Guide to South African Wine Country

Johnny

South African wine country is its best kept secret. Not as if  you needed another reason to visit Cape Town, but the wine region of this country is truly spectacular. From amazing Pinotage and Chardonnays, to breathtaking scenery that is unmatched anywhere in the world, to rock bottom prices, South Africa’s wine country might be the best in the world!

Whether it’s to drink South Africa’s unique Pinotage, a unique cross of Burgundy’s pinot noir with Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s hermitage (hence Pino-tage), to admire the breathtaking views of the forever stretching mountains, or just to relax on a Sunday afternoon (or get incredibly drunk), the winelands have it all. 

Sunset at Dieu Donne in Franschhoek. Could anyone get tired of this?

Sunset at Dieu Donne in Franschhoek. Could anyone get tired of this?

There are hundreds of wine farms in and around Cape Town so where does one even begin? Anywhere is the right answer. I’ve been out to the wine country five times now and have maybe seen 25 or so different farms. All of them have been good great experiences, and unique in their own way. I’ve yet to encounter a “bad” wine farm. People in these parts have been making wine for centuries and they take their wine seriously.

Having a gourmet lunch at Waterkloof overlooking the mountains and ocean.

Having a gourmet lunch at Waterkloof overlooking the mountains and ocean.

 

Wine Tasting Prices in South Africa


For the restaurant connoisseurs, almost all the farms have a restaurant and some of Cape Town’s top restaurants are located in the winelands. Most importantly, wine tastings range from just 20-50R, with some farms offering wine with chocolate and cheese pairings. A person could go to ten farms and still pay less than a single tasting in Napa Valley! The only downside? Most wine tastings will end around 5pm and trust me, the day flies by.

All this just adds to why Cape Town is one of the world’s best cities and the amount of things I wouldn’t get done if I lived in Cape Town is unfathomable.

 

One Day Itinerary In Wine Country

If you only have one day to explore the wine region from Cape Town, click here for my perfect 1 day itinerary that visits my favorite and most scenic wine farms.clouds estate stellenbosch

 

South African Wine Regions


There are different regions around Cape Town with Constantia being a close 20 minute drive, to Franschhoek located an hour away. I was only able to visit the three most popular; Constantia, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch. There are numerous other lesser visited areas that I regret not going to (Durbanville, Paarl, etc.) that are all within driving distance from Cape Town. This post will mostly focus on the South African wine farms of those three areas.

Like SA's winelands that much? Why not get married? So many wineries offer wedding venues and to us Americans, a wedding at one of these estates would be relatively "cheap".

Like SA’s winelands that much? Why not get married? So many wineries offer wedding venues and to us Americans, a wedding at one of these estates would be relatively “cheap”.

 

Wine tours or do it yourself?

I’ve done a wine tour with wineflies.co.za and have driven myself out to the winelands many more times. While the tour was good, I can’t recommend enough to just do it yourself. Tours are on tight schedules going from one farm to the other, and while I had a good time doing it, it was my first trip to wine country and I didn’t know any better! Having the freedom to go whenever, wherever is imperative for a day touring wine farms. I think the only time I’d recommend a tour is if you’re by yourself.

Wine Tour with wineflies.co.za

Wine Tour with wineflies.co.za

 

Wine Farms without a car

If you do not want to join a tour, and do not have a car (or do not want to drive drunk), there are options too! UberX might be the best thing to have happened to Cape Town in awhile. From Camps Bay in Cape Town, you can take an UberX for ~R500 one way (~$35). Within Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, there are Ubers everywhere so when you’re ready to move on, just open your phone to book an Uber to the next winery.

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Drinking and Driving in Stellenbosch

What about drinking and driving? Well, the first thought that ran through my mind when going on my wineflies wine tour was “wow what a great reason to get stupid drunk”. Turns out, the picturesque scenery and classy atmosphere brings out the inner gentleman in me and I was actually more interested in learning about wine and the intricacies involved in wine making than just making sure I got my money’s worth. With every subsequent visit, I learn more about different types of wine, and with every subsequent visit, I act like I know more about wine than I actually do.

Because of this, while I do get a little tipsy, I’m never drunk. Am I encouraging drunk driving? Perhaps…but will any South Africans think I’m crazy? likely not. In addition, there are no cops setting speed traps in Stellenbosch during the day so as long as I have my wits around me, I am fine. Without further ado, on to the wine farms I’ve visited!

 

Stellenbosch


A quaint little suburban town located 40 minutes outside of Cape Town, Stellenbosch is probably the best known wine producing region of South Africa. Rightfully so in my opinion. With stunning mountain backdrops and picturesque estates, it may be hard to wine taste without these things afterwards.

The essential map for all things Stellenbosch wine farm related.

Stellenbosch town is a quaint little place resembling more of a New England colonial town than anything I’d envision for South Africa. It’s also home to the University of Stellenbosch where students drink wine, go to school, and drink more wine (at least that’s what I would do). Seriously though, with a drinking of age of 18 in this country, I’m not sure how I’d have done any school work if I went there.

