There is no better way to discover South Africa’s culinary offering than with a private tour of its famed Winelands. Home to world class restaurants as well as renowned vineyards, it is the ultimate spot for foodies in South Africa. Getting to know her Cabernets from her Chardonnays, Africa expert, Katie, becomes a connoisseur for the day.
After an early start, I was greeted by my warm and welcoming guide, Avril, at Babylonstoren Wine Estate and after breakfast we headed towards the Spice Road for some chocolate tasting, it was 9:30am but in my humble opinion, it is never too early for chocolate. Avril was lovely and so easy to get along with that even the time in the car was so enjoyable, as we spent time getting to know each other and laughing most of the way. I felt completely at ease and knew I was in good hands.
Chocolate tasting at Spice Road was really interesting and I was fascinated to find out that their dark chocolate doesn’t contain any sugar, made instead purely from cocoa beans. Whilst bitter on their own, the beans are completely delicious as a finished product. We tasted a range of flavours of chocolate, from sea salt to honeycomb, and I loved every single one – all except the lime and ginger flavour, which is a very acquired taste!
Then it was onto Anura for wine and cheese tasting – my favourite combination. Firstly, I was given the grand tour of the cellar, home to barrels and barrels of wine. Had I died and gone to wine heaven?! The machine that actually makes the wine is so clever, complete with holes that pull the grapes from their stalk. From bunch to barrel takes around four days. It was at that point, I asked the embarrassing question of “don’t people still squash the grapes with their bare feet?”.
We swiftly moved on to the wine and cheese tasting and proceeded to sample six different wines paired with six different cheeses. I admitted to Avril that I wasn’t keen on Chardonnay, to which she confidently replied, “I bet you will be after today”. And how right she was, I tried two whites, one rosé, and three reds. Each was delicious and the wines and cheeses complimented each other perfectly.
Kanonkop was our third stop, where I saw my first ever eighteen litre bottle of wine. I was quite surprised to find out that these enormous bottles are actually very popular and whilst questioning how one could carry a bottle so big, I soon found out that the bottle itself is more expensive than the wine, so some people cart their bottles back to the vineyard to be filled up again. Kanonkop specialise in red wines, notably Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon, and all seven of the different wines I tasted were red except for one rosé, the Kadette Pinotage, a perfectly refreshing tipple on a warm winter’s day. The words above the arched door resonated particularly well with me; ‘Pinotage is the juice extracted from women’s tongues and lions’ hearts. After having a sufficient quantity one can talk forever and fight the devil.’
From there, we were onto our next wine tasting at Glenelly in Stellenbosch, home to South African wine with a French touch. Lady May is the flagship wine of this family run vineyard, which consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, a dash of Merlot and a splash of Petit Verdot, it is elegant and distinguished. Jerome lead my wine tasting session and he was so knowledgeable and passionate about their wines, it was a complete privilege to learn from him.
Our next stop was Tokara where I enjoyed wine tasting with olive pairings. Sat in a comfortable armchair and looking out over Stellenbosch and False Bay, I had to pinch myself. This setting with wine, olives and the most delicious olive oil you could imagine made me wish I could live every day like that.
My final stop of the day was at Antonji Rupert wines, where I was greeted with a glass of sparkling rosé. The wine tasting took place upstairs in their impressive bar area, with glass walls looking into the wine cellars.
I really didn’t want the day to end. It was definitely one of my favourite days of the trip. I highly recommended a full day Winelands tour, it will tantalise your taste buds as well as enrich your mind. Visiting the different vineyards and learning about the different types of wines and grapes was so interesting. Surely now I qualify as a connoisseur?