The wine lover’s guide to South Africa – 10 wine routes to tempt your taste buds
Whether you enjoy your wine big, buttery, smooth, opulent, complex, creamy or crisp, the wines made in South Africa will more than meet your needs, as we produce some of the best wines in the new world.
South African wine, a quick overview:
- our wine history dates back 350 years, to 1659
- today we export over 450 million litres of wine
- a little over 10 years ago, most of our wine was distilled into brandy
- SA wines are of the best valued red and white wines
- there are 100 000 hectares under vine across the country
- 56% of this is white wine, 44% is red
- the oldest fruit bearing vine in the southern hemisphere is a Crouchen Blanc variety, planted around 1771 at the Cape Heritage Hotel in Cape Town
- we are the 9th largest wine producer in the world
- our most popular grape variety is Chenin Blanc
- followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Colombard
- a white label with a red key and Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) logo, indicates the wine is of the best (it was sold at a CWG annual auction and you’ll find it in top restaurants and cellars in SA)
- if you’re new to South African wines, pick up a copy of John Platter’s South African Wine Guide…
The wine lovers guide to South Africa – 10 wine routes to tempt your taste buds
Most of South Africa’s vineyards fall in the Western Cape. Hundreds of wine farms and estates stretch from the southern most tip of Africa into the open plains of the Karoo and the Free State.
There are vineyards in smaller densities in KwaZulu-Natal, the Northern Cape, the Eastern Cape, and Limpopo, but nothing like the production in the Cape, where the winelands are easily amongst the most beautiful in the world.
To make it easier to understand and explore the density of vineyards and estates, they have been carved up into different wine routes.
In part one of our article on South African wines, we explore 10 wine routes in and around Cape Town:
BOT RIVER WINE ROUTE
One first glimpses the vineyards that stretch from the lagoon in Bot River into the foothills of the Groenlandberg and Babylonstoren mountains from the top of the Houw Hoek Pass. This handful of wineries produces a series of cool-climate varietals. Most of the producers are small and family-run. The route is big on hospitality and value-for-money wines.
Vineyards to visit: Anysbos, Barton, Beaumont, Benguela Cove, Eerstehoop, Feiteiras, Gabrielskloof, Benevieve MCC, Goedvertrouw, Luddite, maremmana, Paardenkloof, Rivendell, Wildekrans (see Bot River Wine Estates).
Where to stay: Bot River Accommodation
This wine route lies in the heart of the Breede River Valley, surrounded by the Slanghoek, Du Toitskloof and Hex River Mountains. One of the biggest wine-producing areas of the Cape, 22 wineries lie along the banks of the Breede River, a wine-growing region that predominantly produces Chardonnay and Pinotage, in substantially alkaline soils.
Vineyards to visit: Breedekloof Wine Estates
Where to stay: Breede River Valley Accommodation
A relatively new wine route in one of the world’s oldest wine growing regions, some of the vineyards lies close enough to the sea that you could be mistaken for thinking they were beachside. The vineyards produce a good Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Vineyards to visit: Cape Point wine estate has vines in Noordhoek, Redhill and Scarborough
Where to stay: Atlantic Seaboard Accommodation
Constantia Valley has been producing wine since the late 1600s. Lying on the southern slopes of Table Mountain, and the east-facing slopes of Constantiaberg, the route includes 8 estates, one of which originally produced the Constantia dessert wines popular in Europe during the 18th century.
Vineyards to visit: Constantia Wine Estates
Where to stay: Constantia Accommodation
Just an hour’s drive from Cape Town the country town of Darling has a handful of wine estates just off the R27. The vines of these estates are of the closest to the cool winds off the Atlantic and, despite the lack of rain in the area, produce exceptional Sauvignon Blanc.
Vineyards to visit: Darling Wine Estates
Where to stay: Darling Accommodation
Whilst the route has only been in existence since 2004, some of the estates have been producing wines for generations. The estates lie on the hills that border the northern suburbs of Cape Town, just 12 km from the Atlantic, providing cool breezes that combine with morning mists to produce fine Sauvignon Blancs, the ward’s signature wine.
Vineyards to visit: Durbanville Wine Estates
Where to stay: Durbanville Accommodation
The Franschhoek Valley is all about wine and food. Celebrity chefs produce signature dishes in five-star restaurants, whilst boutique wineries compete only with the scenery, for the Groot Drakenstein Mountains and sturdy oak-lined avenues of the country’s ‘gourmet capital’ make you think more of Europe than South Africa.
Vineyards to visit: Franschhoek Wine Estates
Where to stay: Franschhoek Accommodation
Vineyards grow right on the fringes of this town, just 45 minutes’ from Cape Town. The architecture, scenery and Berg River give it a country appeal. Paarl produces a large variety of grapes on estates in the shadow of the Groot Drakenstein and Wemmershoek Mountains.
Vineyards to visit: Paarl Wine Estates
Where to stay: Paarl Accommodation
There are over 200 wine and grape producers in and around the university town, lined with oaks. To make it easier they are sub-divided into five sub- routes combining food, history, culture and scenery in a way that is hard to beat.
Where to stay: Stellenbosch Accommodation
Almost 90% of the country’s vines are grown in nurseries in the Wellington Valley, earning it the title of ‘home of the vines’. But what makes this route so attractive is the easy proximity of the 30 estates and smattering of garagiste winemakers – all of them are contained within the valley encased by the Groenberg, Slanghoek and Hawequa mountains.
Vineyards to visit: Wellington Wine Estates
Where to stay: Wellington Accommodation
- 9 other (really) popular wine routes of the Cape – the bouquet beckons
- Explore the Wine Estates of South Africa
- Featured Cape Wine Routes
- Pop Your Cork!
- Things you simply must do in Franschhoek