A modern adage suggests that sometimes you just need a break, in a beautiful place, alone, to clear your head.
For those in pursuit of quiet, beautiful places, the Cape winelands provides a welcome respite from the bite of winter. Both geographically and historically, the Cape Winelands provide colour and candor.
Over the past three centuries, South Africa’s winelands have expanded from the rolling green hills of Constantia, all the way to the searing heat of the Klein Karoo.
The history has evolved from one of oppression and international stigma, to a story of hope and investment.
After many years of producing internationally recognized wine, the seven Brutus sisters (and their one brother) of the West Coast purchased a farm on Welmoed Road, off Annandale Road in Stellenbosch. The Seven Sisters is home to the Village Table Bistro, where Founding Director, Vivian Kleynhans and her team receive guests from all over the world. Seven Sisters is not the only women founded or black owned farm in the Cape.
Today, diversity is being embraced by the wine fraternity. Intrepid winemakers, young viticulturists, women owned farms, black-lead brands, previously disadvantaged and LGBTQI+ communities work alongside established brands to forge a celebrated identity for the South African wine industry.
Five Reasons to Visit the Winelands in Winter
One of the best places to enjoy a glass of wine is in front of a roaring fire. Fire is a great way to keep the winter cold at bay and to pretend you are a character from a Jane Austen novel, contemplating your romantic future over a glass of South African wine.
For Romance: Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate, Franschhoek
The Restaurant at Grande Provence is sumptuously decorated. Grand, white, high wing-backed chairs in the center, and sumptuous grey provide intimacy around private tables. Celebrated for fresh, seasonal menus, The Restaurant leads off to the sculpture garden, the vineyards, tasting room, art gallery and The Owner’s Cottage. A log fire during lunch and dinner provides welcome comfort from the Cape cold during winter.
For Families: Rhebokskloof Wine Estate, Paarl
Diners at the restaurant at Rhebokskloof will be delighted to know that the fireplace is roaring and inviting. Visitors with children will be even more delighted by the horse riding and quad biking that will be sure to raise the family’s appetite – perfect for a restaurant visit.
For Friends: Eight Restaurant at Spier Wine, Stellenbosch
Celebrated for farm-to-table dining, Eight is the perfect end to a day spent with friends. With pastel-coloured accommodation, internationally awarded wine available in the market, fun segways , a nature walk through the estate and even popular conference facilities, Spier provides a home for both work and pleasure. Spier is conveniently located at Baden Powell Drive and is located within thirty minutes from Cape Town International Airport, which makes it a dream for out-of-town visitors.
2. New Releases
During winter, dormancy sets in in the vineyards and the shadow of a busy harvest season has passed. This provides a wonderful opportunity to visit wine farms, meet the winemakers and taste their new releases.
For Romance: La Motte Wine Estate, Franschhoek
With a tasting room that overlooks a barrel cellar, a dreamy bridge and Chef Eric Bulpitt at the helm of Pierneef, La Motte provides the perfect perfect excuse to head out with your loved one and taste their latest wines.
For Friends: Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch
There are few places in the world that are as breath-taking as Tokara. The rolling vineyards are even more vivid against the winter sky. With beautiful art, wine, olive oil and brandy, visitors to Tokara are spoiled for choice.
For Something Different: Savage Wines, Salt River
With a surfing winemaker at the helm and the freedom and courage to find some of the best grapes in the Cape, the wines made by Duncan Savage are an experience wherever you encounter them. Encountering the wines in an urban wine cellar surpasses all other pleasures.
A night spent at a Cape wine estate is made more pleasurable by waking up to vineyard views.
For Romance: Steenberg Hotel and Spa, Constantia
Spoil yourself and your loved one with the ultimate in luxury, just a stone’s throw from Cape Town. With privacy and security at the heart of the luxurious experience at Steenberg, there could be no better place to rest your head. Renowned for Method Cap Classiques as well as still wines, the wine at Steenberg accompanies cleverly executed meals by Chef Kerry at Catharina’s at Steenberg as well as Bistro 1682 restaurant. The spa experience begins under warm, fuzzy blankets in the fire-lit welcome area at the spa. Sumptuous rooms provide respite from hectic city nights.
For Families: Dunstone Country Estate, Wellington
Dunstone is unpretentious and upmarket at the same time. The Manor House is a self-catering house that can amply accommodate the entire family, while smaller guest rooms, cottages and a honeymoon suite also provide memorable accommodation. The Stone Kitchen bistro is a vineyard-walk away, while all families can appreciate the freedom of self-catering accommodation. Large, clawfoot tubs and big, enveloping beds are always popular.
For Friends: Mont Rochelle, Franschhoek
For those who have always dreamed of playing at Richard Branson’s tennis court, or enjoying breakfast while overlooking the Franschhoek Wine Valley, Mont Rochelle is a young professional’s dream playground. Centrally located, with the best of the valley, and some of the country’s best restaurants, at arm’s reach, Mont Rochelle is a must visit.
4. Dream Dining
Eat Out, South Africa’s pre-eminent restaurant guide, predominantly selected Winelands restaurants in its list of South Africa’s best restaurants for 2018. With winter menus to set the stage, alongside carefully selected wine, some of South Africa’s best restaurants shine. Even restaurants that are not critically lauded continue to draw visitors in their winelands settings.
