Drink it up! South Africa’s Cape Winelands are the most beautiful in the world and there are wonderful places to stay along the way. So fill up your glass and get ready for a vintage trip

Post date:

Author:

Category:

The Stellenbosch/Franschhoek region in South Africa is ideal for viticulture. Above, a family tours the nearby Lion Estate

There is no competition. Australia’s Barossa Valley, Margaret River and Mornington Peninsula, Napa Valley in the USA, Marlborough in New Zealand – all spectacular, but nothing like the Stellenbosch/Franschhoek region in South Africa.

Former Springbok rugby player Jan Boland Coetzee summed it up best when I asked him to describe to foreign travelers where we were geographically. “Tell them we’re four doors down from heaven.” This dramatic landscape of towering granite mountains and lush, radiating valleys is ideal for viticulture thanks to its rich alluvial soil.

Although summers are hot, a constant sea breeze soothes the southern slopes and the resulting wines are as good as anywhere in the New World. The choice is large, because there are more than 130 wine farms in the Stellenbosch-Franschhoek region. The added bonus is that while the pound has fallen against most currencies, it remains strong against the South African rand.

THE BEST OF THE VINEYARDS

On a tour of the Stellenbosch-Franschhoek region (above) you can easily taste four to five wineries in a day, and find excellent restaurants and accommodation in between.

On a tour of the Stellenbosch-Franschhoek region (above) you can easily taste four to five wineries in a day, and find excellent restaurants and accommodation in between.

Production line: Sorting grapes for the rural wine trade in the Hemel-en-Aarde-Tal wine region

Production line: Sorting grapes for the rural wine trade in the Hemel-en-Aarde-Tal wine region

The Cape has vineyards that stretch from coast to coast and the variety of wine styles and terroirs is incredible – from the arid regions of Swartland to the lush, cool surroundings of the Hemel-en-Aarde valley.

However, the greatest concentration is on the Stellenbosch-Franschhoek axis. It is most convenient for wine tourists, who can easily taste four to five wineries per day through designated drivers and find excellent restaurants and accommodation in between. A tasting at these vineyards means you can take advantage of cellar sales, ship wines to the UK or of course crate them to take home.

Hermit on the mountain top

The Thelema Mountain Vineyards (above) in the Simonsberge offers the most spectacular views

Thelema Mountain Vineyards is one of the most stunning locations on the Hels Hoogte pass that connects Stellenbosch with Franschhoek. The founder of Thelema, Gyles Webb, aka The Hermit on the Hill, sits behind the scenes these days while his son Thomas runs the show.

It is located in the Simonsberge and has the most spectacular views.

It’s a wonderful place and if you’re lucky, the hermit will be nearby to impart some of the wisdom he’s known for (thelema.co.za).

LUNCH

The Haute Cabriere wine farm pictured is an excellent place to enjoy lunch and wine tasting.  Image courtesy of Creative Commons

The Haute Cabriere wine farm pictured is an excellent place to enjoy lunch and wine tasting. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Example of indigenous pinotage reds and South African variations of pinot and chardonnay at Vriesenhof vineyards (photo)

The wine farm Haute Cabriere is located across the valley from Thelema, high on the Franschhoek Pass. This is an excellent place to enjoy lunch and wine tasting. The estate’s tasting room is underground, a cool, welcoming place to sample Haute Cabriere’s pretty good Burgundy (the first old-vine Pinot Noir was produced in 2020) and the even more famous Champagne (cabriere.co.za).

FRENCH CONNECTION

Jan Boland Coetzee’s Vriesenhof Vineyards is located in the Paradyskloof Valley, on southern slopes below the Helderberge and Stellenbosch mountains. When the Springboks were banned from playing rugby abroad during the apartheid regime, Coetzee decided to live and work in Burgundy, France and learn at the feet of the great pinot and chardonnay winemakers.

At the winery you can taste their South African themed twists, as well as their indigenous pinotage reds. Jan can even be there to complement the visit with his colorful stories (vriesenhof.co.za).

THE CHENIN BLANC KING

Expect to see dogs, horses, geese and ducks running around as you relax under the oak trees and taste excellent wines at the Ken Forrester Wine Estate

Expect to see dogs, horses, geese and ducks running around as you relax under the oak trees and taste excellent wines at the Ken Forrester Wine Estate

TRAVEL FACTS

Graham Boynton traveled to the Cape Winelands with The Ultimate Travel Company (theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk; 0203 733 0002) who can arrange tailor-made tours of the Cape Winelands.

