You’ve probably already sampled some great South African wines in Cape Town but, if you’re a budding oenophile, there’s no better way to spend a day than heading straight to the source and drinking wine in the warm sun on the wine farms that made them, educating yourself about the art of the grape in idyllic surroundings. Less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town in the Boland region of the Western Cape are the Cape Winelands. Thanks to the region’s dry, mountainous climate, it’s home to some 300 vineyards that produce close to 1 million liters of wine a year. Here’s our guide for how to spend a day in the Cape Winelands.
First up, there’s a humongous number of wineries in the Cape Winelands and you can only taste so many varietals in one day so be selective and plan your itinerary ahead of time to avoid getting stranded, including reserving wine tastings in advance. If possible, get some friends together and go as a larger group so you can take advantage of the group discounts for the tastings, winemaking tours and other activities.
No one wants to be the allocated driver for the day as the whole point of the exercise is to drink wine, right? Rather than hiring a car, take an Uber out to the wine region and even Uber around once you get there. If there’s a bigger group of you, you could also book a shuttle service to take you around and wait on you.
Where to go
Make Stellenbosch and its surrounding wineries your first point of call. This cute little Dutch colonial town in the heart of the wine region is well worth a visit. Its tree-lined streets have numerous boutiques, galleries, cute cafes and gourmet food markets to explore. Grab a coffee and some breakfast to line your stomach and then head to Spier Wine Estate, one of South Africa’s oldest wine farms that’s been in operation since 1692. Here, you can sign up for a wine tasting and / or take a guided tour of the traditional old estate, either on foot or on a Segway. From there, head to the more modern looking Tokara winery on the other side of Stellenbosch that prides itself on its progressive winemaking techniques and its impressive collection of contemporary art and sculptures (which is a sight in itself).
From Stellenbosch, hop back in an Uber and head towards the town of Franschhoek. The best way to explore this wine route is via the hop-on-and-off tram service that runs every 15 minutes from the town to the very picturesque countryside. Two must-visit wineries in this area are Maison Estate, where you can lounge around on the grass drinking wine and soaking it up with yummy cheeses from their great onsite deli, and the famous La Motte winery, known for its historical whitewashed stone buildings and world-renowned wines.
Wining on wheels
Once you’re out there, a fun way to tour the area is by bike, and you have the added bonus of being able to work off your wine consumption between stops. You can rent mountain bikes by the hour or day in the town of Stellenbosch at Adventure Shop and rely on Google Maps to get you from A to B. Alternatively, if you don’t want to plan it out yourself, there are various full day and half day tours with companies such as Bikes n Wine that take you on a gentle ride around the picturesque country roads, stopping off at different wine estates along the way. The region is also famed for its top-notch restaurants and some tours include a stop for lunch in one of the many fancy establishments en route.
Know your wines
Each winery has its own standout wines but two typical wines of the region that you must try are the Methode Cap Classique (MCC), a variety of sparkling wine that’s produced in a similar way to France’s Champagne (but is much less expensive) and the Pinotage, a red wine that’s made from a hybrid grape of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. If in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a fruity yet dry Sauvignon Blanc.
A day in the Winelands can be costly so if you want to avoid the pricey restaurants and save your cash for wine drinking then take some snacks or a picnic for the road. Some wine farms also offer pre-packed picnic baskets, which are more affordable than eating in their restaurant. Or, you can pick up some tasty local produce from one of the local delis and make your own picnic on the go.
If you want to stay the night
If you don’t fancy trekking back to Cape Town on the same day and would like to stay the night, avoid the overpriced, touristy hotels and rent a place via Airbnb or other local rental agency. The advantage of renting accommodation from a local is that you can milk them for useful insider’s tips for the area.
Get the App
To familiarize yourself even further with South Africa’s wines and what makes them great, download the Platter’s App, which is a comprehensive guide to over 7,000 of South Africa’s wines and includes ratings and tasting notes.
Got any other great tips for exploring the Cape Winelands? Share them with our readers in the comments section below.