Iona Red Blend

An ode to the Flemish Masters

If Georgio really wants to impress me with a special date night, art and wine needs to come into the equation. Since we started MarriedTwoWine, we climbed in under the skins of grapes produced at Almenkerk. If you haven’t had a chance to read the previous features and want to know more, click on Almenkerk at the bottom of our home page, and it will take you right there. The Elgin wine valley certainly possesses that fifth element in winemaking, but it requires the right people to unlock that. Understanding this cooler region can help produce wines that paint a picture of where you are, and The Flemish Masters Series is doing just that.

Almenkerk is a family-owned wine estate in the cool Elgin wine Valley celebrating their Belgian-Dutch heritage on South African soil, focusing on world-class wines.

The Flemish Masters Series is an ode to their heritage, illuminating classicism as found in profound works of art created in the 15 – 17th centuries, without divulging which grape varietals they have used.

Their new cross-fit hiking trail is opening in time for the summer holidays. Adventures lovers can look forward to enjoying beautiful views while being challenged at different cross-fit stations.

“All we can say is that it is estate wines. We want people to engage with these wines without preconceived ideas and notions.” – Natalie Opstaele


  • The art of pairing an intense red wine with food is never to match it with equal intensity like creamy or overly spiced food. It is okay to let the wine take the lead.
  • All the wines in this series exude longevity and are made to age. Should you wish to enjoy such an age-worthy wine a bit sooner, open the wine the day before. You will notice how the little bit of oxygen coaxes the fruit out of its shell. 
  • Pay attention to the wine’s integrated tannin and acidity as structural components. You will need an element in your food to balance both. A spice like sumac or a squeeze of lemon will meet the acidity, while a more decadent ingredient like duck fat will soften the tannin. Ground coffee beans or cacao in your sauce will also balance the tannin texture.
  • Don’t be shy to climb into your spice rack to see how the wine behaves with flavours like allspice, cloves, pepper and even mint before adding it to the food.
  • You are tasting profound wines from a cooler climate with natural acidity. We loved how the Belgium stew was livened up with a tartness, matching the freshness in the wine. So if you are cooking a hearty stew, the wine will invite a dash of lemon or a tomato base to echo that brightness.
  • Reduce your sauce to encourage umami flavours that will pronounce the fruit in the wine.
  • Adding sweetness to a duck or rabbit dish will accentuate the astringency in the wine, but if done judiciously, it will also help the wine tell its story in terms of texture and intensity.

Our Experience

I remember enjoying a Belgium Ale with a good piece of meat at De Brasserie in Strand Beach Road when it first opened its doors in 2012. It has since become an institution in the town, Strand, where I grew up. As children, the exact same place where De Brasserie is today used to be an outdated restaurant called Kaapzicht – the only place our gran would take us for waffles. Today it is a trendy Belgian eatery sans waffles with a sushi menu and traditional local and Belgium eats.

Founded by the late Joep van Almenkerk, it is now run by his youngest daughter Annelies while his son Joris’ wines continue taking centre stage on the wine list, available at cellar door prices when purchasing a case of six. So, whether you crave an ocean breeze or the cool Elgin, Almenkerk wines are readily available if you are spending the summer in the Helderberg area.

With great appreciation and respect for Almenkerk, we were thrilled to taste wines from their latest venture, The Flemish Masters, of which only two vintages have been released to date. Exchanging ideas with Joris’s wife Natalie, about what to cook with the wines as an ode to their cultural heritage, she replied: “How about a traditional Flemish Stew – Vlaamse Stoofcarbonades – with French fries and a dollop of homemade mayonnaise? I will send you a recipe from my classic Flemish cookbook. Alternatively, book a table at De Brasserie and enjoy it there!”

Of course, we opted for lunch at De Brasserie where we enjoyed their hearty stoofvleis and rabbit on the bone prepared in a red wine and prune sauce, complimented with three vintages of the Flemish Masters Series. 

