Ranging from 1700’s Cape Dutch buildings with thatched roofs, to ultra-modern millennium brick, cement and glass buildings, the Western Cape Winelands offer a diverse range of architecture, the one more show-stopping than the next. Even more so, most of these buildings are either set against the backdrop of the majestic Western Cape mountains, lush green vineyards, designer crafted gardens and/or a sapphire ocean.
Wine Farms’ architecture have come a long way since the early days of traditional thatched roofs and gables, with the modern trend being the inclusion of glass enhanced buildings that embrace the exquisite environment. Art and outdoor sculptures are added to enhance and compliment the entire wine farm experience.
Here are some of the must-see wine farm architecture in the Western Cape.
Groot Constantia, Constantia Wine Route
No visit to the winelands is complete without greeting the Great Dame where it all began in 1685 after the site was granted to Simon van der Stel from the Dutch East India Company. Cape Dutch architecture is indigenous to South Africa. Dutch colonists took the Dutch architectural fashions of ornate gables and high roofs and adapted it to the Cape climate. For example the thick white washed walls and small-paned shuttered windows are designed to keep out the summer heat. The thatched roofs, with their elegant gables, kept the houses cool in summer and warm in the Cape winters.
Initially the front gables were also considered to be a slight fire break in case the thatch caught fire but later they were used mainly as a decorative feature to display the family’s crest.
Bosjes, Breedekloof Wine Route
Surrounded by the Slanghoek and Waaihoek Mountain ranges lies the strikingly white curves of the glass-walled Chapel of Bosjes, designed by South African born Coetzee Steyn of London based Steyn Studio and appears to rest lightly on the body of water before it. From inside there are spectacular views of the valley, and one can appreciate the peace and quiet of the immediate environment.
Its serene sculptural form emulates the silhouette of surrounding mountain ranges, paying tribute to the historic Cape Dutch gables dotting the rural landscapes of the Western Cape. Constructed from a slim concrete cast shell, the roof supports itself as each undulation dramatically falls to meet the ground. Where each wave of the roof structure rises to a peak, expanses of glazing adjoined centrally by a crucifix adorn the façade.
Waterkloof, Stellenbosch Wine Route
In 2009, Waterkloof Cellar triumphed as the first South African architectural feat for Castle Rock Design, an Australian based company.
Encased in a contemporary glass and concrete sphere, the ‘Cellar in the Sky’ contains a barrel maturation cellar, a state-of-the-art gravitational cellar, a modern tasting room and a glass box fine-dining restaurant featuring the uninterrupted mountain, vineyard and ocean views of Waterkloof’s amphitheatre setting. There is the absolute minimum of applied finishes. The idea behind the design of the cellar was to express the natural materials, “warts and all”.
Vergelegen, Stellenbosch Wine Route
Vergelegen (meaning "situated far away") was founded on 1 February 1700 by Willem Adriaan van der Stel. He built a beautiful Cape Dutch homestead, added a corn mill and many other subsidiary buildings.
When AngloAmerican purchased the property in 1987, extensive investments were made in viticulture and in restoring the estate's historic core, with a view to sharing the estate with visitors worldwide. A detailed master plan was drawn up for the development of the farm and in 1992, an impressive, multi-leveled, sunken hilltop winery was built and opened by Baron Eric de Rothschild, owner of Château Lafite (Bordeaux) in France.
Lourensford, Stellenbosch Wine Route
Lourensford Estate was once part of neighbouring Vergelegen, which was established by Simon’s son, Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1709. After a rich history of almost three hundred years, Dr. Christo Wiese, a prominent SA Businessman and Financier, bought Lourensford in 1998 and set about restoring the property to its former glory. A brand new winery was completed in 2002, designed by a very well-known architect, Gilbert Colyn and built with three different levels. This is a unique cellar that works with gravitation, therefore no machine pumps are needed during the winemaking process.
Dornier Wine Estate, Stellenbosch Wine Route
A superb attraction at Dornier is the diverse architecture displayed: An 18th Century old barn, a Late Nineteenth Century Homestead and a Twenty First Century winery. What drew the founder Christoph Dornier to the area was the natural beauty and this particular farm charmed him with its heritage. He had a life-long passion for architecture and the landmark Dornier wine cellar is his legacy in this field. The winery is both a sculpture and a functional production facility. The shape and materials blend well into the surroundings. Closed on one side, the building is completely open with windows to the mountain side, allowing guests to enjoy the wonderful views on the Stellenbosch Mountain.
Spier Wine Farm, Stellenbosch Wine Route
Spier was established in 1692, one of the very first farms in Stellenbosch. Today it hosts a restored Manor House, an intriguing collection of Cape Dutch gables and the oldest dated wine cellar in the country. In 2011, Spier released 21 Gables Chenin Blanc and Pinotage, named after the 21 historical gables found on the farm. Worth seeing is The Dying Slave, a 42,6sqm outdoor mosaic sculpture conceived by Marco Cianfanelli and created by Spier Architectural Arts in 2012, to pay homage to the significant role played by slaves during the earlier centuries on the farm.
