an art. From making the wine and the vision behind it to the labels. Martin works with different artists for each label, using richly textured paper squeezed through an old Heidelberg press and applied by hand. The Paserene Marathon label symbolises Martin's story as a travelling winemaker. The art extends to music - on the back of each bottle are three words that sum up what's inside, inspired by music Martin listens to.

The label design by Lorraine Loots, Carmen Ziervogel, and Lauren Ann McCarthy has a theme of femininity and nature linking all of them. The girl represents the beauty of Mother Nature and the area of the wine's origins. Predominantly Syrah from the Tulbagh region and Carignan and Mourvedre, the label for Union, carries a Tulbagh scene. The message of unification – the two entities of the other wines, the girl (Mother Nature) and the swift (the winemaker), the tree in the background represents stability and calmness and anchors them.


Paserene is fast developing a reputation for crafting some of South Africa's most elegant wines that showcase the wandering spirit and winemaking skills of winemaker Martin Smith.


Marathon 2015: A Bordeaux style and is a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Petit Verdot, and 8% Carménère, a little-known French grape sourced from Philadelphia. Made in Tulbagh. A total of 2500 bottles was produced.


Paserene Union 2015: A Rhône style wine with a blend of 50% Syrah, 43% Carignan, and 7% Mourvèdre. The grapes were harvested in Tulbagh, which has a warmer and drier climate. A total of 2500 bottles was produced.


Paserene Chardonnay (W.O Elgin) 2015: The grapes come from Elgin, where the wine is also made, take advantage of the European climate, wi There is a subtle use of French oak, at 30 percent. Only 2000 bottles were produced.

Paserene wines were awarded a 5-star rating in the latest 2021 Platter's Wine Guide. The Union Red was also included as one of the Top 100 Wine Discoveries of 2020 by Robert Parker.


Anthony Mueller, Wine Advocate's senior taster, reviewed the wines as follows.


Paserene Chardonnay 2017: 90 Points.


Marathon 2016: 91 Points.


Union 2016: 90 Points.


The tasting menu food pairings have been thoughtfully, locally sourced, and curated, including delicious, lightly smoked Franschhoek trout, Dalewood cheese, and their own Fynbos honeycomb from the Tulbagh farm, cured organic olives, spiced and roasted nuts, homemade pate, and charcuterie from Neil Jewell.

Pasarene is on the road into Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands, fifty minutes drive from Cape Town.

A must visit with fabulous wine in a stunning setting. Cheers!


IMAGE CREDIT: ACID+ | Paserene