Safari in South Africa: Cape Town Wine Route Wonders – How To Find Your Way Amongst The Treasures - By: Helen Palmer - editor of the website:
The Wine Route offers visitors to Cape Town something quite unique. Don’t stop reading just because you don’t think you’re into wine! Plunge onwards and find out why you’ll be surprised by what you find. More often than not, these fabulous estates offer far more than just wine.
Just drive out to one of these delightful wine estates to find something magical about the art of viticulture and we dare you to say you didn’t have a great time. The most trouble you’ll have is trying to decide which wine estate to visit on which wine route – there’s so many and they’re all different.
However, there’s an art to this, especially in the busiest tourist seasons, so let us guide you round our particular favourites and show you how to pick the best ones to visit, ensuring you make the most of your time and experience the best wine route wonders Cape Town has to offer.
Once you get the bug, you’ll want to return more and more often, until finally, just like us, a trip to Cape Town wouldn’t be complete without a wine route trip.
What draws you up the driveway to discover what’s beyond the rather bland brown signposts?
Gateways filled with glorious flowers such as canna lilies and roses, spectacular beds filled with wonderfully vivid colour, stretch into the distance just urging you to find what’s at the top, all with an impressive backdrop of soaring mountains.
Many of the estate houses themselves are built in a traditional Cape Dutch H shape. They are often maintained as museums, allowing us to glimpse an age long past. We’ve spent many an hour wandering around the cool interiors, whilst the sun blazes outside in a clear blue sky: relishing the tranquillity and peace that comes from the thick, whitewashed walls, the beautiful use of indigenous woods in the flooring and furniture, the graceful flow of the rooms.
One wine estate that is a charming example is Uitkyk, pronounced “Ate Cake”. Tucked away down a short track leading from one of the main roads into Stellenbosch, this wine estate is worth a visit just to view the handsome manor house alone, but why not try your hand at boules, sometimes known as petanque. Uitkyk supply the boules and a set of rules, all for free, whilst you enjoy tasting its award winning wines.
Better still, book a picnic hamper the day before your visit, sample wine for your lunch before finding the perfect spot under the trees to enjoy the awe-inspiring views, whilst whiling away the afternoon.
Uitkyk is one of our particular favourites because it’s off the beaten track of the usual wine route tours. A number of the extremely well-known estates end up with bus-loads of people all vying to taste wine and view other attractions. At certain times of the year this can be extremely off-putting. Knowing where to find the best of estates and wines will save you time and allow you a stress-free wine route experience, making it truly memorable.
Others that are notable for their manor houses are Vergelegan, Somerset West; Boschendal, Franschhoek; Groote Constantia, Constantia, Cape Town.
However, these are all very big and well-known, with a large number of cruise ships and tours preferring to take their customers to these wine estates. Choose your time to visit them with care, so that you miss the crowds and enjoy your visit.
Not all the wine estates are old. One or two are ultra modern, like Eikendal, just outside Somerset West or Dornier Wines just off the road to Somerset West.
If the name Dornier rings bells to those of you who know anything about aircraft (I didn’t, but the man of our house did!), Christoph Dornier, the Swiss-based painter is a member of the family. His amazing new building, housing the cellar and tasting room is truly spectactular. Light, glass, mountains and water are all reflected in the building and it neatly brings together both the old and the new – in the wines themselves and the surroundings.
We particularly love the ornamental lake with its enormous Koi carpe fish in front of the unusually shaped tasting room. New for 2007 is a bistro style cafe, opening in April. Others like Spier in Stellenbosch, combine the very old with the very new, in a tremendous combination.
Wine is not the only consideration at the majority of estates. Described by South Africa’s wine bible, John Platter as “this manicured, riverside pleasure dome” Spier’s latest attractions include “Moyo”, an outdoor African eating experience with Arabian Nights-style tents and a treehouse platform, providing the most exotic setting for a bountiful buffet. During the chilly Cape winter nights, you’re warmed by large brazier’s and woolly blankets. Be warned – this is incredibly popular with tourists and locals alike, so booking early is a must.
Other attractions include an hotel, conference centre, open-air amphitheatre with a full season of music and the arts, five other restaurants, a deli, golf course, tennis centre, equestrian centre, wildlife close encounters and last but by no means least … fine wines!
If you only had one day to do a wine tour, you would probably not go far wrong by choosing Spier – there is literally something for everyone here! You would be forgiven for thinking that wine sometimes takes a back seat to everything else going on, but taste the wines made on the Spier Estates and you’ll be in no doubt you’re tasting an excellent quality wine.
Couple that wine with a picnic from their Deli, the setting sun, Swallows winging their way through the early evening sky, candles and the Cape Town Philharmonic orchestra playing Christmas carols and you have the makings of one of the most memorable evenings you could experience.
Not what you had in mind when we said wine? How about Chocolate? Now there’s another tale …
Helen Palmer is the editor of the website Tailor-made South Africa Travel where tailor-made luxury vacation and safaris in South Africa are all about your own safari round South Africa. Whatever you want, whenever you want it, we have the expertise to be able to deliver.
Useful links for the Cape Winlands:
Cape Wine Routes
Cape Winelands Accommodation