When people talk about Cape Town, the conversation quickly turns to wine. And it's not hard to see why. With spectacular scenery, award-winning wines and incredible food, the Cape Winelands are a must-see for any visitor.
There are over ten wine routes spanning a large area which stretches all the way into the Klein Karoo, over 400 km from Cape Town. Here we will outline just the four main routes close to Cape Town.
Whatever you do, don’t miss out on at least a day trip into the winelands. This is what dreams are made of.
The first recorded wine made in the Cape was in 1659, by Jan van Riebeek, at the farm now known as Groot Constantia. Realising that the climate and land was well-suited to vineyards and grapes, wine-farming rapidly became a staple in the Cape, spreading inland to Stellenbosch and Paarl.
Franschhoek, known now for its French influence in both food and wine, was settled by the French Huguenots in 1688. In those days it was called Olifantshoek, as elephant still roamed the beautiful, mountainous area.
The Cape Winelands now produce an enormous amount and range of wines - from red to white to rose - many of which are award-winning. Then there's the brandy, the grappa, the craft beer and olive oils, cheeses, breads and heavenly food offerings... This area is not known as the culinary capital of South Africa for nothing!
Within a half hours' drive from Cape Town's City Centre, lies the fertile Constantia Valley. This valley, with its spectacular scenery, is home to the oldest wine farm, Groot Constantia, and some of the newest on the block, like Beau Constantia.
Sitting on the verandah tasting award-winning wines and looking at the breathtaking views from these farms, it's hard to believe the bustling city is just around the corner!
South Africa's oldest wine estate, at over 300 years', is the beautiful Groot Constantia. With its gracious, oak-lined avenues, beautifully restored Cape Dutch architecture, and a view across to False Bay, it's a treat to visit.
Groot Constantia has two restaurants, a museum and, of course, fantastic wines and tastings. It's a place you can easily spend a full day.
Don't get stuck at Groot Constantia, though! It's well worth carrying on up Constantia Nek and popping in at a couple more of the estates in the valley, like Constantia Glen and Eagle's Nest.
Right up at the top of Constantia Nek lies one of the newest wine farms, Beau Constantia. With sweeping views across the whole of the Cape Flats to the Helderberg Mountains and False Bay to Hangklip, this is a place to taste wines with a view.
The boutique vineyard first planted vines in 2003 and now has almost 12 hectares of vineyards, including Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Shiraz from which they make a range of reds and whites.
A little bit up the road and inland (under an hours' drive) lies the beautiful town of Stellenbosch. One of the most well-known towns associated with the winelands, it has beautiful, oak-lined streets and some fabulous examples of restored Cape Dutch architecture. What we're focussing on, though, is the wine, and there is no shortage of amazing wine farms surrounding the town.
With almost 150 wine farms in the area, you are spoilt for choice on the Stellenbosch Wine Route. They offer incredible wines, sumptuous food and spectacular views across vineyards to the surrounding mountains.
Many of the oldest wine farms in South Africa are found in this region. This is one of the main reasons that they're so beautiful, with huge old trees, established gardens and perfectly restored old houses. If you're looking for a place to taste award-winning wines, followed by a walk in spectacular gardens, Vergelegen is a good choice. They've also got great restaurants, and offer picnic baskets to eat on the lawns under the shade of the trees.
Muratie, in the spectacular valley of Knorhoek, has been going since 1685. It has seen generations of winemakers and its rich cultural history can be felt on the farm and tasted in the wines.
At Spier, you can not only taste wines, but see art, marvel at the architecture or hire a segway to explore the grounds and learn about all their environmental projects. Don't miss out on meeting the magnificent birds of prey at the rehabilitation centre.
We're living in the age of health-conciousness - colourants, preservatives and 'fake' foods are no longer acceptable. There is a huge movement toward organic farming practices too. Why should it not extend to our wine drinking?
A number of farms are practicing organic farming and wine-making techniques. These include Reyneke and Lazanou.
Rumour has it that not only are organic wines delicious and 'healthier', they are also less likely to give you a hangover!
Many of the wine farms in the Stellenbosch and Somerset West region offer so much more than just spectacular wines...
Numerous wine farms produce their own olive oils and olive products, and an olive oil tasting makes for a fascinating break between wines. Don't forget to get some healthy snacks in too, with delicious fresh olive tapenade. Morgenster, Hidden Valley and L'Olivier Estate are just three of the many farms growing olives.
