As a wine connoisseur, you have no doubt explored the wonderful regions of Bordeaux and Provence in France or perhaps the Sonoma wine region in California. Now experience something different to add to your travel tales! You will be thrilled to know that nestling on the furthest southern tip of Africa are some of the most magnificent wine estates in the world. If you have not yet considered South Africa as a tourist destination, you are missing out on some spectacular experiences.
START OFF UNDER THE ICONIC TABLE MOUNTAIN
Whether you jet into the Mother City, Cape Town, on a plane, or sail into the massive harbour on a cruise ship, the first sight that sets your spine tingling is the iconic flat-topped Table Mountain, covered with a ‘tablecloth’ or a fluffy white cloud. This enchanting scene is known the world over and soon you will be sipping a cocktail on the patio of your luxury hotel under the mountain and admiring the views.
A trip to the top of Table Mountain in a cable car is for the brave and is guaranteed to take your breath away. Then relax in grounds of the magnificent Kirstenbosch Gardens, renowned as one of the best botanical gardens in the world.
CHOOSE YOUR WINE ROUTE
With over 20 official wine routes to explore (and many more unofficial routes), you will need to decide on your time restraints and how far you are prepared to travel. Some are a mere 20 minutes out of the city, others require days to explore. Because each wine producing area offers its own special character, you probably want to explore as many as possible to understand the personality, history and culture of each. Your best option is to rent a car, join a tour or travel privately with a local guide who is familiar with the area. Tasting at some Estates must be booked before arrival, so do your planning in advance.
Let’s set off and discover!
THE CONSTANTIA VALLEY WINE ROUTE
This route is the closest to Cape Town and the most famous. It dates back to the 1600’s when Simon Van der Stel, an explorer of the Dutch East India Company, first arrived in the Cape by boat. He had vast knowledge of wine growing and founded Constantia’s first wine farm, Groot Constantia in 1685. This magnificent Manor House is designed in Dutch Renaissance style and can be explored on a tour, historians will be delighted! This wine route is situated on the cold Atlantic Ocean and is perfect for white wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc.
THE STELLENBOSCH WINE ROUTES
Turn your sites inland and enjoy a one hour drive eastwards through magnificent scenery to the stately city of Stellenbosch. This area boasts almost 200 wine and grape producers. The scenic settings of Cape Dutch manors standing in vineyards as far as the eye can see makes for picture-perfect photo opportunities. Stellenbosch was named after the same famous Simon van der Stel and is also known as Oak City due to majestic old oaks lining the streets. Those with an eye for architecture will love the beautifully preserved buildings featuring examples of Georgian, Cape Dutch and Victorian styles.
Stop in at the Simonsig Estate, world renowned for its Cap Classique wine making methods. Sample the iconic Vintage 2008 Garland, a Cabernet Sauvignon made from grapes grown on the slopes of Simonsberg Mountains. It offers succulent, well-rounded flavours that are finely balanced by the tannins and fruitiness of the ripe red berries.
Kanonkop is the South Africa’s flagship wine estate championing Pinotage, a blend of Pinot noir and Cinsaut. The farm is situated on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain and is a 4th generation family owned estate. Sample the exclusive 2013 Paul Sauer Magnum, it offers layers of black fruit, perfume and cedar wood with a hint of vanilla tobacco.
THE FRANSCHHOEK WINE ROUTE
Continuing east from Stellenbosch, you will find yourself high up in the dramatic mountains. The sharp twists and turns and panoramic views of the cliffs and valleys will take your breath away. As you descend through the misty clouds over the Franschhoek Pass, you will find this enchanting town nestling under the imposing peaks. The name translate as ‘French Corner’ and carries the history of the French Huguenots who settled in this valley in 1688. Today, it offers Michelin-Star fine-dining restaurants and boutique guest houses. Jump onto the fun tourist hop-on-and-off Wine Tram Tour and stop at La Motte, Boekenhoutskloof and Cabrière to sample the classic offerings.
FROM THE HISTORIC TO THE MODERN
Our next trip takes you an hour south east to the city of Somerset West on the Helderberg Wine Route. This region lies on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountains and is blessed by both a mountain and maritime climate, producing some exceptionally unique wines. The craft of wine making here varies from 300 year old methods to cutting-edge cellars using the most modern techniques. Sample the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay when you visit the estates of Vergelegen, Morgenster Estate and the Post House Cellar. Meet the owners and the wine masters, take a tour and learn all about the art of wine making, tasting as you go along!
PAIR FOOD AND WINE AT AWARD WINNING RESTAURANTS
Now that you are an expert, you can relax in a 5-star restaurant, show-off and pair the perfect wine with your meal. Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Constantia are known internationally for their award-winning restaurants. Book dinner at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, it ranks in the top 50 restaurants in the world. Try the 6-course gourmand menu with matching wines. For a local South African taste, Reuben’s is the place to be. Order grilled Toontjies River quail with grape, mascarpone stuffing, tarragon, raspberry jus and couscous.
WHALES, WINE AND WORS – WHAT?
Well, by now we know all about the wine! So head for the tourist town of Hermanus, just under 2 hours away, it is famous for its whale watching. Here you will find the breeding grounds of the Southern Right Whale and you can see these massive mammals up close from the decks of a boat. If you are not that brave, drive up to one of the high cliffs overlooking the Bay and be awed as these creatures make their way across the water.
Then join the annual Wine Festival, it attracts all the iconic Cape wine makers and you can sample their creations in one location. Delicious handmade cheese, fresh fruit, oysters, homemade pies and olives must accompany your wine tasting. Try a Wors roll, a South Africa sausage cooked on an open fire over hot coals, placed into a fresh bread roll and smothered with a tomato and onion relish. The perfect way to end your South African wine tasting adventure!
Images: Shutterstock. Stellenbosch vineyard/jbor; Table Mountain/Marjoli Pentz; Cape Dutch Manor house/David Steele; Wors roll/Blue Pig