Exploring the South African Wine Route

South Africa is well-known for its wine regions. Apart from the famous and renowned Cape Winelands located in the western portion of the country, there are certainly other South African wine regions worth visiting. Each with a distinct character and experience. While the bulk of South Africa’s vineyards are on the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape also has its fair share of notable regions.

The South African wine route

Near Cape Town are the towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Constantia, which are a must-visit for wine lovers. The South African wine industry offers world-class varietals, including Pinotage, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc. It extends from the Northern Cape to the Orange Free State and into the KwaZulu-Natal midlands.[1]

Local experts create bespoke South African wine itineraries, including visiting vineyards for more extended tastings, luxury hotels, gourmet dinners, and other unique experiences. Several distinct wine routes in South Africa showcase the finest of a particular region’s wines and winemaking traditions[2].

Did you know that South Africa’s “official” wine routes are based on different wine-growing regions? The Cape 62 and Green Mountain Eco wine routes are among the world’s longest biodiverse trails. [3]

Stellenbosch

The Stellenbosch Wine Route dates back to 1971 and is South Africa’s first wine route. Stellenbosch is one of the driving force behind South Africa’s burgeoning wine tourism industry—more than 200 wineries can be found along this route amongst stunning mountain views. Also, you can visit the Kanonkop Estate for a private tour, which has been called South Africa’s Grand Cru. Visitors can sample five current vintages and three older vintages of Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Paul Sauer.

The South African wine route

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Franschhoek

South Africa’s culinary capital, Franschhoek has some of the country’s most stunning scenery, top-notch wines, and a welcoming small town atmosphere. This wine region features a wide variety of soil types, which when paired with the area’s significant annual rainfall, has resulted in several award-winning wines. While sampling these wines, guests may indulge in a delectable culinary experience. Franschhoek is also widely known for its sparkling wine production, namely that of the Methode Cap Classique. After a relaxed afternoon drive through the Winelands, you can have a sumptuous dinner at Haute Cabriere Estate[4].

The South African wine route

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Constantia

The Constantia Wine Route, situated in the heart of the Cape’s winemaking district, is one of South Africa’s most prominent wine routes. Constantia’s vineyards were some of the first ever in the country. Napoleon Bonaparte was infatuated with the sweet wine from this region on his deathbed.  During your stay, you may explore the vines and cellars of Constantia Glen, a boutique winery. This is the place to go if you seek a more private wine tour experience that includes cheeses, a charcuterie buffet, and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from the vineyard[5].

Elgin

Mofam, Panorama, and Somersfontain are three of Elgin Valley’s 18 wine-producing properties. Historically, farmers have practiced traditional apple farming in this region, and it is frequently a part of the Four Passes Fruit Route. Amongst its many varietals, this region is known for its Shiraz, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. Wine Paths provides tours to the Almenkerk and Oak Valley wine estates. Here visitors can enjoy wine sampling, cellar tours, wine blending demonstrations, and fine dining surrounded by beautiful apple blossoms.

Helderberg

In the Helderberg region of Stellenbosch, there are over 20 wineries ranging from historical cellars dating back more than 300 years to cutting-edge boutique wineries equipped with the latest technology.

person holding black round fruits

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Winemakers to Visit along the South African Wine Route

James Mackenzie

James Mackenzie is a lesser-known winemaker in Wellington. At a reasonable price, visitors can explore wine tastings and find accommodations. The winery rents a beautiful and romantic cottage built in 1748. Mackenzie, a gentle giant often accompanied by a pack of devoted dogs, bought the property in 2000. Instead of replacing the vines, Mackenzie prefers the sustainable approach. He works with older vines, aged between 40 and 70 years, which produce a lower yield but higher-quality products.

The craggy, snow-capped mountains surrounding the vineyard protect it, and James’ home overlooks a gorgeous lake where he frequently enjoys a glass of wine as the sun sets. “This grape was initially cultivated to manufacture brandy,” he tells his clients. Now, he uses it to make an excellent Chenin Blanc, priced at only £4.30 a bottle. Having adapted to the climate and topography over time, it may now be recognized as a truly South African variety[6].

Chamonix

Gottfried Mocke, a winery located in Chamonix, represents a new generation of ambitious winemakers who are transforming the quiet Franschhoek Valley into one of the most exciting areas for Cape wines. The Chamonix cellar lays atop a steep mountain road. The current owners transformed a 17th-century blacksmith shop into a tasting room and a casual café. Before arriving, make an appointment with Wolfgang Gottfried or one of his employees to see the basement where Gottfried experiments with enormous oak barrels, smaller French barrels, and classic steel and cement tanks.

They’ve got everything from a crisp Chardonnay aged in stainless steel to a great 2009 Sauvignon blanc that winemaker Gottfried aged for an extra year because of what he perceives as a growing interest in aged wines. His Pinotage, which is silky smooth, and his Pinot Noir, which rivals the finest of Burgundy, are both outstanding[7].

The History of Cape Wine and the Birth of South African Nation

This Day in Wine History

September 25, 1819: The first vines are planted in New Zealand by Reverand Samuel Marsdon.

September, 25 2012: South Africa’s most significant commercial trade show, Cape Wine 2012, began[8]. Event organizers held the conference from the 25th to the 27th of September. 2,538 people attended the event over three days, representing a 97% increase compared to Cape Wine 2008. Accompanying the show, a trade exhibition known as Vindaba highlighted the multitude of amazing wine tourism options available across the nation.

Want to read more? Try these books!

The South African wine route, Exploring the South African Wine RouteThe South African wine route, Exploring the South African Wine Route

References:

  1. “Our Guide to the South African Wine Route,” Winepaths.com, 2022, https://www.winepaths.com/articles/editorial/south-africa/the-south-african-wine-route-guide.
  2. Bruwer, Johan. “South African Wine Routes: Some Perspectives on the Wine Tourism Industry’s Structural Dimensions and Wine Tourism Product,” Tourism Management 24, no. 4 (August 2003): 423–35, https://doi.org/10.1016/s0261-5177(02)00105-x.
  3. “Our Guide to the South African Wine Route,” Winepaths.com, 2022, https://www.winepaths.com/articles/editorial/south-africa/the-south-african-wine-route-guide.
  4. “Our Guide to the South African Wine Route,” Winepaths.com, 2022, https://www.winepaths.com/articles/editorial/south-africa/the-south-african-wine-route-guide
  5. Brunton, John. “South Africa’s Cape Wine Route: Top 10 Guide,” the Guardian (The Guardian, January 7, 2014), https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/jan/07/south-africa-cape-wine-route-top-10.
  6. Brunton, John. “South Africa’s Cape Wine Route: Top 10 Guide,” the Guardian (The Guardian, January 7, 2014), https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/jan/07/south-africa-cape-wine-route-top-10.
  7. Brand, Jeanne, Panzeri, Valeria, and Buica, Astrid. “Wine Quality Drivers: A Case Study on South African Chenin Blanc and Pinotage Wines,” Foods 9, no. 6 (June 18, 2020): 805, https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9060805.
  8. Brunton, John. “South Africa’s Cape Wine Route: Top 10 Guide,” the Guardian (The Guardian, January 7, 2014), https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/jan/07/south-africa-cape-wine-route-top-10.

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