Wineland destinations growing in number and appeal
For those who’ve never toured the Cape winelands, there’s some of South Africa’s best scenery and good times ahead. And when it seems that you’ve seen everything, been everywhere, got the T-shirts, either the tried-and-trusted reinvent themselves by way of something different on the farm or in the bottle, or something completely new shows up on the radar to provide another great reason to head for the cellars. Not that anybody ever gets to visit each and every winery in the land: there are about 600 of them, some involving long distances from Cape Town where it all began – 300km up the West Coast to Vredendal and Lutzville, 500km to Plettenberg Bay, 800km to Upington and 1500km to the Midlands of KZN.
In between and beyond the main hubs of Wine SA comprising Constantia, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek and Robertson, the most popular routes in the Cape also extend to Riebeek-Kasteel in the Swartland, to the Elgin basin and to Hemel-en-Aarde outside Hermanus, the list goes on… The countryside varies dramatically, as do the cellar-door experiences, wine tasting and festival opportunities, restaurant options and various other attractions for local trippers and tourists from overseas, coach-loads of fun-lovers as well as serious wine enthusiasts in search of the ‘holy grail’.
Every wine route has its highlights, and much depends on personal preferences. On Cape Town’s doorstep, for example, Groot Constantia is steeped in history and tradition while newcomers Beau Constantia, Constantia Glen and Eagles’ Nest offer delightful vantage points and a more intimate experience on the upper slopes near Constantia Nek. Steenberg has a fine restaurant and snazzy bistro in Tokai, whereas Cape Point Vineyards’ mountainside venue presents a superb view of Noordhoek beach and the Atlantic.
Some of the best restaurants in the heartland of the Cape winelands are at Jordan in Stellenbosch Kloof and at Delaire Graff with its stunning gardens and vistas from atop the Helshoogte Pass. No matter which route, the better tables tend to be found at the better wine cellars – another popular route being the Winery Road / Annandale Road area spanning Rust en Vrede, Guardian Peak and Hidden Valley. That said, many would argue that Franschhoek retains the title of the gourmet capital ahead of Stellenbosch, with La Motte, Grande Provence (on a wine tram route) and Môreson among the popular farm venues and with the main street of the town boasting more menus than you can count on two hands.
Two of the most-visited destinations in Paarl are The Goatshed at Fairview and the gardens at Babylonstoren. Springfield and Graham Beck are among the musts in Robertson. Top picnic venues include Warwick in Stellenbosch and the Camphor Forest at Vergelegen, Somerset West… Of course, this is just scratching the surface… There are many more lovely attractions in the winelands but only so much room on this page – a series in the making.
By Mike Froud
Editor of the Top Wine SA website and blog, Mike Froud is manager of the SA Wine & Cellar Classifications, author of the MapStudio publication My WineRoute South Africa, editor of South Africa’s Pinotage Wine Guide and managing editor of the Icons book showcasing the results of the Trophy Wine Show.