Merely a half hour drive out of Cape Town, which can be done using one of our car hire facilities, and already you’re at the start of the vineyards, where grape cultivation began way back in the 1600s. And these days, this is South Africa’s largest winemaking region, where organised wine tourism is now big business.
The estates are sizable, and each individual winery comes with cosy accommodation, casual bistros, fine dining, elaborate tastings, and gourmet wine pairings. In the more established regions, this is no longer free, but even here, you’re hardly going to be breaking the bank with a session costing as little as R50.
More importantly, in the area, there are a young, pragmatic generation of winemakers who continue to produce wines that are better and better. And it’s not just about the robust Pinotage, or the classic Chenin Blanc. Rather, these vine growers are edging towards elegant Shiraz, complex blends of Bordeaux, together with what the locals call it – extremely “quaffable” bubbly.
In actuality, rather than booking up on an organised tour, your best bet is to travel independently. Give the wineries you wish to visit a call first. This way, you’ll be sure to meet the people who actually make the wine.
Spend more time in the established wine valleys, like Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, then head out further afield to places that are lesser-known, but no less welcoming. Go to vineyards in Wellington, Tulbagh, and Swartland.
At the moment, the South African rand is attractive to foreigners, which means that you’ll get a top-notch bottle for around £3 – £4, and eating prices are also very affordable. You can get freshly caught seared tuna and tender springbok braised in red wine for about £5.50–£7.
Restaurants and Bistros in Cape Town’s Wine Region
Green Valley Road, Franschhoek
The Franschhoek Kitchen is hidden from view down a country lane not far from the bustling heart of Franschhoek. It’s a funky styled restaurant which belongs to the Holden Manz winery. The views over the vineyards are absolutely idyllic, with a backdrop of towering mountainsides.
The chef, Maryna Frederiksen, makes simple bistro dishes that are well-priced. They are based on seasonal, locally sourced produce, like oak-grilled trout, pumpkin gnocchi, and braised pork belly which is paired with a mashed sweet potato.
If your preference is to sit out in the vines by the local stream, you can instead buy a picnic hamper for a very reasonably priced £9 per person.
This, Holden Manz, if a fairly new estate. However, the dynamic Schalk Opperman, a 30-year-old winemaker, is already winning prizes for a number of his wines, including a wonderfully blended cabernet sauvignon and franc, together with a nicely fragrant rosé. When you taste the rosé, you suddenly feel like you’re in Provence.
The winery owners also run a contemporary art gallery which is based in Franschhoek. They have five luxury cottages situated by the restaurant which they rent out to holidaymakers.