The R62 through the Klein Karoo is fast becoming one of the most popular routes in South Africa, with many travellers choosing to scenic ride through this parched environment over crawling at a snail’s pace behind a truck on the N2.
This route is known for many things; an arbitrary “sex shop” that doesn’t even sell condoms but remains a popular biker’s stop, a place in Barrydale to get a milkshake, sweet wines and pot still brandy.
The R62 is also touted as the longest wine route in the world – but comprises only 2.3% of South Africa’s vineyards – and believe me when I say, it does not only do brandies and sweet wines.
Yes, you will find your sweet salacious surrender, but only after you’ve indulged in the carefully crafted wines. And once you are done with all of that, you can sample some of the region’s world-renowned fortified wines.
So for now, the Garden Route can wait. Pull over and try some of what the Klein Karoo has to offer. Actually, why don’t you just stay a night, or a few?
“Taste the Karoo” adorns a wall as you enter and Meyer Joubert – owner, farmer and winemaker packed into one – rocks up on his scrambler motorbike. Before settling into the wine tasting, he takes me up one of the koppies where young chardonnay vines have been planted, but much of the area remains untamed with ancient Botterboom and Gwarriebos left in peace.
Meyer says that the surrounding mountains give way to little “pockets of excellence”, where microclimates exist that not only provide water to this rather parched ecosystem but also cooler evenings that let Meyer grow more delicate varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.
Only the Klein Karoo knows how to encapsulate hospitality, and Joubert Tradauw is a testament to this. His wife Beate – author of Taste the Klein Karoo which won the Gourmet Book Awards in China for the best local cuisine – runs the deli and showcases the region’s potential as a gastronomical hub. It’s just that the rest of the world is yet to realise it.
People who pass through Ladismith usually stop for one of two things; petrol or cheese. But with the way things are going, wine and spirits might become cheaper than filling up your car – so why not settle here?
With the local Karoo Vine wine stop in town, you can savour some of the wines – but also the delightful brandies. Further afield, off the R323, lies Mymering Wine and Guest Estate in a valley that is one of Klein Karoo’s best-kept secrets.
Predominantly a table grape farm, Mymering is the venture of the lovely couple, Andy and Penny Hillock, and is home to a few blocks of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Shiraz and Ruby Cabernet.
They only bottled their first wine in 2011, and some might say this winery is a newcomer to look out for. I’d say it’s time to stop looking and pay them a visit, you won’t be disappointed.
And while you are there, you might as well stay the night at their Guest Estate.
Along with Boplaas, you could call De Krans one of the Godfathers in Calitzdorp – both descendants of Danie Nel who bought the Buffelsvlei farm in the mid-19th century and which would later be divided in two and give rise to De Krans and Boplaas.
De Krans is home to 20 superb wines, so take your time here. Did we mention that you should stay a few nights instead of just driving through?
Although De Krans is renowned for producing award-winning port-style wines, they’ve really managed to carry this standard over to their Portuguese cultivar red and white wines.
Take their Tritonia Verdelho, a Portuguese white grape and a rare find as a single cultivar to their Tritonia Red a blend of Portuguese varietals – simply the kind of wines that you won’t find elsewhere in the country.
As for their fortified wines, does this really need any introduction? They are often acknowledged for their innovation; in 2007 they made their first pink port and their De Krans Espresso, a fortified wine made with heavily toasted barrels. has been well received. So has their P&T – port style and tonic – a Cape white port style wine made from 56-year-old Malvasia Rei vines sold in a ready-to-drink port-style cocktail.
Pay De Krans a visit, you never know what they’ll be concocting next.
This family-run farm that a tradition of distilling that goes far back to 1890 when barrels of pot still brandy left Calitzdorp by ox wagon, bound for London. After the repealing of distilling licences in 1920, the brandy tradition took a hiatus until the old copper pot still was fired up again in 1989 when it was lifted.
Cape Wine Master, and direct descendent of Danie, Carel Nel bottled a five-year pot still brandy – which would be ordered by Nelson Mandela himself at his presidential banquet in 1994.
Carel may be a winemaking legend, but his family on following closely behind with his daughter, Margaux, taking the helm as winemaker and his son, Danie, the distiller.
