Why you should consider visiting a wine boutique

Posted on 12 October 2022 By David Henning

In South Africa, we are one of the fortunate few countries who have the option of visiting a wine farm and getting up close to the action and the smell of fermenting grapes during harvest time.

Frikkie van Zyl outside his Karoo Vine Wine Boutique in Ladismith.

We are so naturalised to just climb into a car and visit a wine farm, we tend to take for granted that in the traditional wine-producing countries of the old world, you can’t just rock up without an appointment.

In the case of Burgundy in France or Rioja in Spain, entries to wine estates are enclosed by towering gates, and you’ll likely be told to go away at the buzzer if you show up unannounced.

In these parts of the world, the norm is to often head to the nearest village where a wine boutique serves as the representative for a few wineries in a region.

Karoo Vine has become a timeless addition to Ladismith. Picture: Karoo Vine Wine Boutique

This has its pros and cons – often not being able to sample the wide range of a single estate. But, it also comes with its perks, having access to a region’s abundance.

But, do we have this option in South Africa? To put this to the test, I ventured deep into the Klein Karoo, avoided the cheese factory shop in Ladismith and strolled into Karoo Vine Wine Boutique.

Karoo Vine

The Karoo Vine Wine Boutique opened its doors in 2008 as a passion project and has become arguably the most beloved wine store on the R62.

Owner, Frikkie Van Zyl was behind the counter when I arrived but considering that I’d just come from a wine farm  – and I that was planning on heading to another later – he took me through the spirits of the Karoo.

From the region, Karoo Vine has a selection of 25 gins, 21 brandies, eight rums, six grappas, five vodkas and two whiskeys. Oh, and did I mention they also have stick wine?

Frikkie is knowledgeable of his products – where they are from, and what goes into them and often knows the winemaker or distiller.

He also stocks the entire Fledge & Co range, an experimental wine brand from Maurgeux Nel, the winemaker at Boplaas in Calitzdorp – as well a few exclusive bottlings.

We got stuck into the gin first – unfortunately having to be selective considering you could end up completely sloshed if you try it all. But speak to Frikkie about what you like, he’s easygoing and curated a tasting eloquently.


Gins were emblematic of the area, with The Cactus Gin crafting infusing their spirit with prickly pear – one from the leaves and another from the fruit – which is so prominent throughout the region, or Harmony Distellery’s Aloe Ferox gin made from the native aloes.

From there, it was an easy transition into the brandies – I wasn’t slurring my words yet. During my visit, a regular entered to ask for a little slukkie. Clearly comfortable in the place, she and ouma began conversing with us both while they had their afternoon dop – for their health, of course.

Frikkie says people regularly sit outside with a bottle for a kuier – it’s part of the Karoo life, I guess and this seems to be a beloved establishment in Ladismith. Brandy out the way, I was convinced to try a few of the whiskeys – but had to save the grappas, vodkas, rums and vermouths for another time.


Karoo Vine also hosts monthly events in Ladismith so if you’d like to linger longer you are in for activities such as food and wine pairings with celebrity chefs, a blind wine challenge as well a masterclass brandy and whiskey tasting.

Yes, we do love that we can visit our wine farms on a whim – but there is something about going to a wine boutique that is truly special, such as trying a wide range from the region from a charming and expert proprietor. I couldn’t get through them all, but I’ll be back.

Visit their website here for information (or to place your order if you can’t get there soon enough).

Other Wine Boutiques to visit

Simon Wine Emporium, Stellenbosch

The Simon Wine Emporium is a tasting room and online store dedicated exclusively to labels that are Wine of Origin Stellenbosch – making it the first of its kind in South Africa.

Wine Village, Hermanus

At the entrance to the renowned Hemel and Aarde Valley in the Overberg, Wine Village says that they have the biggest selection of South African wine under one roof. You better head there to find out.

La Verne Wine Boutique, Robertson

Opening its doors in 2005 with the intention of showcasing wine from the Robertson Wine Valley, La Verne provides customers with approachable educational wine experiences in the heart of Robertson.

ALSO READ: The Klein Karoo Wine Route: Everything you need to know

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