Set amid the Hottentots Holland Mountains on the Western Cape peninsula of South Africa, the Cape Winelands area is home to whitewashed homesteads, Cape Dutch architecture, and towns with French names. It is also the heart of the nation’s flourishing wine industry.
Grapes have been growing in the verdant valleys and hills of the region for well over 300 years, ever since Dutch explorer Jan van Riebeeck produced the first varietal in 1659 from cuttings imported from France. The varied terroir and coastal Mediterranean climate are ideal for growing Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and the spicy indigenous Pinotage grapes.
Today, 18 official wine routes crisscross South Africa’s Western Cape province. The massive vineyards and wine estates have garnered prestigious awards from oenophiles around the world. As a Vantage guest on The Best of Africa, you have the opportunity to explore the heart of the Cape Winelands, enjoying wine tastings in two of its best-loved towns:
Stellenbosch is synonymous with the wine industry. The university town is very mountainous, with different climates, soils, and water-retention abilities that allow for a diversity of wines. It is home to a wide array of acclaimed wines — particularly white varietals such as Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.
- Location of the country’s oldest wine route (established in 1971)
- Known as the “City of Oaks” for its streets lined with surviving examples of Cape Dutch, Victorian, and Georgian architecture
- Home to one of the most modern and experimental wineries in the world
- Houses South Africa’s only viticulture and oenological department at its university
- Internationally renowned for its wine farms, ranging from large estates with high-tech cellars to multi-functional and intimate wineries
- Near the Spier Wine Estate, established in 1692, offering many visitor activities
Franshhoek, which translates as “French corner,” is just 30 minutes from Stellenbosch and 45 minutes from Cape Town. It is the food and wine capital of South Africa, located in a lush, green valley surrounded by mountains. Some of its wine estates have been in the same family for generations.
- Home to more than 30 wine cellars
- Producer of three sources of natural spring water
- Huguenot Memorial Museum, a showcase Franshhoek’s French roots
- Location of eight of South Africa’s top 100 restaurants
- Opportunities for olive, cheese, and chocolate tastings
For the full itinerary of The Best of Africa, which includes a visit to the Cape Winelands, click here.