Living in the Cape, wine tastings are, let’s be frank, a dime a dozen. But, if, like us, you’re looking for a unique experience – something a little different, without the pomp and snobbery – read on! We’ve rounded up a selection of spot-hitting experiences, using #WineSnobberyMustFall as our benchmark.
So, let’s leave the thoughtful nodding, expert swirling, and careful smelling to the connoisseurs – and raise our glasses to having some fun with fermented grapes.
Underground Candelit Tastings and Inspirational Tales: Weltevrede Wine Estate
At Weltevrede, unbridled passion and soul are prerequisites of this family-owned wine estate – and it shows… not only in the amazing efforts of its winemaker and viticulturist, Philip Jonker, but also in the way its staff lives and breathes the estate. Found in the Bonnievale valley (which forms part of the famous Langeberg region and Robertson Wine Valley), the estate was established in 1912 by Klaas Jonker and, much like its name, which means “well-satisfied” or “to be content” in Afrikaans, you’ll not leave here feeling anything else.
Why you’ll love it Aside from offering vintage and non-vintage MCCs, dessert wines, grape juice, red muscadels (something the region – and the small town, Montagu – used to be particularly well-known for) and, of course, award-winning chardonnays, Weltevrede has a very special candlelit, 100-year-old underground cellar (home to some 9 000 bottles there till 2019!).
It makes for a timeless, intimate and unhurried wine tasting experience, as you are removed from life’s distractions and allowed to focus on the amazing storytelling and great wine or bubbly. We were amused by some of the backstories and names, such as Weltevrede Poet’s Prayer Chardonnay or Place of Rocks Chardonnay 2016, which holds a gold medal from the prestigious 2017 Chardonnay du Monde in Burgundy, France.
Cost R100 (Underground candlelit tasting, includes a tasting of Weltevrede’s premium wines)
Booking is essential
Opening times Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm; Saturday & public holidays, 9am – 3.30pm
Contact 023 616 2141, firstname.lastname@example.org
Insider tip Ask Steyn Fullard or Elzette Steyn to recount some of the many wonderful and humorous stories about philanthropist, Philip Jonker… We particularly loved the anecdotes about the nuns and Robben Island.
Where to find it R317, Bonnievale
Intimate Tastings and Sensory Delight: Esona Boutique Wine
This single-vineyard boutique winery – owned by husband-and-wife team Rowan and Caryl Beattie – lies nestled between Bonnievale and Robertson, alongside the beautiful Breede River. A sense of intimacy, warmth and quiet pride flows from the restored earth and close-knit team alike, so it’s fitting that Esona is a Xhosa word (pronounced air-sor-na) that means “The Very One”.
Why you’ll love it Before stainless-steel wine vats and cooling systems, local winemakers used underground, cement and river-stone cisterns, known as “kuips”, to ensure darkness and temperature regulation. Now, Esona has reconstructed the Old Cellar into an underground tasting venue – adorned with flickering candles and red muscadel-stained walls – where visitors can enjoy intriguing Riedel tastings, satisfyingly paired with fruit preserves and chocolate to heighten your tastebuds and clear your palate in between sips.
Add changing music (from country to jazz), and special Riedel glasses, perfectly suited to the specific wines – and you really will taste the difference, as all your senses become more finely attuned.
Cost R30 (tastings between two sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and shiraz vintages in Riedal glasses; no bookings required)
R130 (tastings between two sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and shiraz vintages in Riedal glasses, paired with fruit preserves and chocolate; book 4 hours prior to set tasting times: 11am, 1pm and 3pm)
Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm; Saturdays & public holidays, 10am – 4pm
Contact 076 343 5833, email@example.com
Good to know Enjoy a delicious cappuccino or light meal at the delightful Caryl’s Deli, which offers ordered picnic baskets, or an awesome charcuterie platter on the top deck, with its expansive vineyard, canal and valley views.
Where to find it Route R317, between Robertson and Bonnievale, Robertson/Bonnievale
Outrageous Wine-Making Fun: Excelsior Estate
Ever since its establishment in 1859 by Koos de Wet, Excelsior has always produced quality varietals. Today, it exports 80% of its wine to some 20 countries, and adheres to strict vineyard practices (like minimal chemical use and hand-picked grapes), ensuring greater quality- and health-control.
