The magic of Cavalli

Like the beauty of a champion filly, Stellenbosch wine estate Cavalli is among the most eye-catching in South Africa, writes Clifford Roberts.

Few visitors to the premier South African estate Cavalli in the Stellenbosch Winelands would believe that it has been just 10 years since its establishment. In this relatively short time, Cavalli has amassed a following as staunchly committed to its wines as to its dramatic contemporary architecture and many other lifestyle offerings.

Cavalli Estate

Cavalli Estate

The Horses

Among them is a world-class equestrian center, which shares ownership of a top-line stud in the US state of Kentucky. In fact, Cavalli is the Italian word for horses and, as with its 50-strong collection of American Saddlebreds, the estate’s reputation is spread by an equally impressive range of wines.

The grounds

The grounds

Horse drawn carriage ride

Horse drawn carriage ride

The Wines

Their most recent achievements include top-end ratings, gold medals and Best in Class titles at championships such as the Michelangelo International Wine and Spirit Awards, Platter’s South African wine guide,, Gilbert & Gaillard International Challenge and from South Africa’s most experienced wine judge, Michael Fridjhon.

Included in the wines that have stood out are Cavalli’s Capriole, a Chardonnay-based Cap Classique; Colt Cabernet Sauvignon; Cremello, a Chenin blanc-based white blend; Filly Chenin Blanc, and Warlord, a Cabernet Sauvignon-based Bordeaux blend.

The wines pair beautifully with the food served at the onsite restaurant

The wines pair beautifully with the food served at the onsite restaurant


Winemaker Malie McGregor

The Terroir

Some 27ha of the 100ha Cavalli estate is planted to vines, with the focus being Chenin Blanc and typical Bordeaux varieties. All grapes for Cavalli wines are sourced from the farm itself, where Malie McGregor is the winemaker. McGregor left the renowned Rust en Vrede winery to join Cavalli in December, replacing Craig Barnard.

Vineyards weren’t however always a feature of the property despite it being located within what is locally referred to as “the golden triangle”. Here, a unique combination of sublime conditions – ideal soils, perfect climate, and proximity to the ocean – has resulted in the region’s concentration of South Africa’s most iconic wines.

Cavalli’s establishment came about in 2012 and its acquisition by the late Jerome Smith. It had few vines, most notably the country’s second-oldest block of Verdelho. Most of the farm was used for cattle pasture and fruit growing.

Cavalli is located in what is known as the 'golden triangle'

Cavalli is located in what is known as the ‘golden triangle’

Winemaker Malie, attending to the vines

Winemaker Malie, attending to the vines

The Architecture

Aided by his architect daughter, Lauren, as Managing Director, the Smiths began transforming Cavalli into one of the region’s most prized destinations. The center of the estate comprises a modern, low-profile series of interconnected spaces constructed from exposed glass, concrete, natural stone and steel. Windows and verandas provide comfortable natural lighting for the interiors as well as a connection with the magnificent, mountain-fringed exteriors. It is in this style too that the impressive stables were erected.

At the cornerstone of it all, is the concept of sustainability.

“From concept through to consumption, a love of nature is the point of departure for everything we do,” says Lauren. “Every design consideration is with a mindfulness to upholding the site and environment, from the establishment of the indigenous gardens and habitat for wildlife to the treatment of scarce water resources to the sourcing of our products to the design and architecture that celebrates the environment and site.”

One example is the main building that uses a geothermal system to control the temperature using the water of adjoining dams. It also uses LED lighting, PV panels and zoned lighting divisions. The kitchens use a special treatment system that sanitizes grey and blackwater for irrigation on the farm.

Stunning architectural features at Cavalli

Stunning architectural features at Cavalli

The Restaurant

The upmarket restaurant menu, overseen by talented chef Lucas Carstens, proudly declares, “All produce, and suppliers are local, practicing ethical and sustainable farming methods. We pride ourselves in knowing where our produce comes from.”

Enjoy delicious food paired with exceptional wines at the restaurant

Enjoy delicious food paired with their exceptional wines at the restaurant

The Art Gallery & More

The ethos runs like a thread throughout, linking every activity and experience to be had on the site. These include a gallery of fine art, a boutique gift shop, collection of memorabilia that includes for example Rocky Marciano’s boxing gloves, horse and carriage rides, and picnics. Cavalli’s function venue which overlooks the gardens of Cape Fynbos, vineyards and surrounding farmlands, is especially popular with wedding parties, which often make use of the six-sleeper guest cottage available too.

The Art gallery

The fine art gallery

“We’re also one of the few farms with a helipad,” points out marketing and sales manager Monet Janse van Rensburg. “It’s a real hit with guests undertaking a tour of the Winelands via helicopter from places such as the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.” Read more about another spectacular Stellenbosch wine farm here.

Considering it all happened within a decade, the next 10 for Cavalli look bright indeed. Follow Sip & Read for more exciting wine destinations. Cheers!



Oxtail recipe, best served with Cavalli Warlord

·       2.5 kg oxtail, chopped into 4cm      chunks

·       olive oil

·       2 medium leeks

·       2 sticks of celery

·       4 medium carrots

·       a few sprigs of fresh thyme

·       a few sprigs of fresh rosemary

·       4 fresh bay leaves

·       4 cloves

·       2 heaped tablespoons plain flour

·       2 x 400 g tins of plum tomatoes

·       275 ml port or red wine

·       1 liter beef stock


Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Place a large roasting tray in the oven to preheat.

Carefully remove the hot tray from the oven, then add the oxtail. Season and drizzle over a lug of olive oil, then toss to coat and place in the hot oven for around 20 minutes, or until golden and caramelized.

Meanwhile, trim and halve the leeks and celery lengthways, then chop into rough 2cm chunks. Peel and chop the carrots into 2cm pieces, then place them into a large ovenproof casserole pan over medium-low heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Pick, roughly chop and add the thyme and rosemary leaves, then add the bay and cook for around 20 minutes, or until soft and sweet, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, remove the oxtail from the oven and set it aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 170ºC

Add the cloves and flour to the veg, stirring well to combine, then pour in the tomatoes and port or wine. Add the oxtail and any roasting juices, cover with the beef stock and stir well.

Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil, then pop the lid on and place in the hot oven for around 5 hours, or until the meat falls away from the bone, stirring every hour or so and adding a splash of water to loosen if needed.

Remove the pan from the oven and leave to cool for about 10 minutes. Using rubber gloves, strip the meat from the bones and return to the pan, discarding the bones.

Enjoy with creamy mash and seasonal steamed greens.

BY Clifford Roberts | August 5, 2022

Clifford Roberts (BTech Journ) is a veteran writer whose coverage of wine for leading publications over two decades has taken him from oak forests of Hungary to vineyards among the peaks of Reunion Island. He is a member of the invitation-only SA African Brandy Guild and is based on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, heartland of South African wine.

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