Big Time in the Little Karoo

If you are, perchance, sitting at a bar listening to an Angolan singing about love, land-mines and caprinhas while a 7ft biker from Czechoslovakia asks you for your sister’s phone number, chances are you are in Barrydale. In the Klein Karoo. A great piece of our Southern Land – wide and harsh and stirring, filled with tales of ghosts and strange animals; hardship and joy; death-dark nights and silent valleys.

Barrydale is a quaint little town in this unique part of the world, and here lies the Barrydale Karoo Hotel which annually hosts a Portuguese Festival – a result of owner advocate Theo Nel’s love of all things emanating from the Land of the Fresh Sardine and Hairy Arm Pit. The past week-end was just such an occasion, drawing visitors from far and wide to immerse themselves in some Portuguese-related eating, drinking and singing while just enjoying the rural isolation of a beautiful little village in an enchanting valley.

The Barrydale Karoo Hotel.
The Barrydale Karoo Hotel.

Friday kicked-off with a prawn dinner where some illustrious Barrydale locals joined us, including Joubert-Tradauw owner and wine maker Meyer, along with his dashing wife Beate. While the grilled prawns – which would put any Atlantic Seaboard seafood joint to shame – provided some Portuguese sustenance, we eschewed vinous convention and made Meyer’s Joubert-Tradauw Chardonnay 2011 the wine of choice. Buckets of this were sunk, so many that during the next morning’s Bloody Mary-session I witnessed the barmen calling for the replenishing of stocks as we had killed the Hotel’s total supply.

Dinner was followed by a fado session, courtesy of Ruben Crasto from Lisbon. He is the real Portuguese deal, is our Ruben: Dark. Brooding. Sultry. Big hair. In the Barrydale Hotel’s famous Anna Jordaan Bar, Ruben sat on stage with his guitar and fado cloak, singing heart-wrenching songs of beating hearts, quivering thighs, breathless whispers and unbridled passion. The emotion was overpowering as Ruben wrapped the audience around his chorizo and I found myself spilling the odd tear into my glass of Warre’s Tawny Port, humming along to that famous song about the shipwreck off Madeira and the lost consignment of A-Grade bacalhau.

Art in the Anna Jordaan Bar.
Art in the Anna Jordaan Bar.

Boets Nel from De Krans pitched on Saturday morning for a tasting of his Portuguese-styled wines, of which a delicious Tinta Roriz was the fullest Monty. Smoothly spiced and weighty with sumptuous dark fruit, this was the kind of Tinta Roriz to make a Douro Boy proud enough to buy his Mamma a new fejoada pan.

The afternoon delivered a surprise in the form of a wine-tasting courtesy of Hennie Taljaard, a world-famous philatelist and Africana book-collector from Ceres who has married into a Portuguese fish and chips dynasty. Hennie had brought along some old reds from his collection, namely a Lanzerac Pinotage 1998 and a Klein Constantia Cabernet Sauvignon 1986.

The Pinotage had not aged well, having a clunky, Porty taste. The Klein Constantia, however, was a revelation, once again showing that when it comes to red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon is to South Africa what fado, leaking warships and calamari tentacles are to Portugal.


All of 28 yrs old, the wine was alive with lusty red fruit, a snort of pine-needle and a vivacious curve-ball of cloves. Like the 1977 Palmer I recently had to force down my gullet, the Klein Constantia Cabernet Sauvignon had a sexy leanness and flirtatious guile, a wine experience only age, quality grapes and stylish crafting in the cellar can offer.

It was pretty much down-hill from there. Dinner was a feast of pork and clams, rissoles, chicken and brilliant sardines flown in from Johannesburg to bypass the Cape’s reliance on the Breco Cat Food Sardines which have become ubiquitous in local fish stores. Once again, buckets of wine white and cold were consumed and after retiring to the bar to listen to Adamu da Silva’s Angolan songs and Buddy Wells on saxophone, the Czech giants walked in.

For when its heart is beating, all the roads of the Klein Karoo lead to Barrydale.

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2 thoughts on “Big Time in the Little Karoo

  1. Wish Theo could do a back to the past weekend and repeat it next weekend! You managed to produce an exiting mind video of a great event! Theo is know for staging great music events in his Barrydale Karoo Hotel and he is building a cult following – which covers great music, great food, great wine and great people. The music events in the BKH are world class. Barrydale is being reinvented.

  2. thanks Emile, Im glad I followed you there! the highlight for me was Friday night. which was just one of those rear occasions when the place, the souls, the wine & food and the other mysterious unseen things forms a consistent whole.

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