Wine Lands of South Africa


For wine connoisseurs, a visit to South Africa would be virtually incomplete without a trip to the wine region near the southern cape. For those who simply enjoy sampling and learning about wine, this region makes for a wonderful excursion from Cape Town. In addition to some of the world's best wine, the area offers top quality restaurants, the natural beauty of the vineyards with their mountain backdrops and even the chance for some unexpected game viewing - zebra and impala tend to roam the fields just past Table Mountain as you head towards Paarl and Stellenbosch. 

The toughest part of visiting the wine lands may be deciding which regions to visit.   Stellenbosch, Paarl and Constantia are the most well-known, as their wines tend to be more widely distributed around the globe. Some of the lesser known regions are starting to hold their own, with more visitors looking to enjoy vineyards slightly "off the beaten path".  When it comes to the wines themselves, most vineyards offer a variety, but make sure to try at least one Pinotage, South Africa's own variety.

Constantia -Constantia is quite popular because it is actually within the city of Cape Town (not right downtown, but within city limits and quite easy to reach). This region, which sits on the slopes of Constantia Mountain, is small but produces high quality wines. 
Paarl - One of the older and more well-known wine regions, Paarl was traditionally a white wine producer.  It has recently begun focusing more on red wines, Shiraz in particular. Highly recommended is Goats Do Roam Wine Company in the Fairview wine estate. Not only do they provide a 6-wine tasting at a great value, visitors can also enjoy a cheese tasting and can purchase these cheeses along with home made breads, danishes, jams, salsas, and more.  Their restaurant - The Goatshed - serves up a delicious menu seven days a week. 

Stellenbosch - With over 80 wineries, this is the country's leading wine region, especially for reds. Its close proximity to Cape Town and relaxed feel make Stellenbosch an attractive option for tourists. The wine route here is clearly marked and takes visitors along several wine trails. The town is also home to Stellenbosch University. 

Franschhoek - Despite its small size, this region is quite significant for the wide variety of wine styles that it produces. To the west of Stellenbosch, it is an easy day trip from Cape Town and the wine varieties, along with its numerous trendy gourmet restaurants, make Franschhoek worth a visit. 

Robertson - A warm and fertile region, Robertson was traditionally known for its whites, especially Chardonnays and sparkling wines. Recently, it has started to join the trend towards Shiraz and other reds. Approximately 120 km from Cape Town, its one of the further regions from the city. 

Walker Bay - This cool region along the Whale Coast south of Cape Town is best recognized for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, though its Savignon Blanc has been getting some attention recently. 

Other smaller wine regions include:  Worcester, Swartland, Elgin. Worcester and Swartland are dominated by larger cooperatives. Elgin is a cooler region east of Stellenbosch that is up-and-coming, with one main producer and approximately twelve who hope to be bottling soon.  

For those regions closest to Cape Town, the city makes a great base for half or full day trips that visit one or several wineries. Those looking to do a more extensive visit to the wine lands might opt for a group or private tour which stays overnight in the various wine regions. Any of these tours can be arranged ahead of time and will pick guests up at their hotel/accommodations. Self drives are also possible, though recommended only for those who are comfortable navigating the region and driving on (for American travelers) the opposite side of the road.