Saronsberg, Tulbagh Wine Route
Every cellar has certain outstanding features in its processing facilities that contribute to its success in getting the best possible results from their grapes. In the design of Saronsberg’s cellar, a variety of effective production facilities and available techniques were considered, utilising existing technology in an innovative way. The cellar is a modern building with a beautifully finished tasting room. Earthy textures were combined with contemporary touches in this spacious area from where visitors have views into both the hi-tech fermentation cellar and the maturation cellar whilst being surrounded by Saronsberg’s magnificent art collection.
Grand Provence, Franschhoek Wine Route
Steeped in history, the estate dates back to 1694, around the time of the first French Huguenots in Franschhoek. In contrast to the 18th century Manor House, the restaurant and wine tasting area of Grande Provence project a chic industrial presence. Picture perfect and a fine example of early Cape Dutch architecture with its carefully restored period gable and thatched roof, the Jonkershuis is the ideal location for exclusive private receptions and intimate weddings. The Gallery, one of the Cape’s most highly regarded galleries, is home to some of South Africa’s finest established and emerging artists. The gallery flows into the Sculpture Garden with its ever evolving collection of monumental works in a variety of media.
Delaire Graf Estate, Stellenbosch Wine Route
Delaire, meaning “from the sky”, nestles between majestic mountains and overlooking the vineyards of Stellenbosch, boasts two restaurants, a state-of-the-art winery, exclusive lodges, a destination spa and luxury boutiques.
Striking Cape Dutch architecture meets African artefacts and styling, with original artworks from Laurence Graff’s personal collection on display throughout, representing some of South Africa’s finest contemporary artists.
Cavalli Wine & Stud Farm, Stellenbosch Wine Route
Sustainability and protecting the environment were the key concepts for the owners in conceptualising the project, ensuring the identity of the site being the “Cape Floral Kingdom”, prevailed. The building itself, designed by Lauren Smith in collaboration with Bouwer architects is a passively designed building and the first Green Star rated restaurant and exhibition space in the country, achieving a 4-star rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa in 2016.
“Cavalli” itself is Italian for horses, and the steads are found in many forms all over the farm and inside its buildings: cast in bronze, sketched on paper or painted, while their flesh and bone counterparts trot about in camps dotted around the property.
The gallery is unique in its stunning use of lighting, simulating a skylit ceiling. A must visit for any art enthusiast.
Steenberg Vineyards, Constantia Wine Route
Architects Richard Perfect and Jan Desseyn transformed a poorly proportioned 1990’s version of a Cape Dutch barn into a masterpiece to ensure the ‘see through and reflect back’ concept is extended internally. With the necessary respect for the existing building at Steenberg, they re-interpreted the gable end elevations with glass curtain walls and a layer of aluminium sun screens to give visual access to the spectacular Constantia Mountains and surrounding landscape. Counter to the Cape Dutch glass gables looking outwards, are internal glass curtain walls giving visual access to the cellars inside and their massive stainless steel tanks.
Tokara, Stellenbosch Wine Route
Located close to the top of the Helderberg Pass, this modern wine estate offers beautiful views of False Bay, the surrounding mountain range and rolling vineyards along with enticing art installations along the estates sculpture trail, connecting the winery with the Delicatessen restaurant and shop. The style of the winery building is individualistic – an interplay of tradition and modernity expressed in form, texture and colour. A celebration of concrete, the building’s architectural character was shaped by the wine region and the natural landscape in which it is located. A unique Cape flavour is achieved by the use of timber, stone, glass and steel.
Babylonstoren, Franschhoek Wine Route
Though the estate is growing and bottling its own wines, Babylonstoren, originally established around the late 1600s, was restored and re-opened as an organic working farm a few years ago.
Some of the farm’s earliest structures still remain, with the Cape Dutch werf (farmyard) typical of the architectural style popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. A disused cow shed was transformed into the Babel restaurant. When new accommodation was added to create the Farm Hotel, the original architecture and its sympathetic relationship with the landscape and climate, were reflected. The signature look at Babylonstoren remains whitewashed walls of thick stone or primitive brick, with ornate gables and thatched roofs but with contemporary glass boxes (to house a kitchen and dining area) seamlessly added onto the Cape Dutch cottages.
Idiom Wines, Stellenbosch Wine Route
The Bottega’s vision was to achieve a dialogue between the modern and traditional, bringing together their family’s South African and Italian heritage at Idiom. It is a modern metaphor that salutes the outdoors with 360 degree views and the various natural aspects of the rolling vineyards and mountains blend into the space.
The self-supporting arches, made from local stone quarried on the farm, and the signature solid wooden posts and beams, which have been masterfully cut from selected alien Eucalyptus Cladycalyx (Bluegum) trees, preserve a harmony with nature and the immediate environment. The combination of grey concrete slabs and granite rocks, showcase the positive synergy arising from the technical precision of man and the warm hand of nature in the structure.
We love and were inspired by the wine farms featured in these two articles!
Visi Magazine, 14 Tasting Rooms in the Western Cape You Must Visit
Carrots and Tigers Lifestyle and Travel Blog, Ten Wineries you have to visit in the Western Cape Winelands, South Africa