The Cape Winelands are a wine lovers dream, with stunning landscapes and affordable quality wines (as low as $3 a bottle in some instances). We were stunned by the beauty, the approachability and the diversity of wine farms and experiences during our three days exploring Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Below, check out my 5 must have Cape Winelands experiences:
Segway Tour in Stellenbosch
1If there’s a cooler way to tour a vineyard than by Segway, I have yet to see it. Spier Wine Farm offers an hour-long tour of their grounds via juiced-up Segways, and the tour is a must for anyone wanting an engaging way of exploring the vineyards. Spier is one of the larger wineries in Stellenbosch, and a ride through their impressive estate will highlight some innovative, environmentally friendly practices for a green focus.
Read about our Segway tour at Spier Wine Farm.
Wine Tour Aboard the Franschhoek Wine Tram
2If you’re planning on spending some time in Franschhoek – which you should! – there’s no better way to visit wineries than the Franschhoek Wine Tram. We initially debated the whether or not to take the tram. Would it be kitschy and touristy? As it turns out, not at all, and it comes highly recommended by South Africans in SA and abroad. You have your choice of lines to choose from so you can visit wineries that most appeal to your style. If you maximize the day, you can visit up to six wineries to taste your way through flights of whites, rosés and reds.
Read about our experience on the Franschhoek WIne Tram.
Custom Wine Blending
3There are fewer wine experiences more immersive than undertaking a custom blending at a winery in the Cape Winelands. In Stellenbosch, go-tos for unique opportunities like this are Middelvlei Wine Farm and Vergenoegd Wine Estate. We visited both properties during our day wine tasting in Stellenbosch, and did our blending (along with a delicious South African braai) at Middelvlei alongside one of the estate’s owners. Whether you’re a major wine enthusiast or an absolute newbie, the process is fun and interactive, and it really helps with understanding how different varietals affect a wine’s overall composition. Whether our custom blend is remotely close to anything produced by professionals is debatable, but being able to take home a custom bottle was one of our favorite souvenirs from our time in South Africa!
Read about our experience wine blending and wine tasting in Stellenbosch.
Cycling Tour of the Vineyards
4If you’re the type that prefers to be outdoors for a daily dose of activity and a bit of Vitamin D, cycling may be the perfect solution for a more active experience in the Winelands. After our day wine tasting aboard the Franschhoek Wine Tram, we opted for a second half day of wine tasting by bicycle to explore at our own pace.
To be fair, the ride to the wineries is much easier than the ride back from the wineries, but I think we did a decent job of burning off some of those cheese plate calories. Look at a map of some wine estates in Franschhoek for inspiration – we chose to visit Leopard’s Leap, Moreson and La Motte during our time since we did the more classic circuit by Wine Tram. Alternatively, you can essentially cycle the route of the Wine Tram’s Blue Line, which offers a number of great wineries in relatively close proximity to one another.
You can rent bikes in Franschhoek through Franschhoek Cycles, located at the end of the town’s main road.
A Gourmet Meal (+ Wine Pairing!)
5I found food to be excellent throughout South Africa, but Franschhoek was a little gem of a town within the culinary landscape. From picnics at wine farms to tasting menus at some of the country’s most acclaimed establishments, there are a number of restaurants that are dishing out exceptional cuisine for all different palates. If you’re in wine country though, a wine pairing menu is practically mandatory if you’re a wine lover. One of the biggest highlights for us was enjoying exceptional and inventive cuisine that didn’t break the bank. Compared with the Euro and US Dollar, the Rand makes South Africa relatively affordable and we found this to be especially true with dining. Many restaurants will offer wine pairing options for a supplement, but our foodie highlight was a dinner at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais. It’s a place that’s garnered international acclaim over the years, and that’s not without merit. There’s no menu to order from or view before hand; it’s a culinary journey from start to finish with eight courses of inventive cuisine catered to your dietary restrictions (as a pescetarian I had no issues there). With substantial and thought out wine pairings for each course, we were in at around $100 per person for our three-hour dinner affair, the most expensive meal of our entire time in South Africa.
Without a doubt, I would return to the Cape Winelands on a future trip to South Africa to explore more wine farms and soak up the stunning scenery. We found October to be a beautiful time to explore, with mostly sunny days and perfect temps for enjoying sipping al fresco.
Have you been to South Africa’s wine region? What are your top recommendations for great Cape Winelands experiences?