Cape Town is in a water crisis at the moment. So much so that the other day at Woolies there was no bottled water to buy. That was worrisome but fine by me because I had the perfect excuse to spend my money in the wine section instead and left with the feeling that I was doing my part to help when drinking wine instead of water.
It was also the perfect timing when Musement reached out to me and invited me to go on a Cape Town wine tour. While they have an array of different 'experiences' on offer from nature and wildlife adventures to city tours and cultural activities, I preferred spending my Sunday wine tasting in the Winelands.
South African wine is world renowned. In and around Cape Town you will find many wine routes but most famous are probably the Stellenbosch wine route and the Paarl wine farms. And yes, you can go wine tasting in Cape Town itself as many wine shops offer regular tastings but they never come with views like this:
Cape Town Wine Tour
We start our Cape Town wine tour from home where we are fetched in the morning by our lovely guide Xavier in a very fancy car. To get from Cape Town to Stellenbosch it is about a 40 minutes drive and as it is a scorcher of a day, aircon is highly appreciated even at 9 am. We that is my cousin and Cape Town lifestyle guru, Thekla, and myself. While she and her business are all about healthy living, she is also really good at wine drinking and thus an ideal partner in crime.
Our first stop is one of the premier Stellenbosch wineries, DeMorgenzon, aptly named for a morning wine tasting session. They are famous for their Chardonnay and their Shiraz which is growing up in a special setting: speakers next to the vines are playing classical music for the grapes to grow. While studies are not conclusive yet if music actually has a positive effect on plants I do like the effect it has on the overall setting of the vineyard - simply beautiful.
After tasting 4 wines and a dessert wine we are in desperate need of some non-liquid sustenance so it is just as well that we heading to Marianne next for a wine and biltong tasting. Named after the fictional character that personifies the French Republic, Marianne, the wine farm wants to merge the best of South African terroir and the heritage of Bordeaux winemaking.
We get to taste a wooded Sauvignon Blanc, highly unusual and delicious albeit for ZAR 170 a little bit too pricey, and a Floreal, their flagship wine from 2006, the wine served at Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday at Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, we don't behave like royalty and the biltong that is meant to accompany the wines is gone by the time we get to the Floreal.
Famous South African Wines
South Africa is famous for its crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc and oaked Chardonnay as well as its Shiraz or Syrah, a smoky and spicy grape, and Pinot Noir, a notoriously difficult grape to grow outside of Burgundy (but so worth it, it's my favorite!).
Another varietal which has become quite famous is Pinotage, a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut created in 1925. Today it is the second most planted red grape in South Africa and unique to the country.
Fans of champagne should look out for the label MCC - Methode Cap Classic. South Africa's answer to champagne usually made from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir grapes is excellent and gives French bubbly a run for its money.
Check out Wines of South Africa for more information.
Wine tasting tip:
Have a good breakfast and take snacks!
After this, we are pushing for a lunch break. A lot of wine estates in Stellenbosch have restaurants too usually with stellar views of the area. Xavier suggests lunch at Delaire Graff, a truly stunning farm, but the prices there are quite steep so we head to Spice Route, a Paarl restaurant by South African chef legend Bertus Basson.
Sunday lunch is a set menu of typical South African dishes to share - perfect for visitors to get a glimpse of real South African cuisine: lamb, snoek, biltong spread, butternut muffins.
If you have done some Cape Town wine tours before and you want to add a somewhat different wine farm experience to your route, I recommend a visit at Babylonstoren. This farm is just so different and their wine tasting area perfectly merges stunning views and sitting in a cool, climatized room.
We conclude our wine tasting in Stellenbosch at Anura (okay, a farm technically between Stellenbosch and Paarl). At this point, we actually can't drink anymore and both want a nap. Instead, Thekla and I take a leisurely approach to tasting our final wines on their comfy leather couches (Anura is actually the perfect Stellenbosch winery for a cozy tasting in winter!). We quickly kiss one of their signature frogs which doesn't turn into a prince and then head home.
The advantages of private wine tours, Cape Town
- Drunk driving is a huge problem in South Africa and you don't want to be one of the culprits. Neither do you want to overuse the spitoon if you are tasting yummy South African wine. And while you could technically get a taxi to go wine tasting in Stellenbosch, how will you get from one farm to the next? Doing a Cape Town wine tour and having a built-in designated driver is really a no-brainer.
- Usually, the Musement Cape Town wine tour also includes a brief stroll through Stellenbosch. As Thekla and I are very familiar with the town we skipped it in lieu of more wine but for those new to South Africa, I highly recommend a stroll in this picturesque city, second oldest in South Africa with a licensed tour guide like Xavier.
- All your tastings are included in the price of the tour. When we were told we'd had 5 wine farms included I was slightly disappointed - surely one could add more? We managed 3! Lesson learned - one should never underestimate the alluring power of the best South African wines.
- I was delighted to find out that our tour was private. While this might get a bit boring if you are traveling alone, for us it meant the ultimate freedom. While Xavier was full of ideas and suggestions, we could tell him what we were interested in seeing and drinking and he adjusted our trip accordingly. This is also a great option if you are only interested in certain varietals or areas.
- Wine makes a great gift! More wine makes an even better gift especially if there is no heavy lifting involved. With Musement you can either gift a set experience like a Cape Town wine tour or give a general gift card (for those odd people who don't like wine).
On the way home, we finally get to take our nap. Wine, biltong, and frog kissing is an exhausting business but I guess, someone has to do it. As it turns out we are quite good at it.
This post was sponsored by Musement - thank you!