In the early 1650s, Jan van Riebeeck was sent to the tip of Africa to create a halfway station that would supply passing ships on the newly discovered route to India with fresh food.
He brought with him a few vines, and saw that the Cape with its warm African sun and cooling breeze from the ocean would be perfect for viticulture. A few years later, Simon van der Stel, also governor to the Cape, established Constantia, and turned it into a first-class wine estate.
In the 1660s, French Huguenots, with their knowledge of viticulture and wine-making, settled in the picturesque areas of Franschhoek, and brought with them a lasting heritage.
Wine tasting in the Cape is not just about finding world-famous wines. It’s about drinking in the essence of the Cape. With its soaring mountains, manor houses in graceful Cape Dutch architecture with rolling vineyards and ancient oak trees, you’ll soon fall under the magic spell of the winelands.
There are different regions to explore, each with its own characteristics. Within a 20 minute drive from Cape Town, you’ll find amongst others Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting and Steenberg.
Another wine route that is within a stone’s throw of a major urban area, is the Durbanville Wine Route, with its meandering road taking you from one estate to the next.
The prime wine region is around Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek and there are so many wine farms and cellars to explore here, that it will probably take you a year to visit each and every one.
Then there are the more outlying routes: Darling, Hermanus, Wellington, Robertson…
So how do visitors decide which wine farms to visit?
The greatest concentration of wine estates is situated around the Stellenbosch area. Here you can just point the nose of your car in a direction, and turn off at every sign for a wonderful experience guaranteed.
Or you can decide to go on a quest for a specific wine – the best South African pinotage, for instance. This will require a bit of homework, but will take you on a wonderful wine-tasting adventure.
Perhaps you prefer the less touristy spots – and here the outlying areas are perfect for laid-back exploration of delicious wines.
On all of these wine routes, you will have ample opportunity to sample the best of South African food. Many estates boast world-class restaurants offering everything from fine dining, local fare or top-quality light lunches made from local ingredients.
Whether you’re a wine aficionado or simply love the lifestyle, you will be spoilt for choice here in the Western Cape.