Why you’ll love it The beautiful Taste @ Excelsior tasting/wine-blending facility offers wonderful views of the nearby dam, Langeberg Mountains and distant vineyards from its stilted, wooden deck. It is here that the real wine-making fun happens… Sample three delicious wines (Excelsior merlot, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz) before deciding which combination of the three you you’d like to use to create your own blend! Then carefully measuring out your percentages before bottling, corking, sealing and even labelling your own take-home wine! Not only will you feel like an instant, self-made winemaker – but there’s something really satisfying about telling friends that the wine they’re drinking is your own blended, bottled creation…
Cost R70 (Excelsior Wine Tasting and Wine Blending; includes 3 wine tastings and bottling, corking and labelling your own blended, take-home wine)
Opening times Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm; Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Contact 023 615 1980, firstname.lastname@example.org
Good to know Excelsior’s Manor Guesthouse – the Cape Dutch Revival Manor, formerly the family home – has been lovingly and elegantly restored to offer luxury farm accommodation.
Inside info Enjoy a light meal at the cosy Graze restaurant (we’ve earmarked the rooster bread) – or a free farm trail run on Saturdays.
Where to find it R60, between Robertson and Ashton
GoT Vibes and Dark Chocolate: Zandvliet Wine Estate
This long-standing home of shiraz – formerly owned for generations by the region’s well-known De Wet family – has recently undergone exciting changes under its new owners: ClemenGold, an ANB division of well-known citrus fruit producers. Now, thanks to them, you will now find grapes and citrus fruit growing side-by-side (they’ve also introduced chocolate, gin and a new, stunning tasting room to the mix!).
The estate also offers four-star accommodation (in Zandvliet’s beautiful manor house) – and new plans for conference facilities and a restaurant…
Why you’ll love it Zandvliet’s spectacular Kalkveld Lounge is atmospheric and evocative, but it was the dunking of our biscotti into our glasses of Zandvliet Muscat 2017 (tea-and-biscuit-style!) that stole our hearts. You’ll also have a chance to enjoy Zandvliet’s Vintage Liquor Wine (aka “Very Lekker Wine”!) with a slice of panforte as you soak up the atmospheric beauty of this fine facility.
Cost R120 (Zandvliet ClemenGold Pairing; includes 4 wines, paired with spicy panforte, biscotti and smooth dark chocolate and ClemenGold mandarin marmalade)
Opening times Monday – Friday, 10am – 5pm; Saturday & public holidays, 10am – 5pm
Contact 023 615 1146, email@example.com
Insider tip Be sure to sample ClemenGold’s mouthwatering, new dark chocolate and gin offerings… Both are seriously good and the packaging is stunning, too!
Inside info Not only does the Kalkveld Lounge (inspired by their Kalkveld shiraz) feel worthy of a Game of Thrones hall – with a roaring fireplace, brooding lighting and twin long tables to extend those GoT vibes – it also has a wonderful upcycled story behind the hugely impressive decor… For instance, the stunning, eight-metre-long glass-shard chandelier (made by architectural glass company, Fire&Ice) keeps people off the streets by ensuring skills and employment.
Where to find it Zandvliet Crescent, off R60, Ashton
Forgotten Secrets and Timeless Tastings: Muratie Wine Estate
Almost as old as time itself, this Stellenbosch estate (founded in 1685) captures the very essence of the Cape’s history inside its every nook and cranny. Everything from the buildings, to the artefacts and trees, remember the past, even as they look hopefully towards the future…
Why you’ll love it If you like cobwebs and history, then you’ll love experiencing Muratie’s tastings in the historic locations where time has seemingly stood still. These include the cobwebbed Tasting Room (complete with old paintings and stained glass); the beautifully maintained, old-styled George Paul Canitz room (which honours famous Stellenbosch painter and farm owner); or amid the cellar’s weathered-looking, old wine tanks.
Here, you really will taste (and feel) a bygone era,complemented by Muratie’s timeless passion and careful winemaking approaches – which, in many respects, still take their cue from the old wine ways.
