Clinking glasses, sweeping vineyards and complex flavours are but three of the sensory adventures waiting for you in the Cape Winelands, only to be experienced by those who make the effort to get there.
The Cape Winelands region is a large area in the Western Cape of South Africa which remains sans official boundaries. Instead, it is defined as the region of the province which produces the lion’s share of local wines. It incorporates a clutch of small, characterful towns, a wealth of heritage and a culinary scene unbeaten in South Africa. Given the bevy of experiences to be had in the area, it is unsurprising that Winelands accommodation is ever popular.
Following the N2 road out of Cape Town, visitors will reach Somerset West, a mere hop skip and jump from the much-loved Winelands town of Stellenbosch, just 45 minutes from Cape Town. Nestled in the foothills of the Helderberg mountain range, the scenery surrounding the town is the epitome of the Cape Winelands. At any given point along the Stellenbosch wine-route, one will look upwards behind them to the soaring peaks of the mountains, and outwards ahead of them to the rolling, textured vineyards. The area is idyllic for wine tasting and you will not regret a gourmet meal shared in the setting of one of Stellenbosch’s award winning cellars.
The town itself is a treasure trove of Cape Dutch architecture, tree-lined streets and tucked-away art galleries.
Paarl, another prominent Winelands town, has its own array of award-winning wineries, 5 star eateries and cultural monuments. One of Paarl’s smaller claims to fame is the Afrikaans Taal Museum and accompanying Taal Monument, which pay homage to this South African language’s deep roots and diverse influences. Geographically, Paarl is also well known for Paarl Rock, the second largest outcrop of granite rocks in the world.
Nearby Franschoek embraces an entirely un-South African language. While Paarl celebrates Afrikaans, Franschoek and its residents embrace the town’s French Huguenot roots and never more so than during the annual Bastille Festival. Over festival time, locals and visitors alike dress up in French-inspired outfits and eat their way through cheeses, baguettes and a variety of other mouth-watering delights. At other times of the year, visitors go wine-tasting in the area and sample out-of-this-world cuisine from Franschoek’s many world-renowned eateries. Incidentally, Franschoek is the kind of place where bicycles are embraced, as is absorbing the ambience in an interesting boutique hotel in town.
As far as the Winelands sub-regions go, the wineries around Robertson are unique in that their vineyards are cultivated using artificial irrigation. Furthermore Robertson, while having some well-established wine producers and great eating establishments is a little less popular than more traditional Winelands towns like those mentioned above (Stellies, Paarl and Franschoek). While wine is a big part of the town’s economy and indeed identity, Robertson is different in the array of outdoor activities which also draw crowds. For starters the Breede River, life blood to the Robertson Valley, attracts canoeists while the rock faces in nearby Montagu attract rock climbers from all over the world.
Robertson however, is not the only place with something to offer outdoor enthusiasts. Myriad hiking trails, mountain bike routes and other outdoor endeavours are to be had in the Winelands region, while rock climbing is also popular on the great Paarl Rock and good surfing is to be had at the beaches just 20 minutes outside of Stellenbosch.
The Cape Winelands region is also dotted with festivals throughout the year such as the Robertson Wacky Wine Festival, the Stellenbosch Wine Festival and the Franschoek Bastille Festival.
The Winelands, as you may have heard, is one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations, and the region deserves every ounce of love it gets. With not only fine wining and dining options, diverse wine-tasting and a spectacular setting, there is no reason not to fall in love with this cultural corner of South Africa.