For Romance: The Restaurant at Waterkloof, Somerset West
The Restaurant at Waterkloof was awarded Eat Out’s coveted top spot for the first time in 2018. The architectural marvel, a glass box in the sky, provides panoramic views over both the sea and the sky. Chef Gregory Czarnecki has created a degustation menu that is perfect to celebrate a special occasion (hint: anniversary), while being a celebration in-and-of-itself.
For Families: Moody Lagoon at Benguela Cove, Hermanus
I like the idea of children playing with large chess sets, or pretending to be pirates while on a treasure hunt. I like the idea of sitting in plush, velvet chairs with a fynbos garden and vineyard views and a warm fireplace. If you are like me, and you like the idea of families who play together, before enjoying a generous and delicious meal with cleverly-made wine, then you will love Benguela Cove.
For Friends: Cavalli Estate, Stellenbosch
Cavalli is a celebration of beauty. With an equestrian atmosphere, everything about Cavalli is regal and chic. Cavalli shows off its regality on the menu, created by Chef Michael Deg. With a seasonal menu, that pairs perfectly with wine selected by Sommelier, Farai Magwada, you are tempted to keep coming back to Cavalli. It isn’t just the views of the water against the mountainous backdrop or the sunken seating on the terrace, it’s the clean lines and the artful plates that stay with you long after you’ve left the winelands.
5. Wine (obviously)
According to Roland Peens, Director of Wine Cellar, about 1% of South Africa’s vineyards are ripped out annually. This means, that within a year, 10% of our vineyards will have made way for fruit farms, sand mines and other industries. With a tighter focus on quality and an increase in international recognition, South Africa’s winelands have become more focused and our wine regions have become even more vital.
For History: Groot and Klein Constantia, Constantia
In 1652, the Dutch East India Company established a refreshment station at the tip of Africa to ships which were en-route to India and surrounding districts. In 1655, the governor of the Cape planted the first recorded vineyard in South Africa. According to Wines of South Africa (WOSA), the first wine from Cape grapes was made on 2 February 1659.
Various Dutch farmers planted grapes at a more significant scale at Roschheuval, where Bishopscourt and Wynberg are located today. Subsequently, wine was successfully made at Constantia.
Although the Dutch farmers were inexperienced and hesitant viticulturists, the success of the Constantia endeavor proved to be highly successful. In 1685, the Cloete family established a wine farm at what is known as Groot Constantia. The Grand Constance produced at Groot Constantia was revered by Napoleon who ordered thirty bottles a month while exiled at St Helena island. However, production ceased after the phylloxera virus plagued Cape wine farms towards the end of the 19th century.
A revered modern version of the Grand Constance is Klein Constantia Vin de Constance. Vin de Constance was reintroduced in 1986. Vin de Constance was the first South African wine to be awarded a spot of Wine Spectator’s prestigious Top 10 List in 2015. The 1986 vintage of the wine was set at a reserve price of R30 000 - R40 000 at the inaugural Wine Cellar Fine Wine Auction at Strauss & Co. in 2019.
The director of Wine Cellar, Roland Peens, asserts that Fine Wine is influenced by six factors. Namely, brand equity, ratings from respected critics, price, rarity, vintage and provenance.
With the label boldly declaring Vin de Constance as ‘grown, made and bottled on Klein Constantia’, its reputation has helped to form part of the history that Cape Wine has become renowned for.
Without clouding over colonial history, or dismissing current anxiety about the winelands as trite, it is important to understand the significance of how Cape Wine has been perceived for over three centuries.
In Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens writes of: “the support embodied in a glass of Constantia and a home-made biscuit.” Where Jane Austen recommended Constantia to her heroine, Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. Austen Constaintia for “its healing powers on a disappointed heart.”
For Innovation: Head in the Direction of Hermanus
While many tend to believe that you cannot reinvent the wheel, South Africa’s wine industry has found several ways to disprove the theory. When Peter Finlayson first planted Pinot Noir in Hermanus, many seemed skeptical. In Bot River, along the way to Hermanus, Luddite Wines, Gabriëlskloof, Genevieve, Beaumont and the wineries around them continue to break boundaries in innovative ways. In Elgin, not far from Hermanus, a studied focus on cool-climate Chardonnay and Shiraz has revived interest in clonal selection. The winelands are abound with cool and quirky escapes for wine nerds.
For World-class Wine: Seek out Stellenbosch and the Swartland
When Meerlust first crossed The Rubicon, it found its way into wine-lovers' hearts with ease. Today, steakhouse wine lists around the country celebrate Rubicon from Stellenbosch. Wine Cellar dubbed the 2015 vintage ‘the best Rubicon vintage ever’ and reserved the price for a case of the 2007 vintage of Rubicon between R3 500 - R5 500. Wine Cellar reserved a case of Hartenberg Gravel Hill Shiraz at between R6 000 - R8 000 at the 2019 Wine Cellar Strauss and Co Fine Wine Auction.This suggests that it might be worth investing in Stellenbosch wine.
The auction curators sang high praises for Eben Sadie, while reserving a mixed case of Sadie Family Wines Ouwingerdreeks wine with a Kentridge label at between R22 000 - R32 000 for a case of six. In tandem, the auction reserve price for Mullineux Granite Syrah 2010 was R8 000 - R10 000. This suggests that there might be something special about Stellenbosch, The Swartland and South Africa.