Cape Winelands has grown a reputation for producing award-winning quality wine. The wine region is one of the world’s best as many visitors travel to Cape Town to explore and taste familiar wine brands; Rust en Vrede, Boekenhoutskloof, Klein Constantia and Kanonkop to name just a few. Wine connoisseurs are also keen to try out signature varieties like Pinotage, Chenin Blanc and of course to experience the natural beauty of the Cape Winelands.
There are numerous activities available to wine tourists for families, adventurous types, foodies, connoisseurs and complete newbie’s. For those visiting the Cape Winelands for the first time, it can be quite daunting in deciding which to visit. Here are a few tips to help with your planning.
Most first- time visitors to the Cape book into hotels and guest houses in and around the Cape Town CBD and Atlantic Seaboard. From here you have easy access to the majority of popular sites such as Table Mountain, V&A Waterfront, the historical city centre, beaches, nightlife, restaurants and so on. From the city, it is easy to do a day trip to one of the nearby wine regions of Constantia, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Durbanville. For those wanting to spend a few more days in the Cape Winelands, you could incorporate an overnight at any of the above wine regions or travel further afield to explore areas like the Swartland, Elgin, Hemel En Aarde, Robertson and more.
There are multiple tour companies like Boutique Winery Tours, that offer day trips to the Cape Winelands.
For those staying in Cape Town, the city sightseeing buses are a good option for exploring part of the Constantia wine route. Visit the City Sightseeing website for more info. If you are staying in Franschhoek you could also opt to use the Franschhoek wine tram which will stop at many of the wineries in the area. I would, however, not advise self-drive unless you have a designated driver for the day, but let’s face it, that’s not much fun for them.
The Cape is the fine dining centre of South Africa, with many of the country’s most awarded restaurants’ situated on wine estates or along the various wine routes, most especially Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. On my tours, I give clients the option to choose their dining preference whether it be a multiple course gastronomic experience or just a simple picnic or cheese platter. The Winelands have a diverse offering showcasing South African cuisine but also keeping up to date with international standards and trends. Here are a few of my favourite Wineland’s restaurants:
Fine dining: Overture at Hidden Valley, the restaurant at Waterkloof, Indochine at Delaire Graff and La Colombe at Silvermist estate
Smart-casual: the grill at Guardian Peak, Fyndraai at Solms Delta, the Tokara delicatessen and the restaurant at Glen Carlou
Picnic: Warwick wine estate, Cape Point vineyards, Hartenberg wine estate and Cosecha at Noble hill Cheese and Charcuterie Platters:
Delheim wine estate, Uva Mira vineyards, Wilderer’s Distillery & La Grapperia Restaurant at Spice Route.
South Africa has approximately 99 463 hectares of wine-producing vines growing across 5 geographical units, all with varying climates and soils and unique characteristics suited to specific cultivars. To protect both the consumer and the producer, the wine of origin system is in place to verify where a producer is sourcing their grapes and this information is labelled on the bottle. This could indicate anything from a single vineyard wine produced from a single vineyard block less than 6 hectares in size, from a wine produced from a single estate, ward, district, and region or Geographical unit. For example, The Gravel Hill Shiraz is produced from a single vineyard block, on the Hartenberg Wine Estate, within the Bottelary ward of the Stellenbosch district within the Cape Coastal region of the Western Cape geographical unit. This information may not mean much to you but from a marketing perspective, certain areas say Stellenbosch, are well known for producing quality wines and a single vineyard label might command a higher wine price.
Many different wine routes have been established to market the various wine-growing areas, Stellenbosch is the oldest of all these wine routes and encompasses over 150 wine estates. For more information on these various routes visit Wines of South Africa.
All the wine routes have something unique to offer but if I had just one day available, I would visit Constantia, Franschhoek or Stellenbosch. All three are less than an hour’s drive from the city; offer a diversity of wines, estates, restaurants and dramatic scenery. If you have more time to play with then include an overnight at the Hemel Een Aarde valley, Elgin or Robertson for more scenic beauty and variety of wine styles or visit Tulbagh and Riebeek Kasteel for some small-town country charm and yes, of course, more good wine.
South Africa’s most popular white wines include Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and white blends and in the red department, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Pinotage and red blends. Many estates will also produce dessert wines and ports not to mention brandy. As mentioned previously, certain areas are known for specializing in particular cultivars and styles of wine. For example, if you like Pinot Noir then head to the cooler climate areas of Hemel en Aarde or Elgin and if you’re looking for Cape Port‘s and Muscadels then head for the Klein Karoo and Calitzdorp. Most wine tour companies will assess your interest and plan your tour accordingly.
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Words and Images: Kim Rabe