Wine tourism..It’s growing fast.. and it’s a fabulous way of exploring a region, getting to know the people, the culture, the history, and of course savor its wines..
Now, you might be the romantic couple wishing to stumble upon that hidden artisan that ‘nobody in the world but you’ has discovered, or a family with small ones to worry about and keep occupied whilst you indulge yourself, or, maybe you’re a group of friends who wish to see a couple of producers, and then park off at one of them in order to while the day away over many glasses, giggle, or put the world to rights… There’s also the serious wine guy – you know, the collector, the avid follower, the geek, or industry bod who finds himself on holiday but doesn’t necessarily want to expose his or her cover and talk work all over again..
So where do you start when you arrive in Cape Town – that beautiful mother city with its fancy beach bars, littered full of some of the world’s finest restaurants, many attractions, that leave you so content and fool you into thinking you might actually stay put, and not even bother doing a tour of the interior wine country.. Woh’ – now that would be just plain wrong……….
Why?..If you think Cape Town is beautiful, just earmark yourself a day or two in the Cape winelands and you’ll find yourself not only astonished by the natural beauty and abundance of attractions to uncover, but you really will start to de-stress, relax, sit back, remember what nature was about in your childhood, the importance of it, and why you need to re-acquaint yourself, quickly, before urban life turns you into a commuting tech demon for good.
How & where..OK – so you’ve convinced me.. where do I go from here? Well if I were you, I would get myself a personal private wine tour guide, if nothing else, for the sheer opportunity of being able to quaff the stuff without worrying about points on your licence, or worse still, ending up in an accident. Now of course like anything, there are guides, and then there are guides.. if budget’s an issue, then hop on a wine tour mini-bus that leaves the Cape Town Waterfront and contact The Wine Desk for rates.
If you don’t like the idea of squeezing next to someone who’s happy to give you their life story, then up the ante a bit and spend on a private guide who will transport you in their own vehicle.. this might a local registered professional guide who can give you a great overview of the whole region and its history, plus some Cape wine facts, or, you may prefer to go further still and select a guide that is more ensconced or experienced within the industry – someone who has actually worked in wine, a winery, or writes as a journalist on wine, or even a qualified w/maker, or for that matter, a producer themselves?.. By traveling with this type of individual, you will hopefully not only walk away having seen some fabulous farms, estates and producers, but also gained from the shared knowledge imparted along the way which will inspire you to uncover and forage more about wine, food, geography, topography, gastronomy, history, geology (yes – that’s what I said!) and how all these components make a ‘sum’, that is very relevant and wholesome to anyone’s existence on this planet (whether they drink wine, or not). Some great experienced guides include Jonathan Snashall, Pam Mc Onie, Lesley Cox, or myself, to mention a few..
Which producers?..What if you’re actually quite happy driving yourself, or your wife’s offered as she’s pregnant, or your mother-in-law is happy to step in at the wheel, or you have a non-drinker friend..? Well, based on my experience, and whilst having a copy of the Platters Wine Guide at hand (the bible to SA wines), following a rule of criteria gauging magical locations, beautiful gardens and landscapes,, breath-taking architecture, added in house offerings (galleries, museums etc.), warm welcomes, and of course, the finest of wines, they are as follows:
Top 10 historic producers:Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Vergelegen, *Morgenster, Meerlust, Rust en Vrede, Rustenberg, Anthonij Rupert, La Motte, Boekenhoutskloof
Top 10 contemporary producers:Waterkloof, Delaire Graff, *Tokara, *Hidden Valley, Ernie Els, Waterford, Jordan, Glen Carlou, Glenelly, Stark-Conde
Top 10 boutique or artisan producers (some only open by appointment or certain days):De Trafford (Fri/Sat am), Uva Mira, Haskell Vineyards, Cape Chamonix, Le Riche, Camberley, Graceland, Eagles Nest, Raats family Wines, Dalla Cia
Top 10 wine estate restaurant luxury experiences:Delaire Graff, Tokara, Camphors at Vergelegen, Waterkloof, Terroir at Kleine Zalze, Rust en Vrede Rest., Overture at Hidden Valley, Buitenverwachting, Bistro 1682 and Catherina’s at Steenberg, Jardine at Jordan
Top 6 wine & al fresco lunch destinations:*Moreson Bread & Wine Rest., Somerbosch, The Stables at Vergelegen, Winemakers lunch at Rust en Vrede, Post Card Cafe at Stark Conde, Ernie Els
Top 6 wine & picnic destinations:Boschendal, Hartenberg, Warwick, Groote Post, *Allee Bleue, Vergelegen
Top 6 children friendly wine tasting destinations:Fairview, Spier, Vergelegen, Blauwklippen, Boschendal, Groot Constantia
Top 3 wine and food pairing tastings:Waterford (with chocolate), *Fairview (with cheese), Creation (with everything)
*Olive oil tastings also available
Of the over 650 producers now in the Cape, the above lists are a helpful guide and ones that are within easy reach for guests staying in Cape Town, Stellenbosch or Franschhoek. For those staying further afield (e.g. Hermanus, Robertson, Wellington etc.) then that’s another story, for another time.