AMERICAN EXPRESS VOTED
ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING WINE TOURS
The Cape Winelands is a scenically enchanting region of dramatic mountains and
fertile valleys, planted with vines stretching across rolling fields. Here
farmers enjoy perfect conditions and produce of the best wines in the world. The
soil is so rich, they use about a tenth the amount of fertilizer that European
It is a wonderful combination of small historic towns, beautiful
scenery and wine estates producing delicious wines and brandies. There are
literally hundreds of wine estates, all offering the chance to sample their
unique blends in a picture-perfect setting.
Stellenbosch is the capital of the Winelands and was the second town to be
established by the Dutch settlers. It is very attractive and full of old
thatched and whitewashed Cape Dutch buildings and historic national monuments.
The wine estates too, are most impressive with grand manor houses and
beautifully laid out grounds. Allow yourself enough time to fully explore this
area and let a guide take you around to fill you in on its fascinating history
and show you the best spots.
Take a look at the map locations, especially
Franschhoek, Wellington and
With idyllic wine estates, rural scenes and peaceful countryside, this region is
a favorite of local and foreign holidaymakers looking for peace, quiet and
quality fare. An hour's drive north-east of Cape Town is some of the most
sublime countryside to be found anywhere in the world - a land of high mountains
and green valleys, of vineyards and scented orchards, heavy with a mellow
fruitfulness. Historic towns and villages and gracious homesteads, which
represent the very best in Cape Dutch architecture, are also to be found in this
region known as the Cape Winelands - an area that produces wines as notable as
its scenic beauty.
These were the first rural areas to be taken over by the early white colonists
of South Africa who turned the land over to pasture, the growing of wheat and
increasingly, the cultivation of wine grapes. As the farms prospered, the colony
expanded and a number of small towns were founded: Stellenbosch in 1679,
Franschhoek 11 years later, followed by Paarl, Wellington and Tulbagh, all worth
visiting for their history, beauty and award-winning wine estates.
South Africa's second oldest town, Stellenbosch, lies in the Eerste River Valley
beneath the Papegaaiberg. The town is built on history, evident in its
architecture, much of which can be seen along the oak-lined Dorp Street and in
the Village Museum complex.
Stellenbosch University is a leading centre of learning and the town is also the
starting point of a major wine route that includes more than 20 wine estates
within a 12km radius. During the summer, the Oude Libertas Amphitheatre provides
a stunning setting for open-air music, opera and drama preceded by a picnic on
the estate's lawns. Other points of interest include Oom Samie se Winkel, a
charming general dealer from a bygone era, the Van Ryn Brandy Cellar and the
cellars of the Bergkelder, which have been carved out of the hillside.
Moyo at Spier is an unforgettable outdoor dining experience that captures the
essence of Cape African culture. A fusion of sophisticated modern décor and
distinctly African dishes create an inspiring culinary affair. Relax and enjoy
the spectacular vistas while you're treated to a colourful brand of Cape African
hospitality and an extensive buffet as rich and exciting as the many diverse
cultures we draw from. The tree-lined garden is filled with Bedouin tents and
gazebos and the tree houses are clad with beautiful hand-crafted copper water
Live performers will entertain you with indigenous theatre, dance, opera and
traditional storytelling from noon until late. Young visitors (under 12) are
treated to exciting programmes on ecology, drumming workshops, African
storytelling and so much more. The estate can be reached on the Spier Vintage
From Stellenbosch, drive via the scenically splendid Helshoogte Pass to the
small town of Franschhoek, founded in 1688 on land granted to the French
Huguenot refugees who had escaped religious persecution in Europe. Franschhoek
is best known for its first-class restaurants - some of which feature sweeping
views over the valley below.
Founded in 1720, Paarl is the largest of all the Winelands towns and was named
after the granite rock that resembles a giant pearl on the overlooking mountain.
The mountain and surrounding area have been proclaimed a nature reserve and the
circular route to the top offers the visitor panoramic views of the valley
below. Heading back down towards the town, the Afrikaans Language Monument or
Taalmonument, makes for an interesting stop.
Other features include the KWV complex - one of the world's largest wine
companies and the wine estates Fairview, which makes a variety of cheeses
on-site and Nederburg, South Africa's best-known wine estate and host of the
annual Nederburg Wine Auction, a highlight on the South African social calendar.