There are a few bottles left for current sales of the 2017 vintage; none of 2018 and 2019 is yet to be released. But we can assure you, this is worth the wait! If you are patient (a wine virtue), their objective is to release a mixed case once they have six vintages and sell them as collector’s items. With limited quantities made, this series represents their eternal quest of creating something unique, and we were moved by how expressive each of them is.

While the name links their family to Flanders, it also celebrates its cultural blend of Flemish, French, Spanish, and German origin. You can imagine the genius collision of art, cuisine, architecture, and literature. This is the inspiration they wanted to weave into every wine in the series. It is not about the cultivars but rather the process of deriving at a point of perfect harmony by combining the best vineyard pockets and barrels at their disposal. The same vision applied to the great Flemish painters (AD 15-17th century). They communicated a place in time and kept it alive using colour, form and texture. Almenkerk followed suit, elevating wine as a work of art that witnessed a unique vintage. Every artist starts a painting with something to say, but at some point, a sublime power exists where the medium takes charge, and the artist (and winemaker) must adhere to it.

Almenkerk The Flemish Masters 2017 is an ode to Pieter Bruegel (The Elder), as captivating as the artwork on the label – The Peasant Dance. For the 2018 vintage, the focus is on the monumental work of Peter Paul Rubens, foretelling the drama to be expected in the bottle with the painting Two Satyrs.

The winemakers’ palate consists of cultivars and sites he has nurtured over nearly two decades. Then, the best barrels are selected based on their classical expression and quality with each vintage. Sustainability in an environment free of herbicides and inorganic fertilizers remains vital in creating these masterpieces. At Joris’ disposal to creating these bottled works of art is Syrah’s broad brushstrokes of dark fruit and spice; Merlot adding highlights with bright and vivid fruit; Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc applied with confidence and impasto for intensity and structure; Petit Verdot, Malbec and Mourvèdre adding detailed hues and perfumes to evoke depth and intrigue.

If you can see the intention of marrying art and wine, you need to taste the outcome.


Pieter Bruegel the Elder is mainly responsible for creating Flanders’ collective consciousness as hard-working yet bon vivant. His painting often depicts peasant scenes, and one cannot help but notice the same vibrancy and liveliness in the 2017 vintage. We loved how the movement and subdued colours of the painting sets the scene for something authentic and memorable. The wine has vitality with aromas of cherry, mulberry and young plum nestled in this ethereal perfume of violet, sweet spice, and liquorice. The wine is elegant and bright with tightly knit yet ripe tannin, the oak adding whiffs of dark chocolate and a savoury tone trailing on the long, lingering finish.

Made to age gracefully. Only 2621 bottles were produced.


Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish artist and diplomat whose style characterizes the Baroque art scene of Northern Europe. His work is intense, marked for the drama and contrasts weaved into his application. The same intensity exists in this wine – robust yet elegant. A later vintage in 2018 resulted in lush fruit and ripe tannin, and this is where the painting introduces a wine with the same intrigue and vivaciousness. The wine is riper with more dark fruit, adding a broody core. Still, a cunning freshness with cedar and delicious blackberry nuances following through beautifully.

Made to conquer. Only 1129 bottles were produced.


The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (Lam Gods) is a magnificent altarpiece done by the brothers van Eyck. You can see it at St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium. The wine is built with the same detail, evoking a captivating, almost spiritual awareness like the painting demands. Still tightly wound in its youth, the wine predicts immense power to be unleashed with abundant cherry, black current, red liquorice, fresh violet, and pink peppercorn setting the scene. Beautifully concentrated and balanced.

Made to illuminate. Only 1780 bottles were produced.

See it for yourself

Gallery of our experience.
All images copyright Samarie Smith and/or the featured estate.

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To have your wine featured and reviewed, please contact us.


Samarie +27 82 072 5451

Georgio +27 83 326 3016