Main streets of Stellenbosch town with plenty of good restaurants and shops.

Main streets of Stellenbosch town with plenty of good restaurants and shops.


Bilton Wines

Best chocolate pairing I’ve been had. They also have more aged wine for sampling (2007s and earlier)


Rust En Vrede

Consistently ranked as one of SA’s top wine makers, this place also has one of the highest rated restaurants in South Africa.

 


Waterford

Beautiful estate that offers “game drives” (in a safari vehicle) through its estate


Waterkloof

Some spectacular views overlooking Somerset West and the ocean.


Lourensford


Vergelegen

Beautiful estate with two restaurants. One is 5* ultra extra exclusive, and the other is a casual gastropub type food (without the pub) with front row seats to a beautiful mountain backdrop.


Morgenster

Enjoy anything olive related? This is THE place to go as Morgenster produces olive oil as well as wine! Their olive/olive oil/wine tasting is unmatched by any other estate I’ve visited.


Asara Wine


Mulderbosch

Some amazing views with the best ourdoor seating to admire the views from.


Jordan

Another wine farm renowned for its wine but also home to one of South Africa’s top restaurants. I had an absolute fantastic meal here with amazing views.


Delaire Graff

Located on the Helshoogte pass, this wine estate oozes of class and home to the best views in Stellenbosch. This place also has ultra luxury accommodations (~600$ a night) and not one, but two of South Africa’s best restaurants.


Tokara

Located right next to Delaire Graff, this estate has some of my favorite wine, and it has free tastings! Also, another one of SA’s top restaurants.

 

Franschhoek Valley


Located another 30 minutes East of Stellenbosch and an hour east of Cape Town, Franschhoek continues the beautiful wine route of South Africa. Turns out that the Dutch settlers did not bring wine to South Africa but rather the French who had already been making wine for centuries. French traders wanted to make a settlement in Cape Town as it was the half way point between Europe and the far east but the Dutch who controlled the Cape at the time, wanted them as far away as possible. Franschhoek was dubbed the location. It was here that they brought their wine making traditions where it quickly spread. Map of Franschhoek

Nowadays, there are no French descendants left in these parts but they still honor the French settlers that brought wine to the country with events like the Bastille Festival (where all the mostly Afrikaans locals dress up in French colors and Berets).

Franschhoek Bastille Festival!

Franschhoek Bastille Festival!

Franschhoek Wine Tram

I know I’m an advocate of driving yourself through the wine farms but Franschhoek has a particular interesting wine tour experience hosted by winetram.co.za that will take you by bus and tram through the town of Franschhoek to different wine farms. The wine farms in Franschhoek are more compact than its Stellenbosch neighbors so a tour like this works out well.

winetram booth franschhoek

The winetram booth in Franschhoek city center.

There are two tours to choose from, the red and blue. After reading reviews online, the blue tour had better scenery and I’m all about that so blue it was. Turns out however, that only the last two wine farms are via tram, and the other four are by bus. Nevertheless, a good reason to not drive and drink to your heart’s content, all for the very reasonable price of 170R.

Our wine tram

Our wine tram

Our winetram bus

Our winetram bus

 


La Bri

Franschhoek’s oldest winery. They have chocolate and biltong pairings.


Holden Manz


Dieu Donne

Absolutely stunning views, rivaling that of Delaire Graff! Make sure to get the cheese platter with the wine tasting.


Chamonix


Rickety Bridge


Grand Provence


 

Constantia

Located just 15 minutes outside of Cape Town, Constantia is South Africa’s oldest wine producing region. It is actually a suburb of Cape Town making it the easiest to visit. We had a late flight Sunday night from Cape Town and didn’t know what to do with ourselves after brunch so we just decided to come here. Great problem to have. Note that many of the farms are closed on Sunday.


Groot Constantia

Officially South Africa’s oldest wine farm, this place consistently produces award winning wines and has a great cheese platter.


Klein Constantia


Steenberg

 

Wine Farms in South Africa with the Best Views

Ya I do too. Sadly, I have not visited any other wine making region of the world so I have nothing to compare this to. Regardless, there are some absolutely stunning views to be had to go along with the delicious sampling of pinotage and merlot. Delaire Graff, Waterkloof, and Dieu Donne take the top spots in my book. Mulderbosch has an outdoor seating area for wine tasting with stunning views and is a place I could easily spend half the day at.

 

Best Wine in South Africa

I like to think I have become more knowledgeable when it comes to wine but I’m likely more of a poser than a connoisseur. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop me from looking the person pouring my wine in the eye, nodding intelligently as he explains the different types of wines to me, only to have it followed by me elegantly smelling the wine before taking a conservative sip. In all honesty though, different people just like different wines. I like my whites, and like my softer reds but if one must drink the best, then perhaps sites like TopWineSATop100SAWinesand wine.co.za may help.

The South African wine region is its best kept secret. Not only is the wine spectacular, but the views and scenery have no equal in the world. The wine is also delicious and incredibly affordable. Make sure this is on the list when visiting Cape town, South Africa!

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