Oh, and aside from the standard and premium wine tastings, there’s also a decadent chocolate and wine pairing.
Cost R35 (Standard Tasting, includes 5 wines)
R60 (Premium Tasting)
R50 (Port and Chocolate Pairing; returning from June 2017)
Groups by appointment only
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Good to know Enjoy traditional breakfasts and lunches at the Muratie Farm Kitchen, from Wednesday to Sunday, as well as MTB and trail running on the estate.
Contact 021 865 2330, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Knorhoek Road/R44, Koelenhof, Stellenbosch
Wine Tasting in a “Cave”: Klein Roosboom Boutique Winery
Durbanville has to be one of the most underrated wine-tasting destinations in the Cape. Put on the map by a few wine farms that consistently produce award-winning, cool-climate wines, the Durbanville Wine Valley is often outshone by the more hyped-about regions. (Thankfully! Tourists shan’t have all the fun.) Durbanville Hills Wine Farm might have been a catalyst in the region’s claim to fame, but a lot of people don’t know that their popular sauvignon blanc is made with grapes purchased from surrounding farms. In contrast, our hidden gem – Klein Roosboom – is a boutique winery, which means it only makes as much wine as its vineyards can produce. Because of its smaller yield, you’ll only find Klein Roosboom wines at its tasting centre.
Why you’ll love it To some it might be a drawback, but we love that these superb wines aren’t readily available. It makes them so much more special. Take a scenic Sunday drive along the Tygerberg Valley Road to Klein Roosboom and opt to have your tasting in one of the the tasting centre’s “caves”. Apart from the fact that the wines really are magnificent, you’ll get to experience them for the first time in a truly unique way. Each cosy alcove is quirkily decorated, with pillows, trinkets, vintage furniture and bits and bobs. The perfect outing if the skies are grey. Afterwards, pop in at neighbouring Ntida for a long lazy lunch (the wine there is good, too…)
Cost White wine tasting: R40 (3 sauvignon blancs, 1 unwooded chardonnay, 1 rosé)
Red wine tasting – R30 (merlot, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz)
Opening times Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 4.30pm
Contact 060 877 2678, email@example.com
Where to find it Tygerberg Valley Road, Durbanville, Cape Town
Reviewer Michelle de Bruin
Proudly South African Boerebraai and Wine: Middelvlei Wine Estate
Away from the buzz of the historic university town, this Momberg family estate in Stellenbosch offers good wine, wholesome food and a slice of the slow country life in one easy outing.
They’re also big on family and South African tradition (we love the Boerebraai-themed food offerings), so this is definitely the place to go with old friends and family.
Why you’ll love it If, like us, you love a braai, you will love their Boerebraai Tapas and Wine Pairing. Expect droolicious potbrood and snoek pâté (with Middelvlei Chardonnay), Biltong and Caramelised-onion paptertjie (with Middelvlei Rooster Merlot) or Cocktail Boerewors Sosatie (with Middelvlei Pinotage).
And when you’re done, why not try your hand at wine blending? There are few things cooler than tasting and blending your own vino! (For an additional cost, you can bottle, cork and take it home with you.)
Cost R80 (Boerebraai Tapas and Wine Pairing)
R198 (Boerebraai Lunch; booking is essential; dinner option available for groups of 35 or more)
R150 (Wine Blending Experience; includes cellar tour, potbrood and glass of pinotage Merlot; booking is essential)
R120 extra (to take home the bottle of your own blended wine)
Opening times Boerebraai Tapas and Wine: Monday – Sunday, 11.30am – 3pm
Wine Blending Experience: Tuesday, Thursday & the last Saturday of the month, 11am – 1.30pm (booking is essential)
Boerebraai: Monday – Sunday, 12pm – 3pm (venue closes at 4.30pm)
Good to know Kids can enjoy rambling around outside on the spacious grounds, feeding farm animals, riding tractors, tucking into their own special kiddies’ snack box, or even braaing their own stokbrood!
