Read more about South Africa in our previous posts.
Come for South Africa for the safari? Conclude your trip with a languid drive around the Cape’s most famous vines.
Drive out just half an hour from Cape Town and you’ve entered wine country—the Cape vineyards, a rich tapestry of grape rows upon rows. Wine is big business here—grapes have been cultivated for around 400 years, and huge estates are often garnished with comfy inns, fine dining and elaborate tastings. South Africa boasts 18 wine routes and 2 brandy routes, 99% of which lie on the Western Cape.
It was Jan van Riebeeck, first governor of the Cape, who started it all with a vineyard planted in 1655, and when the first wine was squeezed out of the robust grapes in 1659, he wrote in his diary: “God be praised!”
There are five principle demarcations of Cape wine—Coastal, Breede River Valley, Olifants River, Little Karoo and Boberg, and each has its own unique soil. Which means there’s ample opportunity to swoon over a glass of shiraz or Chenin blanc. The wine routes are many, but three seem to be known by all: Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl—with two others that are splashing onto the scene, Robertson and Durbanville.
And best yet? It won’t break the bank! The South African Rand is fairly low against the US dollar right now, and a bottle of good red might set you back only 70-100 ZAR (US $5-7).
The region is home to 200+ wine and grape producers, making it one of the biggest tourist draws in the Western Cape. This world-renowned route is famed for its Cape Dutch architecture, vibrant homegrown atmosphere, and grapes that have won more wine awards than any other region in South Africa.
The Franschhoek Wine Valley is cradled in the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve—its hospitality with the backdrop of towering mountains, cultivated gardens and slopes of wildflowers. Look for the Franschhoek Wine Tram, a hop-on, hop-off open-air tour that takes you from each tasting and cellar tour to the next.
Founded in 1687, the historical town of Paarl is the third oldest European settlement in the country. Look out for the Afrikaans Language Monument on the slopes of Paarl Mountain, and Drakenstein Prison, where Mandela completed his “long walk to freedom.” Paarl is rich in hiking trails, spectacular scenery, and a potpourri of Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Cape Dutch buildings. Hot summers and cold winters temper the grapes into full-bodied reds and crisp whites for which the region is renowned.
Emerging favorite Robertson Wine Valley is home to ideal climatic and rich soil, just 2 hours from Cape Town and cradled between the iconic Langeberg and Riviersonderend mountain ranges.
The Durbanville Wine Valley, just 20 minutes from Cape Town, consists of 12 wineries that take full advantage of the fertile soil that comes with its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Look out for the region’s fine Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Shiraz.
When to Visit
Vineyards are usually most scenic in summer and fall, but come by in the winter to avoid the crowds. Harvesting occurs around January to March.
Ask your WIT Travel Agent about setting up a road trip through South Africa’s wine country. 503-224-0180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.