A must-try is their 2005 Colhieta, a rare single harvest Cape Tawny (Tawnys tend to be non-vintages) of which only 3 000 bottles exist, on top of their selection of Cape Vintages.
A blend of Portuguese varietals aged for, it is great for drinking wine but those who keep it on the wine rack could be awarded for their patience a few years down the line.
Be sure to pull in at Boplaas when taking the R62.
A small five-hectare boutique winery, DuSwa’Roo is the smallest wine farm on the Klein Karoo Wine Route where French bulldogs greet you upon arrival.
Kallie Calitz and his wife, Pat, run the boutique farm, which has a range of wines from your classic Chenins, Shiraz and port but also dabbles in interesting wine, such as a Cape pink port and even a dry Hanepoot.
Kallie told me that dry Hanepoot was once widely found in South Africa, but it has since gone out of fashion among wineries, but not customers. The wine is regularly sold out within a few months – so hurry there.
Kallie may be a talented self-taught winemaker, but Pat when it comes to the olives, marmalades and my favourite, the atchars. You can savour the wines, but also enjoy a tasting of scrumptious deli snacks.
Visit Du’Swaroo here.
Another boutique winery, Axe Hill is owned and run by Mike Neebe, who purchased the farm in 2006, and has over the years moved his life from Johannesburg to Calitzdorp.
All their wines are made traditionally; barrel fermented with natural yeast. The wines get bottled by hand once Mike decides it’s time for them to come out of the barrel.
With this being Calitzdorp, they naturally produce a Cape Vintage but Mike is pushing the envelope of what kind of wine is produced from the region, crafting a beautiful Tant Leni Viognier which was awarded a medal at the Viogner Challenge 2022.
He is also dabbling in an experimental range called Gatos, named after the five cats that peruse the farm premises and eyeball you from a distance. Mike made an unusual blend of Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Palomino – a Spanish white wine grape hardly found in South Africa.
Mike is a very hands-on owner on the farm who will likely give you the tasting himself. But because of his hands-on approach, he’ll likely be at the dam pumping water, or wherever else he is needed on the farm. So, be sure to give him a call to arrange a tasting and he’ll come scurrying down (and if you are lucky, give you a barrel tasting too!).
If you heading to Calitzdorp soon, be sure to give Mike a call or visit their website here.
Instead of turning back into town from Axe Hill, continue along the gravel road – taking the Groenfontein Valley Circle Route. Continuing down this gravel road, you enter into a rather lush valley, uncharacteristic of the Karoo, but then ultimately characteristic with all the Spekboom cascading over the cliffs.
You will soon see the sign taking you to Peter Baylay, where Peter and Yvonne will host you for a personal tasting. Both of them worked in the hotel industry but slowly moved to their farm in the Groenfontein Valley.
You can see why they put up with a kitchen without a roof for some time as they fixed up the building on the farm and planted the vines – fulfilling a lifelong dream of crafting wines.
The farm is only a mere 1.2 hectares – exclusively Portuguese varieties – but they squeezed a lot onto it. They Bottle Chenin Blanc – both as a crisp white and as a Cape White port-style wine.
The farm may seem out of the way, but the drive itself is already worthwhile. After I had a few sips of the Cape white, Peter poured some tonic water into it – crossing a line that many oenophiles (the pretentious ones at least) would never venture. It was delicious and it was once again a testament that the Klein Karoo pushes boundaries; they don’t play by the book, they rewrite it.
Taking the R62 is seen as a scenic ride, but why not a destination in itself? We would say so. The Klein Karoo wine region starts at Montagu to De Rust, spilling over to a few vineyards on the other side of the Outeniqua Mountains at Herold Wines.
Stay the night
Mymering Wine & Guest House
Just outside of Ladismith, Mymering is situated in a breathtaking valley and the perfect pitstop to recuperate while on your Klein Karoo wine tour.
Each chalet has a small splash pool, and in the summer months, an outdoor spa is open. To view their offerings, visit their website here.
Situated on a smallholding is a quaint guesthouse on the edge of town. The centre of Calitzdorp is just a stone’s throw away to explore, but Welgevonden still provides the feel of being far out in the Klein Karoo.
Visit Welgevonden Guest House here.