I love the winelands of South Africa. Maybe because I’m a certified cheese addict and never say no to a glass of red, or maybe because it’s just stunningly beautiful. Whatever the reason, along with the Drakensberg Mountains, it’s easily my favourite place in South Africa!
You could happily spend a couple of weeks here, visiting the wineries and workshops, sampling cheeses and wandering around fruit farms, but if you only have a few days and have a healthy respect for your waistline, you can’t go far wrong with the little gems on this circular day route:
1. Delheim Winery – Stellenbosch
If you’re looking for a traditional, cellar-style wine tasting experience then this is the place to go! I wanted somewhere that wouldn’t be over-run with coach loads of tourists and contemporary décor and I wasn’t disappointed. As we drove up the track through the seemingly endless miles of vineyard, Delheim appeared ahead surrounded only by old ploughs, lush gardens and dozens of weaver bird nests. Not a tour group in sight.
We’d never been wine tasting before, relying instead on the tried and tested method of bottle selection according to pretty labels, offers and a bit of trusting to luck. We probably had about a 75% success rate which until now we considered just fine. However on entering the Delheim cellar we were overwhelmed with choice and aroma – just how would we decide what to taste? Sensibly I opted for mid range wines which wouldn’t be beyond the realms of financial possibility should we have the alcohol-fuelled urge to purchase afterwards. Hubbie on the other hand went for the most expensive on the list, because he’d never get to taste them otherwise. I raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Sometimes it’s better just to let him do his own thing.
The sommelier took our choices and soon came back with our vino and a silver bucket. Now we knew we were supposed to spit it out after going through the motions but why waste good wine, right? Needless to say the bucket returned almost empty, but the sommelier didn’t say a word. No doubt he’d seen it all before.
Our ignorance was lifted with the tasting, and I discovered I’m a full bodied kinda girl when it comes to my reds, and in fact now always opt for Shiraz and see Merlot as a pathetic little sister. So I was happy to be educated, even if it means our weekly shop is now always a few pounds more expensive! Hubbie of course decided he really liked one of his choices and enquired about the price of a bottle. On a par with a small mortgage, the bottle remained firmly where it was, with a disappointed Hubbie feigning nonchalance.
We did however come away with a delicious bottle of port. Not that we’d tasted it, I just liked the look of the bottle!
Wine Tasting: R25pp for a selection of six
2. Fairview Winery – Paarl
Another great place to get your taste buds working overtime – but with the added bonus of cheese which can be paired with your wine choices. A bit less ‘rustic’ than Delheim, Fairview has tasting pods where you can sample both wines and cheeses, as well as a farm shop selling all sorts of tempting culinary goodies that will still look good sitting in your kitchen cupboard years later.
The best bit though is the Goatshed Restaurant where you can enjoy a well earned lunch. Hard work this consumer lark. Hubbie tucked into a meat platter, whilst I opted for the cheese board which came with little flags sticking into each of my selections telling me what they were, which was just as well since there had been 25 to choose from. The cheese is made from both goats and cows milk, and the goats roam about in the grounds and even have their own goat tower, hence the restaurant name I suppose. And of course since we weren’t driving it would’ve been rude not to have a couple of glasses to wine to wash it all down. All very civilised.
Wine Tasting: R25pp for a selection of six wines and cheeses; or R12pp for cheese tasting only
3. Spice Route Winery – Paarl
So we’ve had wine, bread and cheese…but what about chocolate? Just a bit further along from Fairview on the slopes of Paarl Mountain, the tranquil and refined Spice Route Winery offers yet another tasty experience to go with your wine. The cosy tasting room is part of the old farm cellar and has views of Table Mountain, or you can have your tipples and treats outside beneath the pergola under the watchful eye of the Simonsberg Mountains. Certainly one of the best places to visit in South Africa.
So to the chocolate. For something a bit different you can try Spice Route wines paired with their artisan chocolates, from what has to be the smallest chocolate factory in the world! Or if you’ve had your fill of grapes, try whiskey or brandy, also paired with their own chocolates. Heaven! Apparently to properly appreciate the chocolate you’re supposed to break off a piece and place it in your mouth, giving it a ‘gentle’ bite to allow if to reach body temperature, whilst you note the initial, during and lingering flavours. Yeah right. Who in their right mind can eat a piece of cacao nectar so slowly. Chocolate is for scoffing not nibbling. If you’re feeling a bit like you’re over-indulging by this stage, just remember that there are scientific health benefits (such as antioxidants and improved blood flow) to consuming good quality chocolate!
