The beautiful Cape Winelands boasts quilt-like vineyards that spread into the slopes of the dramatic surrounding mountains. Known for producing award-winning wines, the Cape Winelands’ three major areas are: Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. Each with a unique atmosphere and individual attractions, it is Paarl that has the ‘grande roche’ (great rock) as the French would say, that makes it stand out from the crowd.
How it came to be
This beautiful quaint town was founded in the 17th century when a man by the name of Abraham Gabemma was sent out by the Dutch Settlers at the Cape of Good Hope settlement to find more meat resources. What he discovered was a giant granite rock that glistened like a black pearl after the day’s rainstorm. Today, known as the Paarl Mountain (Pearl Mountain), it is celebrated as the second largest granite outcrop in the world and the main feature for the historical town of Paarl.
The Paarl Winelands’ red wines are considered to be the best in South Africa. This is because of factors such as the landscape, soil hydrology and, thanks to the amount of granite in the soil, mineralogy. All this adds up to the perfect recipe for award-winning red wines.
The ideal way for tourists to enjoy the pleasures of the winelands is by making Paarl their base. There are a number of well-established accommodation options available, the most notable of which is the five-star Grande Roche Hotel situated against the slopes of the mountain overlooking the winelands. From here you are able to enjoy day trips to the numerous wine farms and estates in the surrounding area, all the way to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.
Celebrated Wine Estates
Some of the most celebrated wine farms and estates within this region include: Ashanti Wines; Backsberg; Boland Kelder; De Zoete Inval; Glen Carlou; Laborie; Landskroon; Nelson’s Creek; Perdeberg Winery; Rhebokskloof; Ruitersvlei and for a tasting with a bit of a difference, the Paarl Rock Brandy Cellars.
One of the leading producers in Paarl is undoubtedly Fairview. This estate is known for their trademark goat tower at the entrance of the wine tasting facility. Here tourists are not only able to sample wines pressed from the grapes grown on the estate, but also the highly successful Goats do Roam and Goat Roti blends that form part of their range.
For the small fee charged, visitors are able to do their bit of wine tasting which is complimented by Fairview’s range of Goat’s milk cheese. In recent years they have also expanded their innovative range to include cheese made from Jersey cow milk and for three consecutive years their Roydon Camembert was voted best in the world at the World Cheese Awards.
Moving along in the Paarl Winelands, visitors are able to indulge in some more wine tasting at the Seidelberg Wine Estate’s underground tasting room. From the wine tasting room guided cellar tours are available (in various languages). Seidelberg also boasts a glass blowing studio. At Red Hot, visitors are able to enjoy the art of glass blowing as well as purchase the Venetian-style art work.
Small town attractions and activities
On a drive down Paarl’s 12 kilometre main road, South Africa’s longest, out-of-towners can enjoy varied architecture, with excellent examples of Art Deco, Edwardian and Cape Dutch architecture. There are a number of antique shops, art galleries and museums to be found on this old oak-lined street.
A very cultural attraction, standing tall on the Paarl Mountain, is the Afrikaans Language Monument. Completed in 1975, it was erected to commemorate one of South Africa’s eleven official languages, Afrikaans, and is the world’s only monument to honour a language.
Adventurers will be happy to hear that the Paarl Rock is considered by many rock climbers as the ‘piece de resistance’ of rock climbing. Before 1969, the Paarl Rock was ignored by rock climbers because of its smooth, steep appearance. Since then a dozen or so magnificent but very difficult routes have been established, some of which remain dangerous for inexperienced climbers.
The variety of other activities in Paarl include horseback rides through the vineyards or through the foothills of the mountains; tourists can enjoy a hot-air balloon trip over the winelands or go mountain-biking, and for golf enthusiasts, there is an opportunity to join the global golfing community that get pleasure from working on their handicap at some of the most magnificent and popular golfing estates in the Western Cape.
Western Cape getaways boasts many diverse and highly-acclaimed eateries and as one would expect a few of these restaurants, cafés and deli’s are located in Paarl.
Pair the culinary treasures served up with the fine local wines and you have a scintillating experience for your taste buds. Whether you prefer something simple or more formal, the restaurants in the town cater for everybody.
One of the restaurants that does require a special mention would have to be the award-winning Bosman’s Restaurant. Located at the Grande Roche Hotel, this 70-seater restaurant is open seven days a week and is under the direction of celebrated chef Frank Zlomke. This executive chef and his ardent team create culinary arts that will tantalize even the most discerning palate, from an assortment of spectacular breakfasts to innovative luncheons and smart dinners.
Whatever you want, the Paarl Winelands will provide, with spectacular views and a range of activities and attractions!