You don’t have to journey far in South Africa to find good wine. In fact you don’t even have to venture very far out of Cape Town. Cape Town has over 120 wine estates to choose from, and all are within an hours drive from the city. These include regions such as Constantia, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Robertson and Wellington. These names have become synonymous with wine growing and could well be names you’ve become familiar with at the dining table. Come to Cape Town and you’ll only get more familiar.
Because of their fabulous geographic locations often by mountain ranges and in lush valleys, a visit to these regions could be combined with a driving itinerary, a vintage farm or inn stay, walking trips or just general relaxation. Some of these areas have a 300-year history and there are plenty of museums, historic walks and other sights to enjoy. Probably one of the best ways to explore is by renting your own car and traveling at will. This way you can stop in any of the manor houses or historic estates you pass along the way and enjoy the fine food that often accompanies a tasting.
Stellenbosch is possibly one of the best known wine regions and is located just 45 minutes drive out of town. It has the highest concentration of wine farms in the Cape Town area and was the first established wine route, dating back to 1971. If you know some of the vineyards by name, head to those first, or get some recommendations from local wine magazines or tourist outlets. All of the farms are clearly marked. Some that come recommended include Boschendal, Neethlingshof, Delheim, Welmoed, Delair, Spier and Saxenburg. Stellenbosch itself is a university town with several museums including the Village Museum. It also has a number of galleries, cafes, bars and restaurants.
Closer to Cape Town, about 15 minutes from down town, is Constantia lying at the foot of Table Mountain. If you know Constantia wines you’ll have heard of labels such as Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Constantia Uitsig. There are plenty of others to choose from too. Simply follow the Constantia Valley Wine Route and stop off at farms offering tastings or winery tours. Constantia was the second Wine Appelation area in the world to be established and therefore there are a lot of old homesteads and estates in this area.
Franschoek is another wine growing region worth visiting and nestled picturesquely between the Franschhoek and Drakenstein mountains. It is about 75km east of Cape Town and it means French Corner in Afrikaans. It was first settled over 300 years ago by the Huguenots from France and thanks to them, wine growing is now an art form here. Much of the flair of these first settlers still remains in Franschoek with antique stores, art galleries, chocolateries, street side cafes and award winning restaurants gracing the streets. You can also learn more about the legacy of these settlers at the Huguenot Museum.
Most people that come to Franschoek come as much to eat as enjoy the wines as most of the farms have their own restaurant. Some that come recommended include La Motte, Boschendal, Chamonix and Cabriere, which as you will observe also carry French names. There are more than a dozen local wineries. Franschoek also hosts a number of atypical French festivals throughout the year celebrating such produce as cheese, wine and olives. Bastille Day on July 14 is one day to note in your calendar. If you have the time, Franschoek would definitely be a nice place to spend a few days.
Other wine growing areas near Cape Town include Paarl, Robertson and Wellington where Diemersfontein, Rhebokskloof and Simonsvlei are recommended. The scenery in this area is equally stunning and it’s worth a drive just to see the cute towns, quaint museums and the landscapes.