A Winelands trip is a South African favourite, and it’s not hard to see why. Who wouldn’t love good wine, good food, and spectacular views? While Stellenbosch and Franschhoek have cemented their places as top wine destinations for both local and international visitors, other Winelands areas are beginning to gain a reputation as alternative travel spots for those who prefer their wine to be sipped without the crowds. For South African wine destinations that are a little off the beaten track, why not try one of these on your next trip?
Tulbagh is famously beautiful, but somehow hasn’t garnered the same level of interest as the other Cape wine regions. It’s hard to understand why, especially when you arrive in the town of Tulbagh where Cape Dutch houses line the streets and everywhere you look you’re surrounded by purple-tinged mountains. Wine lovers will be in their element here, and the first stop should be Montpellier Wine Estate. You’ll drive a long, winding dirt road to the tasting area, which is set in the grounds of the beautiful old Manor house. Sip on your wines slowly as you enjoy the surroundings, and particularly savour their MCCs, which have won multiple awards over the years.
After that, a trip to Saronsberg is in order. Here, the modern cellar and tasting room is fused with an art gallery. Sculptures adorn the manicured lawns and patios, and the art gallery itself is home to contemporary South African art. The gallery alone is worth a visit, and makes it one of the top activities in Tulbagh, but the wines and surroundings are outstanding too. After that, pay a visit to Krone for their famous MCC on the rooftop, or go for a cycle, walk, or horseride through the valley. You’ll also never be short of good food in this part of the world, so it really is a picture perfect holiday for the foodies out there.
The Natal Midlands aren’t exactly an undiscovered wine region, but it certainly doesn’t attract the numbers that Franschhoek and Stellenbosch do. Midlands Meander though, is far from second best when it comes to wine travel. The area is gorgeous, green, and full of country charm. From farm houses and roaring fires to red wine and organic markets, there’s plenty to explore while you wind your way in and out of wineries.
Highgate Wine Estate, on the popular Piggy Wiggly grounds, began as a small vegetable farm two decades ago. Nowadays, they produce around eight different wines from their family-run vineyards. Enjoy a tasting with the knowledgeable staff in a beautiful setting, and pay particular attention to their reds – the Cabernet Sauvignon is the flagship wine. After you’re done, indulge in some coffee or browse the boutiques at Piggly Wiggly.
Not far down the road is Abingdon Wines, which was the first to produce a certified estate wine from KZN grapes. White wines are the hero here, and father and daughter team Ian and Laurie make an incredible Sauvignon and Chardonnay which you’ll enjoy sipping on a hot day.
Only 80 kilometres outside Cape Town, Riebeek Kasteel is reminiscent of Franschhoek two decades ago. While there aren’t as many wine producers and vineyards as you’ll find at its famous Cape Winelands cousins, Riebeek Kasteel offers a certain charm. There’s a small and quirky town centre with a surprising amount of great restaurants, boutiques, and bars. It’s flanked on either side by mountains and expansive vineyards.
Allesverloren is definitely the most recognisable of the handful of wine estates found in Riebeek Kasteel, and their Cape Ruby is highly awarded and loved by South Africans countrywide. While they’ve specialised in red wines until recently, they do now dabble in white too. After you’re done at the tasting room, pop over for lunch at the restaurant.
Another fabulous Riebeek Kasteel wine experience can be found at Kloovenburg. You could be forgiven for thinking you were in Stellenbosch here, with the Cape Dutch buildings and shady paved courtyard. This family-run vineyard produces only 6000 litres of wine per year. It offers free wine and olive tastings, and sells their excellent wine and olive products (think olive oils, soaps, table olives and much more) straight from the premises.
Riebeek Kasteel (Kloovenburg)
The Northern Cape produces a whopping 12% of all wine produced in South Africa. The hot and dry climate makes for different types of wine to the Cape, and also makes for a totally different holiday. Here, you’ll drive long, meandering distances between wine farms while the Orange River cuts its way through the landscape, giving bursts of green to an otherwise arid landscape.
Wine enthusiasts can do a tasting at the well-known Orange River Cellars which is by far the region’s biggest and most famous wine producer. They have a modern tasting room and offer a huge variety of wines. Alternatively, head to some much smaller boutique producers which lie along the Kokerboom Food and Wine Route. Bezalel offers both wine and brandy tastings in a fort-style setting amongst lush lawns and trees. Here you’ll find a sweet port-style wine, sauvignon blanc, and a variety of reds. Die Mas is another small producer focusing on wine and brandy, and who have recently branched out into gin too.
Northern Cape (Die Mas)
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