‘fine. WINE BAR’ reads the understated type that greets you as you enter Joburg’s latest spot to escape the city hustle and unwin(e)d (sorry, couldn’t resist) with some of the most exciting bottles coming out of the Western Cape. And what a damn fine wine bar it is! Nestled conveniently between Sandton and Randburg and next-door neighbours with the notoriously hip Warm & Glad, it’s no surprise that ace + pearl is drawing young epicurians from all over the city of gold and beyond.
After finally submitting my Wine Business Masters thesis (yay!) I (Kristen) had a few days to kill in SA’s city that never sleeps, so an outing to ace + pearl was the perfect way to celebrate my newfound freedom and general wine nerdiness with my jozi amigas. Read on to find out why this spot is a game changer for the city and what you absolutely have to sip on there if you find yourself in the 011.
From the moment you step into ace + pearl’s understated space, it’s clear that this is a no-frills, no-nonsense kind of establishment. Seating is limited, so if you’re planning to nibble whilst imbibing (get the mushroom truffle pâté, it will honestly change your life), it’s advisable to arrive early, as the bar has already turned into one of those spots you drive past at night with so many trendy haircuts spilling out onto the balcony that it makes you feel like you should probably be doing something cooler than rushing home to Netflix and yesterday’s pizza.
While good, clean aesthetics are welcome any day, ace + pearl is at its core about drinking mighty fine wine – and in this respect it more than delivers. The first notable thing about the wine list is that it’s Swartland-heavy, reminiscent of that of Publik wine bar in Cape Town (a.k.a. our favourite wine bar in the world). While it’s hardly surprising for the spotlight to be on the Western Cape’s trendiest region (which happens to be SA’s avant-garde for the natural wine movement), some wonderful bottles from Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek, Elgin and beyond provide strong examples of the incredible quality and variety coming out of the Cape Winelands in general.
As for pricing, I’m not going to pretend it’s cheap – but if you like to drink interesting wine I reckon it’s good value for money. While you can spend anything from R190 for a bottle of rosé up to R1612 for Mullineux Schist Syrah (by the way, Mullineux was just voted SA’s top wine producer according to a panel of local and international experts), there’s also a tasting option where you can pay R120 to sample any four by-the-glass wines. If you’re as indecisive as I am then this is something you’ll really appreciate, and the 75ml pours are more than generous – plus this selection changes every day which is pretty epic for regulars.
There were four of us, so we basically tasted everything on offer by-the-glass between ourselves and our pick of the evening was unanimously the Mother Rock “Force Majeure” Chenin. Crafted by JH Meyer (we know because the wine list mentions the name of each wine’s maker – a lovely touch!), this fine, delicately fruity Chenin Blanc from old bush vines in Paardeberg went down a treat. I also noticed that they stock plenty of Craig Hawkins’ infamous Testalonga El Bandito ‘I wish I was a Ninja’ MCC that I recently tried at Publik, so if you’re looking for some crazy delicious natural wine bubbles then look no further – this is seriously one to try. If none of this sounds appealing or if you just want to take a break from wine (I can’t imagine why, but to each their own), the selection of local gins as well as cocktails and a few beers looks pretty decent too.
I’m not overly familiar with Joburg so I can’t say this definitively, but from what I’ve heard and now experienced firsthand I don’t think there’s a better place outside of the Western Cape to experience the magic coming out of the Cape Winelands. Informative, unpretentious staff, intriguing wines and of course that life-changing mushroom truffle pâté make ace + pearl a precious find indeed.