In the shadow of the dramatic Cape fold mountains lies a series of valleys that are home to the Cape Winelands. Dotted with historic towns, beautiful Cape Dutch farmsteads, and colourful little communities, the region produces some of the best wines to be found anywhere. The unique topography, a variety of soil conditions, and Mediterranean climate are what create such an abundance of diverse, delicious wines.
The First Five Towns
Of the many towns and communities in the region, there are five that form its backbone;
Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Tulbagh, and Wellington. Between them, there are almost countless wine and grape producers, many of them with cultivation dates that stretch over 400 years. These are where you start your Winelands experience.
Wonderful Wineries in Stellenbosch
A thriving university town, Stellenbosch is one of South Africa’s oldest and most culturally rich destinations. Its streets are lined with beautiful neo-Dutch, Georgian and modern-Victorian architecture, and it’s surrounded by scenic vineyards. It was here that the first wine route was established in 1971, at which time there were only 17 cellars. Today that number has grown to over 150 and includes renowned producers like Waterford Estate, Villiera Wines, Jordan Wine Estate, Spier Wine Farm, and plenty more.
Wine and Dine in Franschhoek
Known as South Africa’s culinary capital, the quaint and charming town of Franschhoek (literally “French corner) is a must-visit destination for Cape Town residents and travellers alike. Established by French Huguenots in 1688, they brought with them their national culture and passion for food and wine. It’s this rich heritage that has made it home to an impressive concentration of world-class restaurants and as many premier wine farms and estates. Despite its abundance of attractions it still has a delightful small town feel.
History and Heritage in Paarl
A little down the road from Stellenbosch and Franschhoek sits another of South Africa’s oldest settlements, Paarl. Home to a variety of cultural and historical attractions, not to mention myriad wineries, it’s the perfect day-trip destination (or even a weekend if you’ve got the time). Start your journey with a Paarl Heritage Walk and learn about the town’s colourful history, before taking to the road to explore any of the surrounding attractions. The Spice Route is always a favourite, and the Taal Monument is great for a dose of history or a spot of interesting photography.
Country Living in Tulbagh
Known for its slow-paced lifestyle and charming history, Tulbagh is surrounded by breath-taking landscapes and mountains. Quiet and peaceful, the town is resplendent with gorgeous Cape Dutch architecture and is home to a large concentration of Provincial Monuments in a single street in South Africa. Beautifully secluded and with true old-world charm, it’s a favourite destination for country weddings.
Wine, Fruit, and Brandy in Wellington
The agriculturally-centred but no less scenic town of Wellington is also just a short drive from Cape Town. Boasting a number of award-winning wine producers, grape and wine farms, and home to South Africa’s only whisky producer, it’s a highlight of the Winelands.
Since the Cape Winelands was established so many years ago the region has grown exponentially and there are countless other towns and communities that have sprung up. Each has its own special allure and unique attractions, and it’s up to you to go out and find your favourite!