If it’s superb viticulture you’re looking for, then spending some time exploring the Winelands of the Western Cape will definitely pop your cork. There are a staggering number of wine routes to choose from (around 560 wineries), most of which are little more than an hour, at most, out of Cape Town.
And the socially-conscious traveller will be happy to know that South Africa has the largest number of Fairtrade-certified wineries in the world.
The Stellenbosch wine route, the oldest wine route in the country, boasts over 300 wineries. Stellenbosch itself is a university town … student drinking never had it this good. Visit the four sub-routes of Bottelary Hills, Devon Valley Vintners, Helderberg and Simonsberg-Stellenbosch (aka Cabernet country) for a number of truly excellent reds, as well as some great sparkling wines.
The Constantia wine route is so eye-poppingly picturesque that you won’t believe you’re barely twenty minutes out of the city centre. One of the first wine-producing areas in the Cape, Constantia’s viticultural history dates back to the 1600s. The valley is home to three of our most famous estates, the heavy-weights Buitenverwachting, Groot Constantia, and Klein Constantia, as well as Constantia Uitsig and Steenberg.
Try their Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays, or treat yourself to a bottle of sweet, golden Vin de Constance at Klein Constantia, a re-creation of the famous Muscat Capp Constantia wine made in the 18th and 19th centuries. And you’d best make time to enjoy lunch at any one of their fine restaurants, while taking in the gables and thatched roofs of the restored Cape Dutch architecture (if that’s your thing).
Fleeing religious persecution in their country, a few French Huguenots settled in what is now Franschhoek, about an hour from Cape Town. The rest is winemaking history, with more than thirty cellars producing some of the country’s best whites, reds and, lately, sparkling wines.
A relatively young route, the Wellington wineries nestle at the foot of the Groenberg Mountain, also home to the majority of South Africa’s vine-cutting nurseries (and, incidentally, a brandy tasting route … go wild). Two words: Diemersfontein Pinotage.
This list could go on ad infinitum. One really can’t take a step outside of Cape Town without stumbling into a world-class wine producer’s cellar (and really, would you mind?). Wine tourism itself is a burgeoning market in South Africa, which means plenty of wine tours and tasting packages are available for you to explore any and all of these wineries.
But why stop at traditional tasting? Bikes ‘n Wines offers a day’s leisurely cycle around four wine farms for R290, which includes transport by train between Cape Town and Stellenbosch, bike and helmet rental, a snack pack and, of course, wine tasting all along the route.
Or try a combined wine and chocolate tasting at Waterford Wine Estate in Stellenbosch? Sample the chocolate delights, made specifically to accompany the Waterford vino, while breathing the heady aroma of the surrounding citrus orchards.
So go on, have a glass or twenty. Culture’s never been this much fun.
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