A South African Winelands Visitors’ Guide: So Many Wines, So Little Time

Published on: November 26, 2014

Filled Under: Africa, South Africa, Winelands

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The South African Winelands: rural rhapsody
Photo by: Michael Henry
Groot Constantia, the pioneer of South African winemaking
Photo by: Michael Henry
Buitenverwachting raises the bar
Photo by: Michael Henry
Steenberg Farm, everything is better with bubbles
Photo by: Michael Henry
Red or white? Steenberg Farm's glass grape chandelier
Photo by: Michael Henry
Delaire Graff, balanced perfection
Photo by: Michael Henry
The divine design of Delaire Graff
Photo by: Michael Henry
Vergelegen's vintage views
Photo by: Michael Henry
Kanonkop, a study in red
Photo by: Michael Henry
The Lodges at Aaldering Vineyards: pastoral, privileged and private
Photo by: Michael Henry
The Lodges at Aaldering Vineyards, a South African sense of place
Photo by: Michael Henry
Mont Rochelle, another notch in Branson's belt
Photo by: Michael Henry
Stalking the Manor House at L'Ormarins
Photo by: Michael Henry
Tranquill toasting at Boschendal
Photo by: Michael Henry
La Petite Dauphine, your French country home in South Africa
Photo by: Michael Henry
La Petite Dauphine: French farmhouse fantasy
Photo by: Michael Henry

The South African Winelands are world-renowned, not just for the quality vintages, but for heady scenery, and distinctive lodging.  For a visitor, the options are staggering, with over 500 wineries in more than dozen different regions.

Global Gallop took one for the team.  We mulled the options, followed our noses and ran our legs off.  We reduced the complexity of a visit to the South African Winelands, narrowing it down to three focused regions, nine brilliant wineries* and three luscious accommodations.

Now, it’s time to raise a toast to Global Gallop’s South African Winelands Visitors’ Guide:

 Constantia

Logistics factor highly into our choice of Constantia as a top priority for visitors to the South African Winelands.    Just twenty minutes’ drive from Cape Town city center, Contantia’s eight wineries are in close proximity to each other, making for a manageable day of touring.  Constantia is also the oldest wine region in South Africa, with estates dating back to the 1600’s.  A visit to Constantia is a journey into South Africa’s past.

Constantia Wine Estates

Groot Constantia, dating back to 1685, is the oldest wine estate in South Africa, and history is a large part of the visitor experience.  Groot Constantia is the ‘Mother Ship’ that spawned many of the other wine farms in the Constantia Valley.

Buitenverwachting , which means ‘Beyond Expectations’, lives up to its name with the most bucolic setting of all the Constantia wine estates.  It comes as no surprise that picnics served in baskets under the towering oak trees are a popular option for visitors to Buitenverwachting Wine Farm.

Steenberg Farm, known for its sparkling wines, delivers the most aesthetically pleasing tasting environment.  The design-forward Tasting Bar features a striking chandelier with cascading glass grapes.  The Outdoor Terrace overlooks infinity pools, sculptures, and manicured grounds.   We were delighted by the welcome we received by Steenberg’s Wine Ambassador, Kayla, who clued us in on Steenberg Farms’ fascinating history and provided an in-depth cellar tour.

Constantia Lodging

While the Constantia Valley can easily be visited in a day trip from any central Cape Town hotel, The Hotel at Steenberg Farm gets the nod for those who wish to sleep where they sip.   With 5-star luxury, a championship golf course, an indulgent spa and award-winning cuisine at Catharina’s Restaurant, why would you ever want to leave?

 Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is a lovely college town about an hour east of Cape Town center.  The Stellenbosch wine route has almost 150 wine farms, including some of our favorites in all of the South African Winelands.  You will need a car to tackle the Stellenbosch wine route, as the farms are dispersed in all directions from the city center.

Stellenbosch Wine Estates

The Delaire Graff Estate had the highest ‘wow’ factor of all of the South African Winelands farms we visited.  Perched high on the Helshoogte Mountain Pass overlooking Stellenbosch, the Estate’s arresting views are juxtaposed with vibrantly-colored gardens, a dramatic contemporary art collection, and superb Cape Dutch architecture.  If you can only visit one wine estate in the South African Winelands, Delaire Graff should be the one.

