South Africa is blessed when it comes to wine and is home to more than 20 different wine routes within its borders. From the cool west coast breezes near Darling to the world’s longest wine route – Yes, South Africa is home to the world’s longest wine route – in the Klein Karoo, we are spoilt for choice.
If you don’t know about all of them, we’ve tried to sum up a few of our favourites. From Durbanville, renowned for their Sauvignon Blanc, to Hemel en Aarde’s exquisite pinot noir and the Porto style Cape Vintage’s in Calitzdorp, there’s something to suit everyone’s palate.
Perched on the city’s doorstep, the beginnings of South Africa’s viticulture can be traced to Constantia. Even though South Africa might be considered a New World wine region, its first vineyards were planted in 1655.
Although the intention at the time was not to make wine, the first grapes were crushed and fermented in 1659 and in 1685, 750 hectares were planted just outside Cape Town, establishing what is known today as Constantia.
In fact, when Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to St Helena island in 1815, he was allowed to drink wines from Groot Constantia, apparently requesting the farms Grand Constance 1821. (A bottle of this wine was auctioned for R967 300 in 2021!)
Even though South Africa is still considered a ‘new world’ wine region, it does not mean that wineries such as Groot and Klein Constantia are not steeped in history. As for the wine, it speaks for itself.
Visit the Constantia Wine Route.
Durbanville Wine Valley
Another region just a stone’s throw away from the suburbs, the slopes surrounding Tygerberg Hill are renowned for the world-class Sauvignon Blancs.
The cool, two-ocean-influenced climate of the Durbanville Wine Valley is ideal for the slow and flavourful development of this varietal. In fact, Durbanville Hills ‘The Tangram White blend’ was awarded one of the world’s top 12 scoring wines at the 2021 Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters.
There are 13 wine farms to choose from, from the elegant, and world-class service of De Grendel, to the family-friendly farms of D’aria.
Visit the Durbanville Wine Route.
Known as the gateway to the Cape Winelands, Paarl tends to be a forgotten stepchild compared to the famous Stellenbosch and Franschhoek wine routes, and that’s such a shame!
Nederberg Wine Estate stretches back more than two centuries, and with both KWV and Laborie’s tasting rooms smack-bang in the middle of town, wine tasting in Paarl is almost as easy as it is enjoyable.
With the town just off the N1 highway, Paarl is a convenient wine-tasting option, with plenty of culinary options to stop for a bite, and the neighbouring town of Wellington also has its fair share to offer.
Stellenbosch & Franschhoek
Not much needs to be said about arguably South Africa’s most famous wine region. Stellenbsoch is home to some world-class wineries, some advancing the industry more sustainably, such as Spier’s biodynamic approach.
Others, like DeMorgenzon, take a more eclectic approach, playing classical music to their wines and in the cellar 24/7, 365 days a year.
From more traditional, to modern, and everything in-between, Stellenbsoch has it all, and every single one of the farms seems to make it work. The Stellebosch Wine Route boasts more than 150 different routes, so even if you spend most of your life in the winelands, there’ll still be a winery left to try – so get tasting!
With Hermanus being named Africa’s first UNESCO City of Gastronomy, this is definitely a region for the refined palate.
In fact, the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley is regarded as one of the most exciting wine regions in South Africa, renowned for its world-class Pinot Noirs.
The nearby Botrivier and Stanford wine areas should also not be overlooked. The Overberg is more than just a weekend trip, it’s likely that a week won’t even be enough. You’ll just have to keep coming back – and each time you will be guaranteed to find a new reason to return.
Breede Valley & Worcester
Often a forgotten region that people just speed through on the N1 or their way to the more popular R62 through the Karoo, it’s easy to get stuck in this valley of plenty.
South Africa produces more Chenin Blanc than any other country – double that of France – and the Breede Valley takes pride in it.
The region used to sell most of its wine in bulk, but winemakers have banded together to form the Breedekloof Makers, where they are committed to making a special Chenin from selected vineyards in each vintage. Farmers in the region have been farming this variety for up to eight generations, so they know what they’re doing.
Further on, Robertson wine valley has a bit of everything. Enjoy the exquisite wines of Springfield and Graham Beck, or keep warm with the soetes or Muscadel the region is famous for.
The longest wine route in the world is also home to the port capital of South Africa – and some of the best Port-style wines in the world.
Stretching from Montagu in the west to Outeniqua in the East, the dry arid climate is well suited to Portuguese varietals such as Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barocca, perfect for port-style wines.
Just like you can’t call the drink Champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region of France, the same rule applies to Port, unless it comes from the Porto region of Portugal.
Still, winemakers in Calitzdorp have placed Cape Vintage in the same standard as Ports from Porto. Calitzdorp is probably the heart of the Klein Karoo wine region, which spans more than 200 km. De Krans and Boplaas winery regularly give each other a go in producing the best Cape Vintage.
Plett Wine Route
Small and unassuming at 58 hectares, the Plett wine region is South Africa’s smallest (of the 100 000 hectares planted throughout the rest of the country).
It is also the country’s youngest wine region, with its first vineyard, Bramon, founded in 2000. Known for its MCC’s, the annual wine and bubbly festival gives visitors the chance to try South Africa’s newest wineries.
Tulbagh Wine Route
A 90 minute drive from Cape Town, lies the splendid Tulbagh valley which has one of the highest concentrtion of wine farms in the country.
Most wineries are within a 10 km radius, which is why we once did a cycing wine tour through the valley, which you can read about here. and believe us when we say its wheelie good.
Too sloshed to cycle? think again.
After you’ve conquered the steep Sir Lowry’s Pass from Cape Town, you enter the world of really cool wines, literally. The high altitude and coastal climate of the Eglin-Grabouw valley prduces a slow ripening, and falvourful crop – perfect for the more gentle varieties of Pinot Noir and Chardonney.
If you put off by the pass, you shouldn’t be – Elgin is actually close to Cape Town than Franshoek, so there’s no excuse for writing this region off as “too far for a day trip”.