The Ken Forrester winery is further down the Vriesenhof valley. Here’s another larger-than-life Cape winemaker, Ken Forrester, who went from colorful Johannesburg restaurateur to Mr. Chenin, an award-winning maker of the country’s trendiest white wine, has developed.

Expect dogs, horses, geese and ducks running amok as you relax under the oak trees and taste Forrester’s fine wines…and not just the Chenin. An added bonus is his restaurant, Wineryweg 96. Often cited as the best in Stellenbosch, it’s not far from the winery (kenforresterwines.com).

TERRACOTTA SYMPHONY

Waterford Wine Estate is just 15 minutes’ drive from Forrester’s and is nestled in the Blaauwklippen Valley in the shadow of the Helderberge. It is one of the most picturesque and tourist-friendly properties in the area.

In the center is a beautiful terracotta building, in classic Bordeaux style, with an open courtyard where the tastings take place and where lunch can be enjoyed in the open-air restaurant. In 2021, Waterford was awarded The Best Cellar Door Experience by international wine critic Tim Atkin (waterfordestate.co.za).

TASTING NOTES

Wine time: Tasting South Africa's best wines at The Leeu Estate in the remote Swartland village of Riebeek Kasteel

Wine time: Tasting South Africa’s best wines at The Leeu Estate in the remote Swartland village of Riebeek Kasteel

Delicious: Enjoy wines made by husband and wife team Chris and Andrea Mullineux at The Leeu Estate
Cheers: The Lion Estate staff with Mullineux and Leo wine

Delicious: Enjoy wines made by husband and wife team Chris and Andrea Mullineux at The Leeu Estate. On the right of the photo, employees of the winery pose with the wine

If you're visiting Leeu Estate, stay at Le Quartier Francais (above) – it's part of the estate and was once voted 'the best small hotel in the world'.

If you’re visiting Leeu Estate, stay at Le Quartier Francais (above) – it’s part of the estate and was once voted ‘the best small hotel in the world’.

You do not have to be a guest of Leeu Estate to book a tasting at the property’s wine studio.

This is the best place to taste the wines of the celebrated couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux, as their other base is the charming but more remote Swartland town of Riebeek Kasteel.

Here you can taste some of the best wines in South Africa.

A short walk down the street is the 21-room Le Quartier Francais, which is part of the property and was once called “the best small hotel in the world” (leeucollection.com).

So the winelands are waiting – for you.

FROM LUXURY TO BUDGET… STAY IN THE CAPE WINES

This selection of accommodation is mainly focused on Franschhoek and all are a short drive from the wineries.

Spray the money

Delaire Graff Estate is the luxurious creation of the English jeweler Laurence Graff high on the Hels Hoogte pass that connects Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. The ten rooms here are called “lodges” and each one is the size of a small house. It is pure indulgence and there are two excellent restaurants. £1,300 per night (delaire.co.za).

Chic downtown

Leeu House is a 12-room boutique hotel on the main street of Franschhoek Village. Within walking distance of the art galleries, bars and boutiques that define this cultural city.

Individually decorated bedrooms feature exceptionally comfortable beds with premium linens. Rooms closer to the main road suffer from some traffic noise – trucks late at night. There is a well-kept garden and a swimming pool. £650 per night (leucollection.com).

Boutique bargains

Le Cle de Montagnes is a boutique complex of four villas on a wine and fruit farm founded in 1692 by the French Huguenots. There are four-poster beds, free-standing baths and rooms that open onto green lawns. A short walk from the village of Franschhoek, the lodge’s small rooms cost £300 a night (lacle.co.za).

Rural comfort

Babylonstoren, one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in the region, is located half an hour’s drive from central Franschhoek on a large, sprawling vegetable farm and winery offering natural, fresh produce and own-brand wines. The cottages are comfortably and elegantly designed by one of the owners, former Elle Decoration editor Karen Roos. £480 per night bed and breakfast for a Farmhouse Suite (babylonstoren.com).

Victorian retreat

L’Auberge Chanteclair is located in the Franschhoek Valley and offers panoramic views of the vineyards and the surrounding mountains. The Victorian farmhouse with high ceilings and light and airy rooms is set in landscaped gardens with beautiful oak and jacaranda trees. The Auberge is only a few minutes’ walk from the center of Franschhoek. £163 per night and breakfast for a standard room (chanteclair.co.za).

inn

The Auberge Clermont is a stylish 4-star guest house with six ensuite bedrooms, one of which is a honeymoon suite. It also has a private three-bedroom self-catering villa perfect for families. £144 per night and breakfast for a luxury room (clermont.co.za).

Source link

STAY CONNECTED

0FansLike
3,593FollowersFollow
0SubscribersSubscribe