Contact 021 883 2565, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Flamingo Street, Stellenbosch
Artisanal Salt Tastings in the Mountain: Die Bergkelder Wine Centre
Charming Die Bergkelder is not only home to award-winning Fleur du Cap wines; it also has a literal mountain cellar… Tucked away under the historic Papegaaiberg mountain, this “cellar in the mountain” lies alongside the Plankenburg River, flanked by lush gardens. (Interestingly Papegaaiberg is named for the clay pigeons shot to commemorate Governor Simon van der Stel’s birthday in the late 1700s.)
Why you’ll love it We think it’s pretty cool that this is the only underground bottle-maturation cellar of its kind in the entire Southern Hemisphere. Add rich Cape history, cool tastings and a pretty epic, double-cellar tour, and it becomes even cooler!
Once inside, the tasting takes place amid lit alcoves before you walk down a 500 000-bottle-flanked passage that reveals the barrel cellar, where carved casks remember various important Cape wine landmarks and events. You’ll then return past the bottling plant – capable of bottling up to 10 000 bottles per hour.
And let’s not forget the unusual Fleur du Cap wine and artisanal salt pairings, which combine naturally crafted wines with handmade, salted delicacies.
Cost R60 (hour-long guided Wine Tour and 5-wine tasting; limited to 25 people per group. Bigger groups can be arranged by prior booking.)
R95 (Fleur du Cap Wine and Salt Pairings; prior booking is essential.)
Opening times Fleur du Cap Wine and Salt Pairings: Monday – Saturday, 9am – 4.30pm
Wine Tour: Monday – Friday, 10am, 11am, 2pm and 3pm; Saturday, 10am, 11am and 12pm
Contact Die Bergkelder Wine Centre: 021 809 8025, email@example.com
Wine Tour: firstname.lastname@example.org, 021 809 8025
Fleur du Cap Wine and Salt Pairings: 021 809 8025, email@example.com
Where to find it Die Bergkelder Wine Centre, George Blake Street, Stellenbosch
Vintage Wines and Views for Days: Jordan Wine Estate
Since 1993, owners Gary and Kathy Jordan have been making world-class wines on this picturesque estate. The vineyards enjoy the perfect synergy between soul and soil because they’re planted on differing altitudes (160 – 410 metres above sea level), close to both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
Why you’ll love it Not only is the estate unique by nature’s design; it also has a history dating back some 300 years. First up, visitors can enjoy the 360° Tasting Experience: a two-hour trip of safari-style game viewing, offering spectacular views of False and Table Bays, while you taste a selection of sustainable wines, before enjoying a cellar tour (with an additional tasting either in the barrel cellar or out on the terrace).
If you prefer to keep things strictly indoors, opt for the Vinoteque Tasting, which includes a tour of the underground barrel cellar (so wear sensible closed shoes!) and a tasting of six wines: four vintages and two from their current selection.
Cost R200 (360° Tasting Experience)
R400 (Cellar Tour & Vinoteque Tasting)
360° Tasting Experience: Monday – Sunday, 10am–4pm
Cellar Tour & Vinoteque Tasting: Monday – Sunday, 9.30am – 10.30am
Contact 021 881 3441, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Stellenbosch Kloof Road, Stellenbosch
Nature Walks and Wining in the Overberg: Bouchard Finlayson
A joint venture between Burgundian, Paul Bouchard, and award-winning local talent, Peter Finlayson, in 1989 has resulted in a world-renowned estate nestled in a hidden valley, near the internationally lauded winemaking region of Walker Bay.
Why you’ll love it Not only can a group of 20 enjoy a cool vintage wine tastings hosted by either Peter Finlayson himself or winemaker, Chris Albrecht – but Bouchard Finlayson also offers unique tasting walks! These can be self-guided (maps and indemnity forms are provided) – or expertly hosted by amateur botanist, Frank Woodvine.
Choose between three different trails (45 minutes; 60 minutes; and 2.5hours respectively) and learn about some of the 306 plant species found on the estate, many of which are scarce or protected… you may even see some wildlife, too!
R3000 (Vintage Wine Tastings; per group of 20)
R20 (3 wines)
R40 (6 wines)
R50 (Guided Nature Walks; maximum of 12 per group)
Free (Self-guided Nature Walks)
Opening times Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm; Saturday, 10am – 1pm
Inside info Nature walks are especially lovely during spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.
