10 Cape Wine Routes to Explore and Why! PART 1

Quarantine is behind us, summer is here, the festive season is upon us, and we have some of the most beautiful wine in the world…does anyone need any more reasons to pack the friend and/or family in the car and hit the Cape winelands? No! Let’s explore the Cape’s manifold wine routes and some of the exciting activities, attractions, and adventures they have to offer. (You know, besides food and wine.)

1. Stellenbosch Wine Route


Simonsberg mountain, Stellenbosch
Image: Simonsberg mountain, Stellenbosch (www.tokara.com)

Stellenbosch is undoubtedly the most famous, internationally known, and well trodden of the Cape’s wine routes. Postcard scenery of rolling vineyard-carpeted hills set against a backdrop of dramatically rugged mountains is the order of the day here…unless, of course, you wander into the heart of this historic settlement. Then you can expect centuries-old oak-lined streets, beautiful old buildings built in the Cape Dutch style, and monuments immortalizing the town’s (and country’s) history and heritage. Stellenbosch is internationally known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, and, Pinotage, a unique varietal to South Africa.

Top things to do (besides wine tasting and fine dining): Historic walking tours, tuk tuk tours of the wineries, retail therapy on Dorp and Andringa Streets, art galleries, Stellenbosch Museum, hiking trails in the surrounding mountains, and strawberry picking (in season)!

2. Franschhoek Wine Route


Franschhoek Wine Route
Image: Huguenot Monument, Franschhoek (www.pixabay.com)

If you thought Stellenbosch was beautiful and special—and it absolutely is—Franschhoek manages to go one echelon higher with its truly spectacular mountain-framed scenery and beguiling historic heart, which was originally established by the French Huguenots (hence the name “French Corner”). Obviously, being the Cape Winelands, top activities to do here are wine tasting and fine dining BUT Franschhoek deserves a special mention because it has earned a reputation for being the food and wine capital of the Cape! These winelands are particularly known for their glorious Méthode Cap Classiques (MCCs) and French varietal wines and styles.

Top things to do (besides wine tasting and fine dining): Luxurious overnight stays, the Franschhoek wine tram, several annual wine festivals, the Huguenot Memorial and museum, retail therapy, art galleries, weekend markets, and hiking in the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve.

3. Paarl Wine Route


Paarl Wine Route
Image: Avondale Wine Estate, Paarl Winelands (www.avondalewine.co.za)

Paarl is the more rustic cousin to the likes of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. Here, frills, fuss, and French charm are roughly exchanged for the kind of honest, country goodness that we all, at heart, find so endearing. Paarl (Afrikaans for “Pearl”) gets its name from the bulbous granite extrusion that stands sentry over the town and whose constituent minerals make it glitter in the sunlight. This historic town and area features several exceptional wineries such as Avondale, Babylonstoren, Fairview, and Mellasat. The town is also home to a plethora of historic attractions and top-notch restaurants.

Top things to do (besides wine tasting and fine dining): Farm stays, hiking in the Paarl Nature Reserve, bird watching and nature viewing, hot air ballooning, wine-and-food pairing experiences, golfing at Pearl Valley Golf Course, and safari tours.

4. Hemel-en-Aarde Valley / Hermanus Wine Route

Image: Bouchard Finlayson Wine Estate, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (www.bouchardfinlayson.com)

Just over an hour’s drive up the southwestern Cape coastline of the continent, you’ll discover undulating lands of such bucolic splendour you’ll be forgiven for thinking you fell through a wormhole and landed somewhere in the Austrian countryside. Here, framed, by the raw power of the Atlantic Ocean, are a clutch of wineries that produce delicious and consistently award-winning wines, such as Bouchard Finlayson, Creation, Ataraxia, Newton Johnson, and more. The area is particularly known for its cool climate Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir!

Top things to do (besides wine tasting and fine dining): This whole stretch of coastline is famous for whale watching and other ocean attractions and sports, like fishing, sailing, kayaking, and more. Hiking, biking, and outdoor adventures are the order of the day when you’re not indulging in fine wine and food.

Image: Paul Cluver Wine Estate, Elgin (www.cluver.com)

An hour’s drive outside of Cape Town, Elgin is best known for its fruit industry (apple orchards, in particular) but there are also more than a dozen wine farms here. In fact, many wineries in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and further afield source grapes in the Elgin Valley because it’s known for its beautiful cool climate varietals of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnays. Sone of the more popular farms are the family-run Paul Cluver Wines, which is part of a UNESCO world heritage site; South Hill Vineyards, which is home to a fabulous art gallery and luxury accommodation; and Charles Fox Cap Classique Estate, a go-to winery for bubbly-lovers.

Top things to do (besides wine tasting and fine dining): Stunning forest and mountain hiking and biking trails and scenery, zip-lining with Cape Canopy Tours, nature viewing and birdwatching, weekend stays, guided farm walks, and picnics.

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming next week….

We’ve got even more stunning wine routes to explore so tune in next week for part two of our blog series!