By now it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I am a huge wine fan as are most of my family and friends. That doesn’t mean I am an expert or a wine snob but rather that I live by the motto of one of my favorite sommeliers: if you want to know more about wine, you gotta drink more.
Since I spend a lot of time in Asia I don’t get to practice as I would like. Let’s be honest – there are very few nice wines to be found that you can actually afford in places like Thailand or Indonesia. So I keep my exercise/ wine drinking for when I go home to Cape Town, my winter home of sorts. Ever since moving from Cape Town I have still returned faithfully every December to spend a summer in the city because while Europe is covered in rain and snow, Cape Town has my favorite temperature: hot.
Especially if you come for a visit to Cape Town, there is no better way to explore the wines of this famous region than with an extensive wine tasting tour in the Winelands, something you can either organize by yourself or have someone organize for you. And even if you are a local, wine tasting is a favorite past time of many.
The other day my friend Carolyn was in town and since she is as keen on grapes as I am we decided to go wine tasting in Stellenbosch. Or more specifically at Babylonstoren. I chose this location for a good reason because while there is no shortcoming of great places for a Stellenbosch wine tour or wine farms in Paarl, which is just around the corner, Babylonstoren wine tasting is special.
Why Babylonstoren is the place for wine tasting in Stellenbosch
To give you a little background, Babylonstoren is not just any other wine farm nor just another Stellenbosch/Paarl accommodation. They are mainly known for their beautiful gardens which the name derives from. The garden is a reference and an homage to Cape Town’s famous Company’s Garden and the mysterious hanging gardens of Babylon. You can read all about it here if you care but I think better yet – come for a visit to the Babylonstoren garden.
I recommend you start your excursion with a visit to their amazing Babel restaurant. Carolyn and I couldn’t get a reservation but got lucky as someone had canceled – it is always worth asking and if they can’t help you with a table at Babel they have a few other dining options on the farm.
I am not sure if Babel was the first who brought farm-to-table dining to South Africa but they are one of the restaurants who does it best. All of their fruit and vegetable come directly from the Babylonstoren garden and you only get at the restaurant what is in season. They even theme there menu around certain fruits or veggies which was plums when we visited. We not only had plums on most of our dishes but were also given an information page which was all about plums.
My favorites are their starters which are color coordinated and you have a choice between red, yellow and green. What I like, as will vegetarians, all starters are first and foremost vegetarian. For an extra amount, you can add a recommended protein but the basis is vegetarian. They are also bridging the gap quite seamlessly between fruits and vegetable and so I had a beautiful buffalo mozzarella on my plate that not only came with some fresh tomatoes but also berries and of course, plums.
Babel is also one of those restaurants where you must have dessert. They are always amazing, not too sweet (they usually come with a little herbaceousness), and are always really pretty – in my case decorated with flowers from the garden.
Even if you come for lunch, entrance to the farm will cost you R 10. I think this fee is to cover all the daytrippers who come to stroll in the gardens and is honestly well worth it. The Babylonstoren garden is simply stunning and you may even forget that you are on a working farm. Fruit trees and vegetable patches meet lavender fields and picturesque fountains. Make sure to wear flat shoes because while you will definitely want to snap one for your Instagram here, the paths are lined with crushed fruit pits and walking in heels is no fun.
A highlight is the Babylonstoren glasshouse in the back of the garden which has a cafe next to it and sometimes (unfortunately not when we were there) sells amazing ice lollies. They also have a few farm stalls and a lovely boutique where you can make your own soaps and lotions, and for kids, big and small, there are plenty of farm animals to admire. Just beware of the donkeys – I do have photographic evidence that they like to eat scarves!
What is so special about Babylonstoren is not only the overall concept but also their design. Most wine farms in Stellenbosch and the area kind of look the same – Dutch manor houses and sweeping views of the vineyard that you often don’t get to enjoy during your wine tasting since it is done in the cellars. Don’t get me wrong, most of these houses are absolutely beautiful but Babylonstoren has given everything a modern twist. From glass walls to cool crookery, they have integrated the historic Cape Dutch houses into the 21st century.
The same holds true for the Babylonstoren wine tasting. As I said many places for wine tasting in Stellenbosch either offer a tasting in their cellar where you sit far away from the beautiful scenery or have a terrace where you sit in sweltering heat (the area gets steamy). Babylonstoren offers you a climatized glass cube for wine tasting where you can enjoy cool-ish temperatures and an amazing view of the surrounding vineyards and the garden.
The Babylonstoren wine range offers something for everyone from a fruity Viognier to a really lovely Shiraz and they also have their own MCC (Methode Cap Classique – the South African name for our local champagne). Tastings here are one of the cheapest wine tastings in Stellenbosch and with R 60 for six wines. You can try some of their flagship wines at an additional price, and they also offer an express tasting with fewer glasses.
To be very honest, most of the Babylonstoren wines are not my favorite and except for the Viognier, I find them too expensive. But that is just me and as I said before – I am no expert, just someone who likes to drink wine. And I think the inexpensive tasting prices (in some place you pay R 150 for a tasting!!) and the incredible and unique setting make more than up for it. If you are looking for a really scenic place for wine tasting in Stellenbosch and want to play with a donkey, Babylonstoren is the place to be.
Babylonstoren, South Africa offers daily wine tasting while Babel restaurant serves lunch Wednesdays to Sundays. If you are looking for a unique Stellenbosch/Paarl accommodation, Babylonstoren also has a hotel and a beautiful spa.
Babylonstoren, Klapmuts Simondium Road, Simondium – www.babylonstoren.com
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