Contact 028 312 3515, email@example.com
Where to find it Bouchard Finlayson, R320 Road, Hermanus
Classical Music for the Grapes – and You: DeMorgenzon
Owned by the philanthropic, go-getting businesswoman, Wendy Appelbaum, this historic estate does things differently… particularly evidenced in the way Classical and Baroque music is played to the vines and fermenting wines 24 hours a day, in the belief that the power of music positively impacts the ripening process. (And with all their accolades, who are we to argue with their fun, experimental grape-growing science?)
But that’s not all… DeMorgenzon is also a beautiful, 91-hectare garden, with vineyards carefully interspersed in between and, thanks to its high altitude, enjoys stunning views of Table Mountain, Cape Point and the Franschhoek and Stellenbosch mountain ranges.
Why you’ll love it Not only do they pipe music to their vineyards but it also wafts through the winery and tasting room, so when you go for one of their intimate tastings, you’ll find the same sounds playing around you.
Cost R30 (2 wines)
R50 (4 wines)
R70 (6 wines)
R125 (full tasting)
R50 (vine-dried chenin blanc)
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Contact 021 881 3030, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Stellenboschkloof Road, Stellenbosch
Memory Garden and Family-friendly fun: Van Loveren Family Vineyards
Situated in the Robertson Valley, and strikingly marked out by red cannas that hedge in the vineyards, Van Loveren has been collectively managed by the Retief cousins (well-known in wine circles as the Four Cousins) since the mid-90s. Today, Van Loveren offers great family fun, beautifully complemented by the relaxed wine pairings and tastings (including alcohol-free and kiddies’ options).
Why you’ll love it In addition to eight different tasting options at the ultra-chic Tasting Room, you can partake in a fascinating 30-minute guided garden tour (with a glass of bubbly to make you feel royal). This famous garden is the living legacy of Jean Retief, who planted commemorative trees to highlight key family, historical and political events. Also, enjoy a delicious meal or beverage at the homely, garden bistro, Christina’s at Van Loveren.
Cost R55 (adults)
R35 (kids; two tastings; six pairings)
R45 (guided garden tour, includes glass of bubbly)
R55 (guided cellar tour, includes a glass of bubbly)
Non-alcoholic pairings are also available
Good to know As you enter Robertson from Cape Town, you will now find the elegant and relaxed Four Cousins Restaurant. Aside from some family-friendly, wholesome food and Boet Beer, you can also enjoy browsing the wine shop, or enjoy a wider range of tasting options, available at the airy, deck-facing Tasting Room.
We recommend Christina Van Loveren Master Tasting (R55, includes quality local cheeses) or the Four Cousins Family Pairing (R55; only available at Four Cousins Tasting Room) a fun nod to our childhoods – with Zoo biscuits, Liquorice Allsorts and Turkish Delight among the accompanying nibbles.
Opening times Four Cousins Tasting Room: Monday – Friday, 8.30am – 5pm; Saturday, 9.30am – 4pm; Sunday, 11am – 3pm; public holidays, 9.30am – 4pm
Van Loveren: Monday – Friday, 8.30am – 5pm; Saturday, 9.30am – 3.30pm; Sunday, 11am – 3pm; public holidays, 9.30am – 4.30pm
Contact 023 615 1505, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Van Loveren Family Vineyards, R317, Robertson
Bountiful bubbly with Sweet and Savoury: House of J.C. Le Roux
Located in the heart of the picturesque Devon Valley, you will find the House of JC Le Roux, a place famously dedicated to crafting delicious, French-styled MCC and playful sparkling wines.
Why you’ll love it MCC, bubbly and sparkling wine are always great for celebratory occasions, summertime toasts and light-hearted drinking moments. And with the added choice of sweet or savoury pairings, (hand-crafted nougat or savoury artisanal olives) in a refined and revamped Tasting Room, what’s not to love?