A little further inland,but still within 1 1/2 hours' drive from Cape Town, lies the spectacular Franschhoek valley, surrounded by mountains and filled with vineyards and wine farms. First farmed by the French Huguenots, who arrived in 1688, the area has retained much of its French influence.
Over forty restaurants call Franschhoek home. They range from cheap-and-cheerful to award-winning, world-class cuisine. Many of the restaurants and their chefs have made it onto international ‘Best Restaurant’ lists, year and year again.
Not only the restaurants found in Franschhoek’s quaint Main Street, but many of the wine farms have restaurants, too. At Haute Cabriere up on the hill overlooking Franschhoek, one can dine on incredible food in the restaurant set into Franschhoek Mountain, or outside at tables in the shade, overlooking the whole valley.
The main road through Franschhoek, with the Huguenot Monument watching over it from the end, is a shopping and foodie mecca. The street is lined with restaurants, galleries, antique, bric-a-brac and, of course, wine shops. This is not a place where you’ll struggle to find a gorgeous gift to take home.
There is no shortage of beautiful wine farms in the Franschhoek valley, many of them dating back over 200 years, and still carrying their French names.
Just outside of Franschhoek, one comes across Solms-Delta. This farm is interesting on a number of levels. Firstly, it is one-third owned by the previously-disadvantaged people who have always worked on the farm, a social partnership that is reaping great rewards for all involved. A museum on the farm portrays its history.
Secondly, Solms-Delta make wines using desiccated grapes, which is said to concentrate flavour and colour. This ancient Greek process sees the grapes left on the vines to dry out before being used to make wine.
The farm offers six specialised wine and garden tours with much emphasis based on the history. Tasting of the nine wines produced are conducted in the museum or outside under magnificent oaks. Fyndraai, the restaurant serves traditional Cape Malay food. It’s worth a visit for not only the delicious dishes it offers, but also for the glass floor, which reveals the foundations of the original wine cellar (c. 1740).
In the grand French tradition of champagne, there are a number of wine farms that produce MCCs (Methode Cap Classique) in this region. Colmant, which lies just past the imposing Huguenot Monument, are dedicated solely to producing MCCs and champagne, and award-winning ones they are.
Colmant are not the only sparkling producers in the valley, though, not by a far stretch. Many of the wine farms, including Chamonix and Haute Cabriere, also produce them.
Drinking sparkling in the champagne air of the valley - perfect bliss.
Running every fifteen minutes from the Main Street of Franschhoek, this is a responsible (and fun) way of visiting a number of wine farms, without anyone having to be the designated driver.
With two different routes covering seven different wine farms, you learn about the history of the area while being driven from farm to farm. You can choose where you want to hop-off, and for how long, before hopping on to the next tram, fifteen minutes later, or the one after that…
Heading out on the N1 (under an hour’s drive), it’s hard to miss the Taal Monument on the top of Paarl Mountain, from where the town derives its name. The town itself has tree-lined streets and old buildings interspersed with more modern architecture.
Here, too, you will find a smorgasbord of stunning wine farms ranging from 300 to ten years’ old, and producing multi-award-winning wines, in and around the town.
At Fairview, the goats who have inspired (and helped produce) the delicious range of cheeses made here, have their own tower in which to frolick, to the delight of all who visit.
This is the perfect spot to experience that mouth-watering combination of cheese and wine – both of which have won plenty of awards. Be sure to taste the ‘Goats Do Roam’ range of wines. Who can resist a wine named after the happy little creatures who call this spot home?
At Babylonstoren, visitors are welcome to walk through their extensive manicured gardens. They include food and herb gardens and fruit orchards, from where many of the ingredients used in the delicious dishes they serve at both the restaurants are sourced. You can’t get fresher than this.
Pair a freshly made sandwich on bread made at the farm, with the Babylonstoren Mourvedre Rose under the trees at the Greenhouse Restaurant – pure bliss.
After lunch, pay a visit to their friendly farm donkeys and happy chickens.
The only way of visiting the winelands is by car. Numerous operators offer day trips.
If you decide to rent a car, make sure you have a map and - more importantly - a designated driver.
Use the Google map to explore Cape Winelands. Feel free to Print the Street Map when you're ready.