Whether you are an oenophile or amateur grape lover, the Cape Winelands deserve their own excursion on your South African sojourn. When pairing your wine with august mountain views, gorgeous Cape Dutch architecture, and the perfect microclimates, exploring the Cape Winelands will certainly make for some treasured memories. The centuries old wine culture was born when the Dutch East India company (which founded the South African colony) invited French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution to come settle in South Africa; some of these settlers brought their knowledge of viticulture to the new colony. Today the South African wine industry has won major international awards and recognition and can easily hold its own against Old World wine behemoths. What makes the South African Cape Winelands unique is that it mixes great wines and food, true indulgence and luxury, with an affordability and humility that is not easy to find in other famous wine regions in the world. Perhaps one of its most infamous endorsements is from Napolean Bonaparte who loved and drank barrels of South African wine when exiled in St. Helena. So come grab a glass with us and explore the majestic landscapes that may have inspired "Middle Earth" in South African born J.R.R. Tolkien's literature.
UNDERSTANDING THE WINE REGIONS:
Given the varied topography of the Western Cape, there are so many beautiful wine regions in South Africa. While some of these regions can be done as day trips from Cape Town, we recommend spending AT LEAST 1 night in one of the wine regions if time permits. For the first-time tourist to South Africa, we would recommend staying and exploring within the triangle of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, or Paarl (please see map below). Personally, we did 1 night in Stellenbosch. Each of these towns have their own charm and character with plenty of great lodging accommodations. If you do not have the time to spend a night, Stellenbosch is less than a 1 hour drive from Cape Town. We recommend NOT to use a large tour group to do these wine regions as they won't necessarily take you to the best vineyards and you may feel rushed through the process. Of course, be safe and use UBER if you plan to drink.
If you have several days in Cape Town, you can also explore a wine region within the Cape Town suburbs: Constantia. Personally, we spent a half-day in Constantia.
We will discuss some of our recommendations for Stellenbosch and Constantia below. We went on the Stellenbosch excursion with another couple who helped us plan the trip; among our friend Taz's many talents is her makeup artistry: https://www.facebook.com/BlushOn87/.
The Cape Winelands are a year-round destination. Weather considerations should be more dependent on other travel plans in South Africa (safari, beaches, Cape Town activities, garden route, etc). For general ideas to plan your entire South African trip, please refer to http://www.seekingsky.com/blog/2017/8/3/south-africa-introduction-preparation. Just know the Southern Hemisphere winter brings a higher chance of rain if you plan to hike or bike in the wine regions.
Below, we list some of the Western Cape Wine Regions with a map:
Stellenbosch - some of the most beautiful vineyard estates we've ever seen. . https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g312673-Stellenbosch_Western_Cape-Vacations.html
Constantia - a Cape Town suburb. Highly recommended for those that don't have time to explore a wine region outside of Cape Town. We loved Constantia Glen winery https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g312660-d2514566-Reviews-Constantia_Glen_Winery-Constantia_Western_Cape.html
Hermanus - if you are in South Africa between June-November, you could pair this with some amazing whale watching of the Southern Right Whale. Since we went in May, unfortunately we were off-season. http://hermanuswineroute.com/
Swartland - http://www.swartlandwineandolives.co.za/
Lucky for you, Constantia is right outside of the Cape Town city center and is one of South Africa's oldest wine growing regions. Nestled between Table Mountain, False Bay, and Atlantic Ocean, the neighborhood of Constantia is in an ideal location for grape cultivation. Below, we list 2 vineyards and 1 restaurant we recommend.
CONSTANTIA GLEN - We spent a few hours sampling the wines and cheese/charcuterie plates and being mesmerized by the exquisite views. It stands to reason why this is the #1 rated vineyard in Constantia on TripAdvisor. The service was great and we spent so long here that we ran out of time to go to the second vineyard in Constantia before our dinner reservation. http://www.constantiaglen.com/ and https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g312660-d2514566-Reviews-Constantia_Glen_Winery-Constantia_Western_Cape.html
KLEIN CONSTANTIA - This was on our short-list as it has a world famous dessert wine Vin De Constance (among several other wines) that was desired from everyone from Napoleon to European aristocracy over the centuries. Alas, we ran out of time but definitely wanted to bring it to the reader's attention so they may enjoy. http://www.kleinconstantia.com/ and https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g312660-d2578237-Reviews-Klein_Constantia-Constantia_Western_Cape.html
FOXCROFT - We really enjoyed our dinner here before we left Constantia to head back into the city. https://www.foxcroft.co.za/restaurant/ and https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g312660-d10755380-Reviews-Foxcroft_Restaurant-Constantia_Western_Cape.html
Less than a hour away from Cape Town is one of the famous wine growing regions in the world and beautiful areas in all of South Africa. As we stated above, we strongly encourage you to check a part of the triangle of Stellenbosch-Franschhoek-Paarl if you trip has the flexibility and time. We chose Stellenbosch and it exceeded our expectations. You are spoiled for choice here in this town that reminds you of a small California town. Given that its an university town, it also has a solid nightlife which can often be lacking in many other wine regions around the world. Uber is available in Stellenbosch. The wait times and prices are a little bit more expensive than Cape Town. We stayed 1 night in Stellenbosch and we wish we had more time here. Below, we will discuss our recommendations of vineyards and lodging which include two of the most beautiful vineyards we have ever seen.
STARK-CONDE - Situated in the Jonkershoek Valley, Stark-Conde's vineyard estate is perfectly nestled between mountains with a Japanese inspired wine tasting room in the middle of a small lake serving as your tasting sanctuary. We had a great lunch here at Postcard Cafe (within Stark-Conde) as we imbibed more vino and soaked in the views. Moreover, the service was great. https://www.stark-conde.co.za/ and https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g312673-d3913586-Reviews-Stark_Conde_Wines-Stellenbosch_Western_Cape.html
DELAIRE GRAFF - This may have been the most beautiful vineyard estate we have ever seen from its spectacular grounds to its truly magnificent panoramic landscape views . If you are running short on time, this would be THE vineyard to check-out in Stellenbosch! This bespoke estate is the absolute in luxury with its opulent grounds, immaculate landscaping, highly-rated restaurants, and artwork and sculptures that would make some galleries jealous. For those who truly want to spoil themselves, the luxurious lodging at Delaire Graff has won many international and industry awards. http://www.delaire.co.za/the-estate/overview/ and https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g312673-d567405-Reviews-Delaire_Graff_Estate-Stellenbosch_Western_Cape.html
MAJEKA HOUSE - For our 1 night in Stellenbosch we were so happy we chose to stay at Majeka House. This luxury boutique hotel perfectly combines modernity with true warmth and charm. The rooms are unique and definitely inspired by the dreams of an interior designer. The included breakfast spread was great. The amenities are all great too including a spa, an all-weather indoor pool and hot tub, and a Great Gatsby-esque bar. To top it off, the staff is extremely helpful and attentive. When our international flight was significantly delayed, they accommodated us with a late check out and were very understanding. The hotel is located about 10 minutes from the city and about 15-20 minutes from the above vineyards http://www.majekahouse.co.za/ and https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g312673-d946164-Reviews-Majeka_House-Stellenbosch_Western_Cape.html
OPPIE DORP RESTAURANT - our dinner selection for our 1 night in Stellenbosch. We would recommend this given contemporary European options, unique African meats (Springbok / Biltong), and some veggie options. http://www.oppiedorp.co.za/index.php/about-us and https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g312673-d3932071-Reviews-Oppie_Dorp_Restaurant-Stellenbosch_Western_Cape.html