Cost R120 (Nougat Tasting, includes selection of 5 sparkling wines and nougats)
R120 (Olive Experience, includes 5 MCC wines and artisanal olives)
R80 (Sparkling Tasting, includes 5 sparkling wines: 3 Vibrazio and 2 Vivante)
R90 (MCC Tasting, includes 5 MCC wines)
R25 (Tasting Room popsicles; sold separately)
Opening times Tasting Room, October – April: Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm; Saturday, 10am – 4pm; Sunday, 10am – 3pm
May – September: Monday – Friday, 10am – 5pm; Saturday, 10am – 4pm; Sunday, 10am – 3pm; public holidays, 10am – 4pm
Contact 021 865 8200, email@example.com
Inside info Book well in advance to avoid disappointment – particularly during the busy summer season!
Good to know You can also enjoy a delicious breakfast or lunch at the posh Le Venue Restaurant. In fair weather, we recommend soaking up splendid vineyard views out on the deck.
Where to find it JC Le Roux, Devon Valley, Stellenbosch
Designer Cupcakes and Decadent Wines: Delheim
Situated on the slopes of the majestic Simonsberg Mountains, Delheim is owned by the renowned Spatz Sperling and his family, and has been producing internationally acclaimed wines consistently over the years.
Why you’ll love it Who doesn’t love cupcakes? What’s more, these aren’t ordinary cupcakes either… Enjoy an exotic pomegranate cupcake (with pinotage rosé), Rooibos cupcake (with chenin blanc wild ferment), a pumpkin-and-vanilla cupcake (with pinotage) and a traditional African Makataan cupcake (with Gewürztraminer).
Cost R85 (4 wines and 4 cupcakes)
Good to know Visitors can also enjoy a riverside picnics or an al fresco meal at the lovely Garden Restaurant.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 9am – 4.30pm
Contact (021) 888 4600, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Knorhoek Road, Stellenbosch
Pizza Perfection: Brenaissance Wine & Stud Estate
Located in the secluded Devon Valley, this estate is owned by young, entrepreneurial couple, Tom and Hayley Breytenbach, and offers a well-rounded, child-friendly Stellenbosch escape. Aside from premium wines and delicious bistro fare, the estate also offers the chance to see some distinctive Boran cattle – a breed they’ve uniquely introduced to this famous wine-making valley – and modern farm accommodation.
Why you’ll love it Pizza always makes for a fun wine pairing and, at the estate’s Café Blanc De Noir, you can enjoy a four-in-one, full-house pizza, paired with a quartet of Brenaissance wines. And if pizza’s not your thing, the relaxed café offers other options for the whole family.
Cost R185 (Wine and Pizza Pairing)
Opening times Wednesday – Thursday, 11am – 9pm ; Friday – Saturday, 11am – 10pm; Sunday & public holidays, 11am – 5pm
Contact 021 200 2644, email@example.com
Where to find it Brenaissance Wine & Stud Estate, Devon Valley Road, Stellenbosch
Other Wine-Tastings We Rate
Idiom Wines (Somerset West): Best of Italy or Best of Cape Canapé & Wine Pairings
Warwick Wine Estate (Stellenbosch): “Big 5” Vineyard Safari (compares SA’s Big 5 game with their Big 5 varieties)
La Motte (Franschhoek): Vinoteque Tasting (taste award-winning vintages alongside current ones as you learn about bottle ageing and maturation benefits)
Uitkyk Wine Estate (Stellenbosch): Glass Memories MCC and 10-Year-Old Uitkyk Grand Reserve Brandy offerings
Rooiberg Winery (Robertson): The biggest Red Chair in Africa, and the romantic Love-Lock Wall
Clos Malverne Wine Farm (Stellenbosch): Ice cream and Wine Pairing
Oldenburg Vineyards (Stellenbosch): Museum Class Tasting (showcases a selection of gems from their library, using the Coravin system).
Creation Wines (Hemanus): Kiss and Tell Pairing (includes three pinot noirs and chardonnays, paired with six perfectly matching dishes) or Charcuterie Pairing (air-dried cured charcuterie, selected compotes and four Creation Wines)
Alto Wine Estate (Stellenbosch): Pâté and Wine Pairing or Fine Old Vintage and Chocolate Pairing
Marianne Wine Estate (Stellenbosch): Wine & Biltong Pairing
Bartinney Wines (Stellenbosch): Cape Fynbos & Wine Tasting Experience