Stellenbosch & Franschhoek: A guide to wine tasting in the Cape Winelands
Perhaps without the same prestige of Bordeaux, Napa Valley, or Tuscany, South Africa’s Cape Winelands are often overlooked, even by serious wine snobs (which I can state quite confidently as fact since my own mother, a self-proclaimed wine snob, didn’t even realise SA was a major wine producer until planning this trip). Whatever Stellenbosch and Franschhoek may lack in world renown, however, they more than make up for in great wine, inexpensive tastings, and stunning vineyards set against a characteristically Western Cape backdrop of rolling mountains. With a lifetime in the Cape Winelands, it’s still unlikely that you’d be able to visit all 600-hundred-something vineyards that span the region, but mum and I did our best to ingest as much vino as humanly possible in our few days so that we could recommend a few favourites. This is a quick guide to getting the most out of your own visit to the Cape Winelands.
Getting around the Winelands
Hire a car in Cape Town and make the 1hr drive to Stellenbosch or Franschhoek yourself. Once here, it’s definitely possible to show up at various cellar doors in your own car and pay for a tasting on the spot, but it’s much better to join a tour, whether it’s the cheaper and more casual hop on/hop off option or a private tour with a wine expert. Not only will you be guaranteed great seating and quick service with the group, but you’ll also get great local recommendations on where to go and avoid drink driving.
We joined a hop on/hop off tour with Vine Hopper for about R300 that carted us around to 5 wineries and had a phenomenal time with our group of 8. Another day, we also hired a private driver from Camino Tours for R3000 to take us to another 5 wineries, which was an equally lovely day and very personalised, but a lot less social. We preferred both of these options over driving ourselves, although we did visit a few wineries independently.
Depending on the winery, a tasting might be anywhere from R20-70 (although it might be waived if you buy a bottle) and include 3-8 wines. Considering that many of the pours were also half the glass, you’d struggle to go to even a single winery and stay under the legal driving limit. We were suitably shocked by the low cost of tasting and even the low cost of buying a whole bottle, which was often only R80 for an amazingly good wine.
We visited about 15 different wineries during our time in the Cape Winelands and can personally recommend these 10 as our favourites, either in terms of scenery, vintner knowledge, or the actual wine.
This beautiful winery was our indisputable #1 favourite in terms of both wine and scenery, so I’d highly recommend a visit to this intimate cellar door.
Lanzerac Wine Estate
Another stunning winery, Lanzerac has an abundance of outdoor seating perfect for enjoying their surprisingly good white and red wines.
Avontuur boasts a great restaurant and lovely wine, as well as beautiful palm-framed scenery.
Delaire Graff Estate
This is a super posh winery with a beautiful tasting room and great wine, as well as some of the most impressive views of the surrounding mountains and seasonal wildflowers.
Boschendal Wine Estate
Boschendal is a huge wine estate, one of the largest and best-known in the region, with a good restaurant, a little deli to buy picnic foods, and, of course, excellent wine.
Glenelly also has incredibly good wine, with an indoor tasting room overlooking the vineyards and mountains.
Kanonkop Wine Estates
This estate features amazing wine, very friendly staff, and a behind-the-scenes look at wine making in their warehouse.
This small and intimate winery has nice wine and a very rustic feel.
Blaauwklippen Wine Estate
Blaauwklippen has good wine, plus an amazing restaurant and lovely scenery.
Zorgvliet Wine Estate
Although the wine here is somewhat mediocre, this is one of the most beautiful settings for a winery, so it’s still worth a visit.
Hopefully this guide provides some information and inspiration for your own wine tasting in the incomparable Cape Winelands!