Over and above the award-winning wine estates, restaurants and scenic beauty
throughout the Cape Winelands, there are vineyard
hiking trails, fly-fishing and fine golf courses too. Helicopter flips,
aerobatic flights and tandem paragliding can also be arranged.
South Africa currently has 100 200 hectares
under vines for wine production.
South Africa produces 8,1%
of the world's wine and ranks as number nine in overall volume production.
SOUTH AFRICAN WINE TODAY - A NEW VISION
At the southern tip of Africa, where two mighty oceans meet in the shadow of
landmark Table Mountain, lies the fairest Cape in the world. Known locally as
the Mother City, Cape Town is the gateway to the South African winelands and one
of the great wine capitals of the world. Here the cultures of Africa, Europe and
the East have met and mingled for over 350 years, shaping a city both ancient
and modern, rich in colorful history and culturally diverse.
The Cape has witnessed many momentous events in South Africa's history: the
landing of the Dutch settlers in 1652, the British invasion during the
Napoleonic Wars, and the rebellion into the interior known as the Groot Trek.
This was where, in 1990, Nelson Mandela took his first historic walk to freedom.
And it was here, four years later, that Archbishop Tutu described the new South
African nation as 'the rainbow people of God', and the 'rainbow nation' was
Today South Africa is a peaceful democracy, a vibrant and exciting country of
enormous diversity. This variety is reflected in our wines. With a winemaking
history dating back more than 300 years, the industry reflects the classicism of
the Old World but is also influenced by the contemporary fruit-driven styles of
the New World. This rare combination makes for wines which are complex yet
accessible, refined yet powerful, eloquently expressing the unique terroir and
people of the Cape.
In the last few years, a dynamic new vision has given momentum to changes within
an industry which is innovation driven, market directed, globally competitive
and highly profitable. This new ethos has seen the local wine industry emerge as
a global enterprise with strong cultural roots and a sense of social
responsibility. It has truly come of age. With the advent of democracy, the
opening of new markets and exposure to international trends, South Africa can
now compete with confidence on the world wine stage. A passionate new generation
of winemakers, many with experience of harvests around the globe, are keen to
learn, experiment and consolidate. There's also been a focused shift from grape
farming to wine growing.
With new wineries opening up at a steady rate and South African wines attracting
increasing acclaim internationally, the growing visibility in key markets
abroad, the recognition by foreign trade and consumers of the value South
African wines offer across price ranges, and the rise in South African wine
tourism have all contributed to aggressive growth. Positive international media
coverage has also played a key role. South Africa has the advantage of being
able to supply foreign markets with regionally diverse wine styles which
highlight the Cape's biodiversity."
The Cape wine-growing areas, situated in the narrow viticultural zone of the
southern hemisphere, mainly have a Mediterranean climate and the mountain slopes
and valleys form the ideal habitat for the wine grape Vitis vinifera, the
products of which have given pleasure to man for many centuries. Long,
sun-drenched summers and mild, wet winters contribute to the ideal conditions
for viticulture at the Cape.
Currently, more than 4 435 farmers cultivate some 110 200 hectares of land under
vines. Some 257 000 people are employed both directly and indirectly in the wine
industry. The annual harvest in 2006 amounted to 1 333 989 tons (998 million
litrers), of which 75% was used for drinking wine.
wineries, which under the original legislation could make wine only from grapes
grown on their own land. In 2004, a new dispensation did away with traditional
'estate' and focuses instead on 'estate wine' which must be produced in
contiguous vineyards farmed as single units. These units must also be equipped
with facilities to enable all processes up to final certification. All
previously registered estates have now automatically been registered as Units
for the Production of Estate Wine. For the first time, they can use their names
to brand their total wine production (i.e. estate as well as non-estate) but only
certified estate wine may be labeled and marketed as such.
which on a communal basis process the grapes of their farmer member shareholders
into wine - these co-operatives alone have invested vast amounts in production
equipment and they press about 80% of South Africa's total wine harvest.
Independent cellars and a number of wholesalers who buy in both grapes and wine,
and make wine for bottling under their brand names, as well as making wine from
grapes grown on their own wine farms.
WINE AND MORE WINE