Eat + Drink

These South African Wine Routes Offer So Much More Than Tastings

The dramatic blue skies and indigo mountains of the Franschhoek and Stellenbosch wine lands are reason enough for every visitor to Cape Town to make the day trip — in case you’re worried that the wine itself isn’t. But this new-world winemaking region offers so much more than wine tasting.

Whether you’re a wine drinker who enjoys adventure, an adventurer who enjoys wine, or something in between, you’re sure to be wowed by the range of exciting activities that make a trip to these wine lands so memorable.

wine tasting cape town
(Photo: Courtesy of Villiera Wines)

Wine with Your Wildlife

What could be more uniquely South African than a wildlife safari drive through a wine farm topped off with a glass of estate-made sparkling wine? Villiera‘s commitment to environmental conservation has given visitors 500 acres of nature to explore, where hundreds of thousands of newly planted indigenous trees and 12 dams attract an abundance of birdlife.

wine tasting cape town
(Photo: Courtesy of Villiera Wines)

Even if the wine estate’s world-class bubbly (produced in the classic bottle-fermented Cap Classique method) doesn’t excite you, visiting — and even petting — giraffes, zebras, wildebeest and springbok at the wildlife sanctuary will probably become the highlight of your visit to the Cape.

Horseback Wining and Dining

Work up a thirst on a horseback ride through some of the most picturesque vineyards in the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek wine regions. Beginners and experienced riders alike can follow spectacular nature trails to sample the wares at a handful of wine farms. Linger over a tasting or cellar tour before riding into the sunset, or set off early and earn your lunch after a morning’s ride.

Lunch might be a gourmet picnic on Warwick Estate‘s expansive lawns or a more private affair in one of their stylish “picnic pods.” For understated sophistication, dine on modern European cuisine at Floréal Brasserie in a wooden cottage surrounded by polar trees. The adjacent boutique winery serves tasters of biltong (dried and cured meat unique to Southern Africa) paired with a selection of vintage vino, which makes for an excellent appetizer.

wine tasting cape town
(Photo: Courtesy of Warwick Estate)

Conventional travel agencies can arrange rides in the wine lands, but if you’re after a tailor-made experience, talk to the team at Explore Sideways. They’ll curate the perfect day out in the wine lands according to your interests.

Not so keen on horseback riding? These passionate locals pride themselves on customizing unique experiences, whether you’re a culture lover, an authenticity seeker or a horse-loving nature and outdoor aficionado.

Tastings by Tram

Take it easy on a tram ride to the doorstep of Franschhoek’s finest wine farms, from boutique to marquee estates. You’ll enjoy breathtaking scenery on a combination of double-decker trams and open-air tram-buses, along with world-class local cuisine and unparalleled hospitality.

The Franschhoek Wine Tram has a choice of four routes, each stopping at eight estates. The hop-on, hop-off tours give you the freedom to spend as long as you like exploring the musty cellars where all the magic happens or tasting the fruit of the winemaker’s labor.

wine tasting cape town
(Photo: Alamy)

Try an unusual tasting package, where you pair wines with handcrafted chocolate or charcuterie. Rickety Bridge even offers wine pairings with seasonal panna cottas. This progressive boutique winery also gives you the opportunity to blend your own wine. Even novices can earn bragging rights when they take their bottled creations home.

You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to lunchtime. Franschhoek is Dutch for “French corner,” named for the French Huguenots who settled in this valley in 1688, where their French flair for cuisine definitely followed them. It’s essential to make a reservation for lunch — even for picnics.

Farm-to-Fork Philosophy

Babylonstoren is perhaps the Cape’s most inspiring wine estate, blending historical heritage and winemaking traditions with inventive dining experiences in two internationally acclaimed restaurants.

Both restaurants follow Babylonstoren’s “farm-to-fork philosophy,” so the menus are ever-changing. The dishes are guided by what’s available in their 8.5-acre garden, where you can while away an afternoon discovering the origin of your meal’s food and wine.

Not quite ready to say goodbye to the wine lands just yet? There’s another world of wine to explore on the way back to Cape Town in the Durbanville Wine Valley. It’s home to award-winning Durbanville Hills Estate, where you can sip on their signature chardonnay within view of Table Mountain.

The details: Hire a car (or a driver) and visit all these estates as a day trip. None are located more than a 30-minute drive apart. Or take your time and make it a road trip with an overnight stay along the way. There’s no need to leave the rustic vineyard ambience: Protea Hotel by Marriott Cape Town Durbanville is encircled by picturesque D’Aria Winery, where yet another array of delectable wines awaits you.