If it’s true, as the idiom goes, that “old friends and old wine are best” then it comes as no surprise that the Cape Winelands feature prominently on every visitor’s to-do list. A utopia of fertile valleys, rolling vineyards, magnificent Cape Dutch gabled homesteads and a viticulture tradition that’s hard to beat, the Winelands are a huge drawcard for holidays in Cape Town.
There are over 200 cellars in the Cape Winelands, which hold the secrets that have produced some of the world’s finest vintages for 350 years. South Africa’s organic wine growing practices are also steadily gaining momentum. Wine tasting there is aplenty, and visitors can look forward to tasting some of the very best.
The exquisite Constantia Valley – resting at the foot of the Constantiaberg Mountains and no more than 20 minutes away from the city – has yielded superb wines for more than three centuries. Groot Constantia was the original wine farm in Constantia, established in 1684 and cultivated by Dutch Colonial Governor Simon Van der Stel. Explore the scenic Constantiaberg Valley on a day trip, or better still, spend a few luxurious nights in the area at either Constantia Uitsig Hotel & Spa or The Cellars-Hohenort, both of which have some charming historic features along with modern creature comforts.
Stellenbosch is the best known of the wine regions in the Western Cape, and some of the country’s most acclaimed wines have originated here. The town of Stellenbosch is the second oldest in South Africa, and is known for its oak-lined streets and many monument-status places of interest. It lies in the picturesque Jonkershoek Valley and is little more than an hour’s drive from Cape Town. Stay at the intimate River Manor Boutique Hotel & Spa on the outskirts of town, or at Lanzerac Hotel & Spa, a prestigious estate immortalizing old-world grandeur laced with all the mod cons that ensure contentment.
Paarl (56 km away from Cape Town) is another exquiste Winelands town, basking in the beauty of Africa’s largest granite rock and exhibiting some marvelous examples of old Cape Dutch architecture. Here you will find an excellent base at Grande Roche Hotel, a superbly restored 18th century homestead and top-class hotel set amid the vineyards and offering the best of everything, including on-site tastings.
Franschhoek is a delightful French enclave in the Winelands, originally settled by French Huguenots more than 300 years ago. The town lays claim to several of South Africa’s best restaurants and is within half an hour of Stellenbosch and Paarl. Le Quartier Français is one of the town’s landmarks, offering a chic, contemporary base, superlative award-winning food, consoling body treatments and its own trendy theatre. There’s also Franschhoek Country House & Villas, offering rooms in the manor house and gardens, or spacious 100 square metre villas. Franschhoek is a meanderer’s dream, dotted with pavement cafes, arts-and-craft shops, antique stores and galleries.
Other Winelands towns to visit include Wellington (the superbly scenic Bain’s Kloof Pass is a must), Tulbagh, Robertson, Worcester and Somerset West. The semi-arid Little Karoo, bounded by the Swartberg and Langeberg Mountains, also produces some quality wines, among them dry and fortified wines and pot-stilled brandies.
When you’ve had your fill of wine tasting, the Winelands have many other activities in store, including horse trails, fruit routes, golf, butterfly world, cheese tasting, museums and galleries, hot air ballooning, hiking trails, and lots more.
Exclusive Getaways South Africa offers tailor-made tours and getaways, featuring upmarket accommodation on splendid wine estates and elsewhere, as well as transfers, car hire and day trips for quieter escapes to Cape Town.