If chocolate isn’t enough, you can also do beer and biltong tasting, but by now we were well and truly defeated and wished we hadn’t bought a pizza for tea later.
Wine Tasting: R25pp for a selection of six
Wine and Chocolate Tasting: R60pp for a selection of four wines and four chocolates.
There is also a glass blowing studio on site where you can watch the artists at work with their furnaces and rods. At Red Hot Glass the glass blowers create some astonishing and intricate stuff, like this colossal hanging ceiling decoration (left).
They do have more ‘normal’ items like glass dishes and vases if your luggage weight allowance hasn’t yet been breached (just remember all those bottles of wine you purchase aren’t exactly light as a feather, which means you’ll probably drink them before flying home anyway).
I felt a bit like a bull in a china shop and worried the whole time about knocking over something that would no doubt have taken weeks to fashion, and be shockingly expensive. Luckily by staying in the middle of the showroom I managed to conduct myself in a ladylike manner and we left with our dignity, and wallets, in tact.
4. Hillcrest Berry Orchards – Stellenbosch
This is a really pretty place to stop for an afternoon tea…you know…after you’ve had a hard day stuffing your face with cheese, bread and wine. What could be better than scones and jam with a pot of tea and a view of the Banhoek Valley from your table in the tea garden? I personally tried and tested the berry muffins…although I was utterly stuffed by this stage they just looked too tempting to say no.
Spoiler alert: the jams and preserves are all made on the farm using fruit from their orchards!
The farm is a ten minute drive over the pretty Helshoogte Pass from Stellenbosch, and they have a produce shop and deli as well as the restaurant which is open until around 5pm for lunches and light suppers, using mostly organic produce from the local area. I suggest afternoon tea will be all you can manage if you’ve got this far!
How to properly appreciate a wine tasting – according to the SPICE ROUTE WINERY
- Use the correct glass, preferably ‘tulip’ shaped.
- Fill 1/3 of a glass and nose the wine, taking note of the initial aromas.
- Now swirl the wine in the glass, nose again and note the aromas.
- Take a sip of wine and hold it in the mouth while inhaling a breath of air and allowing it to circulate through the wine. Note the flavours.
- Wait at least 20 seconds and take note of the lingering flavours before releasing it into the tasting bucket.
How to properly appreciate a wine tasting – according to the CONVERSANT TRAVELLER
- Use the correct glass, preferably ‘tulip’ shaped.
- Fill 1/2 of a glass, stick your nose in and try to sniff appreciatively.
- After a respectable amount of time has passed, nod your head in serious contemplation, giving the impression you know exactly what you’re doing.
- Now swirl the wine in the glass, and hope no-one notices when you accidently spill some down your front.
- Take a gulp of wine and hold it in the mouth while inhaling a breath of air and trying not to splutter. Notice that it tastes like wine.
- Wait at least 20 seconds then quickly swallow when the sommelier’s back is turned.
- Try not to grin stupidly as the day wears on and make sure you eat lots of bread, cheese and chocolate to soak it all up.
How to properly appreciate a wine tasting – according to HUBBIE
- Choose the most expensive wine on the menu.
- Use a glass. Or in fact any receptacle will do.
- Fill it as full as you dare without getting caught.
- After a surreptitious look around, neck it.
- Remain nonchalant throughout.
Ahhh wow… those Hillcrest Berry Orchards look stunning!
You guys have become quite the wine connoisseurs! Love it. Looks like quite the nice winery. Bonus that they have the glass blowing studio too!
thanks for the great tips, one of my pet care clients just took a trip to Africa, beautiful scenery photos
Ha ha the hubbie’s ‘how to appreciate wine tasting’ works for me! 🙂
Its made me want to open a bottle now! Great tips and suggestions
One of the best wine tasting experiences I have ever had was in South Africa; a small town called Franschoek not far from Stellenbosch. Had the most incredible scenery, food, friendliness, and I loved it.
We’re going to Franschhoek in November! Any favourite wineries we should know about?
I absolutely LOVE wine tasting and I’ve probably been to about 100 (not bad for a student, eh?). Really enjoyed reading this!
Wow, that’s a lot of wine! Think I have some catching up to do on our next trip there in Nov 🙂