Thursday, April 23, 2015

The best of the Cape Wine Regions & Routes

Beautiful Waterford Estate Winery in Stellenbosch
Anyone who’s vaguely familiar with the world of wine has likely heard of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, but there’s so much more to the Winelands than these two areas. From tiny networks of farms down south to hidden valleys of vineyards in Cape districts like Tulbagh and Bot River, there are almost as many distinct routes as there are varietals in the rainbow nation.

So, for those keen to get to grips with the Winelands and eager to discover something a little different to the mainstream, Jené Barnes, New Frontiers' Cape Town touring manager is your winelands guru! She has posted a preview of her comprehensive wine region review below. If you want the complete list of Jené's insightful and extremely useful intel on the Cape Winelands, visit the New Frontiers Agent Zone, contact us or your New Frontiers sales consultant!

Constantia Wine Route
Nestled just a cork’s throw away from the city centre, the affluent, lush Constantia Valley is the perfect choice if you’re based in Cape Town and don’t want to travel too far for wine tasting. It also happens to be the oldest wine-making region in the country (it was established in 1685) and has become synonymous with premium, award-winning reds and whites, especially Sauvignon Blanc. Constantia is ideal for a one-day tasting tour as the whole route is only 7.25km from one end to the other, and visitors can see a good mix of new-age boutique wineries and historic, Cape Dutch-style estates.
Tip: If visiting with kids, make a stop at Jonkershuis Restaurant at Groot Constantia wine estate – it has large lawns where little ones can run around.
3 Constantia wine farms worth visiting for tastings: Buitenverwachting, Beau Constantia (it claims stunning views from a world-class glass tasting room) and Silvermist (for 100% organic wine)
Top Constantia lunch spots: Catharina’s Restaurant for fine dining and Bistro 1682 at Steenberg for tapas in a stunning contemporary setting. Constantia Glen for charcuterie, rose and breathtaking views.
Distance from Cape Town’s city centre: 15 minutes’ drive.

Durbanville Wine Route
Often overlooked, the Northern Suburbs is also base to a stunning wine region that, though only 20 minutes from Cape Town’s city centre, feels worlds away. The scenic route is incredibly accessible and small enough – there are only 12 farms in total – to traverse in a single day. Durbanville’s terroir lends itself to award-winning wines (particularly Sauvignon Blanc), and to complement the premium variety of wine, there are also a number of celebrated fine dining restaurants and bistros along the way.
Tip: Bring the kids along for a fun family day out – all the farms are child friendly.
3 Durbanville wine farms worth visiting for tastings: Diemersdal, Durbanville Hills (the lookout deck boasts incredible views of Table Mountain and Robben Island) and the historic Altydgedacht.
1 top Durbanville lunch spot: De Grendel Restaurant on the breathtaking De Grendel farm
Distance from Cape Town’s city centre: 20 minutes

Paarl Wine Route
Perhaps most well known as the home of commercially popular winery Fairview and its famed goats, Paarl is the slightly more rural, covert sibling of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. That said, it’s also one of the most innovative wine regions in the Western Cape – it’s responsible for creating the world’s first white Pinotage and bottling SA’s first Bordeaux-style red blend. The more than 28 farms that make up the district are spread out around the iconic pearl-shaped Paarl Rock (the town takes its name from this mountain), so if you’re eager to do this route properly, you may want to stay over a night or two.
Tip: There are lots of outdoor activities in this wine area, most notably, mountain biking, quad biking and horse riding at Rhebokskloof estate.
3 Paarl wine farms worth visiting for tastings: Spice Route, Nederburg and Glen Carlou (Kleine Draken is worth a visit for kosher wines)
1 top Paarl lunch spot: Bosman’s at Grande Roche Hotel for fine dining or the Pizzeria at Under Oaks winery for rustic Italian fare.
Distance from Cape Town’s city centre: Around 40 minutes’ drive

Stellenbosch Wine Route
If there’s one wine route everyone knows, it’s this one. Sprawling out around the old university town of Stellenbosch, this vast, pretty locale is the most commercial and well-established of all wine destinations in South Africa (in fact, it was the first wine territory to establish a coordinated wine route). In total, there are around 200 farms within the area’s boundaries, all offering something distinct, from MCC and nougat tastings to alfresco picnics. It would be simply impossible to take in all of Stellenbosch in one trip, so it’s advisable to break a visit down and focus on one of the five sub-routes at a time: Bottelary Hills, Greater Simonsberg, Helderberg, Stellenbosch Valley or Stellenbosch Berg).
Tip: Aside from the wine farms in this region, the town of Stellenbosch is well worth a visit too – it’s rich in history and charm and there’s plenty to do here.
3 Stellenbosch wine farms worth visiting for tastings: Waterford Estate (for wine and chocolate pairings), the historic Spier (consider doing a Segway tour here) and Kleine Zalze.
1 top Stellenbosch lunch spot: Dornier Bodega restaurant (a top option if you’re a fan of shellfish) or Hermitage Restaurant at Hazendal wine estate (ask about picnic baskets).
Distance from Cape Town’s city centre: Approximately 45 minutes’ drive

Franschhoek Wine Route
Hands down, one of the most celebrated wine and food destinations in South Africa, the beautiful Franschhoek Valley, which was established by French Huguenot refugees in 1688, is a captivating blend of European charm and spectacular verdant scenery. The town itself is well worth a visit, with the main street dotted with high-end boutiques, fine dining restaurants and art galleries. Though, visitors will likely want to spend most of their time out and about on the Cape Dutch-style farms, which are renowned for making excellent versions of almost varietal. If sparkling wine appeals, there’s also a dedicated Cap Classique route here.
Tip: To see multiple wine farms in one day without having to worry about drinking and driving, consider booking a place on the affordable Franschhoek Wine Tram hop-on hop-off tour.
3 Franschhoek wine farms worth visiting for tastings: La Motte, Haute Cabrière (see a sabrage show on Saturdays) and Babylonstoren (it boasts a breathtaking eight-acre garden).
1 top Franschhoek lunch spot: Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards for a relaxed rotisserie lunch or the Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français for fine dining.
Distance from Cape Town’s city centre: One hour’s drive

Wellington Wine Route
The great appeal of the Wellington Winelands is that while it is a well-established wine region with over 20 picturesque estates, it also has a quiet, undiscovered charm about it. In this small agricultural town at the foot of the Groenberg Mountain, the winemakers actually take the time to converse with visitors, many of the farms are smaller family-run entities and the locals are lovely, salt-of-the-earth sorts. Though many top reds and whites come out of Wellington, the area is most well-known for Shiraz and Chenin Blanc. Not to mention, it’s the source of the vast majority of the rootstock material used for growing vines across SA.
Tip: Wellington isn’t only known for wine; while you’re here, visit the Jorgensen’s Distillery and sample an assortment of finely handcrafted spirits too (gin, potstill brandy, absinthe and more).
3 Wellington wine farms worth visiting for tastings: Bosman Family Vineyards (by appointment only), Diemersfontein, Welbedacht Estate (owned by rugby player Schalk Burger).
1 top Wellington lunch spot: Twist Some More – try the famed Wild Boar, Apple and Sage Burger.
Distance from Cape Town’s city centre: Around one hour’s drive

How about the insider scoop on the Swartland, Durbanville, Darling, Bot River, Hermanus, Robertson, Tulbagh Wine Route, Elim and Elgin wine regions? Didn't know the Winelands offers so many different wine routes? Visit the New Frontiers Agent Zone, contact us or your New Frontiers sales consultant and learn all about them!

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