South African wine is living the island life

Where in the world do French and South African wines get the same shelf space? Mauritius.  Why you may wonder? Well, the simple answer is the proximity to the island – a flight from South Africa will take roughly four to six hours.

That and the inherent South African culture; from chain stores and restaurants to products you could find in Clicks. And, of course, the braaiing expat community too.

Mark Twain famously said: “Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.”

And if heaven was made of food and wine (which I’m certain it was), then Mr Twain was on the money.

I recently visited the Indian Ocean paradise and found the mixed heritage food culture fascinating (not to mention delicious) and the wine selection in the shops and restaurants diverse – and, as I mentioned above, with the focus on French and South African. Though, to be fair, I drank a fair amount of cocktails too (the island makes superb rum from its sugar cane).

A portion of my hedonistic holiday was spent at the One&Only Le Saint Géran. Ultra glamorous, it’s one of the original luxury hotels, and languishes on its own private peninsula.

It’s here that I met sommelier Michaël Bongrand.  Over a sushi lunch I got to know the knowledgeable Frenchman and his enthusiasm for South African wine made us fast friends.

When asked about the large presence of South African wine in Mauritius he replied: “Partly because it’s a close wine region to us but at the same time South African wines are of great quality! South African winemakers make a good wine because they have a qualitative objective. They’ve tied tradition and technology together.”

Do you find yourself introducing SA wines to guests for the first time? “People are very excited to discover South African wines – they appreciate the quality and it gives them the desire to try and learn more about them.”

What are some of your favourite wines? “I appreciate the work of Marc Kent (Boekenhoutskloof) and Chris Mullineux (Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines). Also Christophe Durand of Dorrance Wines, I enjoy his Chenin and Syrah.”

Glasses of pale pink rosé littered the table – like our view of so many palm trees – and the beauty of the scene made me wonder if he’d been to South Africa.

“It's a beautiful country, where all that makes the art of the table is well respected; the high quality of the food and the wine, and not to forget the friendly people!”  


 – Malu Lambert

Michaël has a unique approach when it comes to introducing guests to new wines (South African, Australian, French…). In sessions entitled ‘Atelier du Gout’ (Workshop of Taste), he invites you into the kitchen of one of the hotel’s restaurants, Prime, along with Chef Vikash Coonjan (on the right). The lively duo plays off each other with food and wine pairings in the moment amid the bustle and heat of a working kitchen atmosphere.