Vergelegen, located in Somerset West, twenty minutes south of Stellenbosch, is a feast for the eyes, and the palate.  Peacocks stroll among the seventeen formal gardens.  The historic manor house is guarded by ancient camphor trees.  Our wine tasting included award-winning vintages across the color spectrum, including a unique gold-green Semillon. Despite Vergelegen’s stately façade, the welcome here is very warm.  Our wine advisor gave us a helpful tutorial on the game of rugby after our tasting.

Kanonkop Wine Estate is nestled in a rural setting on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain.  A fourth generation family estate, Kanonkop is all about tradition.  For any red wine lover, visit to Kanonkop is a must do.  Kanonkop makes some of South Africa’s top red wines.  A visit to Kanonkop feels intimate, with nary a tour bus in sight.

Stellenbosch Lodging

What better place to retire at the end of a day of wine touring than to your own private wine estate?  The luxury lodges at Aaldering Wine Estate offer 5-star indulgence in a pastoral vineyard setting.  Aaldering’s wines are aged to perfection, but the expansive lodges at AAldering are delightfully state-of-the-art, with guest i-Pads, designer baths, and Nespresso coffee machines in the galley kitchens.  With only three lodges, the service is highly personalized.  Guests are treated to a wine tasting from the Aaldering cellar, car wash and laundry service, and three complimentary bottles of the estate’s wine.  We arrived at Aaldering Lodges to see the American flag flying (along with the flags of origin for our fellow guests) in honor of our stay.  Nice touch.

 Franschhoek

Less than an hour from Cape Town, Franschhoek is the French Corner of the South African Winelands.  The fertile valley was settled more than 300 years ago by French refugees fleeing religious persecution.  In Franschhoek, you will find some of the best wineries in the country, as well as some of the region’s top epicurean venues.  Franschhoek has over forty wine farms, ten of which can be leisurely visited via Franschhoek’s hop on, hop off Wine Tram.

Franschhoek Wine Estates

Mont Rochelle, Sir Richard Branson’s latest plaything, has a boutique winery focused on quality versus quantity.  The hilltop location offers some of Franschhoek’s finest views.

L’Ormarins, is an impressive estate featuring two tasting venues.  The Terra Del Capo Tasting Room is contemporary, with views to the cellar through a wall of glass. The Anthonij Rupert Tasting Room is traditional, set in a historic Manor House overlooking a rose garden and the Groot Drakenstein Mountains.  L’Ormarins’ vintage car museum is definitely worth the stop.

Boschendal tempts, with alfresco tasting under an ancient oak tree.  Treat yourself to Chocolate Wine tasting and enjoy the estate’s classic Cape Dutch architecture.  Vineyard, cellar and Manor House tours are also on offer at Boschendal.

Franschhoek  Lodging

La Petite Dauphine, a working farm producing plums, olives and grapes, is the French country estate you’ve always longed to own.   The details speak volumes in the nine suites and villas, with exposed stone walls, wood-beamed ceilings, muted color palates and L’Occitane amenities.   Playfully elegant, La Petite Dauphine’s manicured landscapes are dotted with whimsical sculptures, and Henrik, the rooster, surveys his domain each evening from his perch on the grand piano.  La Petite Dauphine’s Café Bon Bon is a perennial favorite in the highly discerning Franschhoek culinary scene.

 

* We are not wine connoisseurs.  In fact, we’ve been known to drink wine from a box.  Our Wine Estate recommendations are based upon the overall visitor experience, not just the wines.

5 Comments on A South African Winelands Visitors’ Guide: So Many Wines, So Little Time

  1. Patsy Flora says:

    Wow, Oh WOW ! This trip is on our bucket list for sure. Great food, great wines, fine lodgings….and the beauty o the countryside. Just a fabulous journey awaits.

    • Susan says:

      Indeed, a trip to the South African winelands should be very high on the bucket list of anyone who eats, drinks and appreciates beautiful scenery.

  2. TX2NYC@SFO says:

    I have never associated Africa with vineyards but will from now on. Great article and pictures…

  3. reg says:

    let me say again this appears to be better than argentina and napa put together….wow!

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