Venturing inland and upwards from Cape Town you’ll find the Boland, meaning ‘upland’. It’s a superb wine-producing area, and indeed the best known in South Africa. The magnificent mountain ranges around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek provide ideal microclimates for the vines.
There’s been colonial settlement here since the latter half of the 17th century, when the Dutch first founded Stellenbosch and the French Huguenots settled in Franschhoek. Both towns pride themselves on their innovative young chefs, many based at wine estates, and the region has become the mainspring of South African cuisine. Along with Paarl, these towns make up the core of the Winelands, but there are many more wine-producing places to explore. Pretty Tulbagh, with its many historical buildings, is known for MCC (Méthode Cap Classique – the local version of Champagne), and Robertson's scattered wineries offer unpretentious, family-friendly places to taste.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Winelands.
This 2.5-sq-km wine and fruit farm is on the north slope of the Simonsberg mountain between Klapmuts and Paarl. Its highlight is an 800-sq-metre, formally designed garden; inspired by Cape Town’s Company’s Garden, it is an incredible undertaking, featuring edible and medicinal plants, lotus ponds and espaliered quince trees, chicken coops and a maze of prickly-pear cacti. Reserve a place on one of the garden tours (10am).
There’s enough to keep you occupied for a full day at this vast estate just west of Franschhoek. As well as tastings of the superb shiraz range, wine-pairing lunches and dinners are served at the Pierneef à la Motte restaurant. The restaurant is named for South African artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef and a collection of his work is on show at the on-site museum.
This is a quintessential Winelands estate, with lovely architecture, food and wine. Tasting options include bubbly, brandy or wine and chocolate pairing. There are excellent vineyard and cellar tours; booking is essential.
Spice Route is known for its complex red wines, particularly the Flagship syrah. Aside from wine there is a lot going on, including glass-blowing demonstrations, wine and charcuterie pairings (R85), a chocolatier (tutored tasting R35), grappa distillery and a superlative microbrewery (tastings R35). As well as the upmarket restaurant headed by celebrity chef Bertus Basson (mains R140 to R215), there is a pizzeria (mains R70 to R150).
Spier has some excellent shiraz, cabernet and red blends, though a visit to this vast winery is less about wine and more about the other activities available. There are superb birds-of-prey displays (adult/child R75/65), Segway tours through the vines, three restaurants, and picnics to enjoy in the grounds. Look out for special events in the summer months, including open-air cinema evenings and live entertainment.
This quiet spot in a gracious old homestead serves delectable, organically made wines. The formal tasting takes around an hour, or you can join a two-hour eco-safari through the vineyards on the back of a tractor, which culminates in a tasting. The restaurant, Faber (mains R160 to R220), is one of the Winelands' best, with dishes like roasted springbok loin, truffled leeks and sourdough bread-and-butter pudding.
The stunning contemporary architecture here is a fine contrast to the familiar Cape Dutch buildings at older estates. The estate specialises in biodynamic wines and ecofriendly farming methods – take a two-hour guided walk (10am and 4.30pm, R710 with two-course lunch/dinner) around the estate to learn more. Horse riding (R750 with lunch) is also offered, and if you’re feeling particularly flush you could fly in from Cape Town by helicopter (R11,250 per person with six-course meal).
A beautifully revamped, 18th-century manor house that is home to a stylish restaurant and a splendid gallery showcasing contemporary South African art. There is a range of tasting options, including a canapé pairing (R120), nougat pairing (R70) and grape-juice tasting for the kids (R20), plus the chance to blend your own wine (R350). It's within walking distance of the town centre.
Tastings take place on a wooden deck overlooking a reservoir – it's a delightful spot. The real draw, though, is the 'blend your own' experience, where you can mix three wine varieties to your liking and take home a bottle of your own creation, complete with your own label (R70). The restaurant serves roosterbrood (traditional bread cooked over coals) sandwiches.
Whether it’s a guided tour of a historic landmark, private tasting of local delicacies, or an off-road adventure — explore the best experiences in Winelands.