Wine Region of South Africa: The Best Vineyards to Visit
One of the highlights of a trip to South Africa is undoubtedly a visit to the wine region - discovering and tasting some of the country’s most celebrated wines.
When planning a luxury holiday to South Africa, sampling the local food and drink should be high on your list. For wine lovers, a visit to the wine region is an absolute must, giving you the chance to try some of the country’s award-winning wines.
Home to hundreds of wine estates, the Winelands as they are also known, is an area renowned for its varied and breathtaking scenery, its exciting gastronomy scene, and its unique Cape Dutch architecture.
What’s more, it’s not all about the wine; in the region you’ll find plenty to see and do including exploring the local shops, taking in historical monuments, hiking, cycling, and gallery-hopping, making it great for families too.
The best-known wine regions include Constantia, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, and the Elgin wine route - all of which we’ll be taking you through in this guide.
When To Go to the Winelands
If you’re planning your holiday and are specifically looking to include a luxury tour of South Africa’s finest wines, you’ll want to make sure you visit at the best time of year.
Although you can admire South Africa’s Winelands throughout the year, from June to August the weather is more likely to be cold, wet, and wintery. Meanwhile, peak season is from October to February, when the weather is warmer and brighter. Peak season is of course the busiest, especially around Christmas, so if you’re looking to go at a quieter time and enjoy a glass of wine or two snuggled up by the fire - we’d recommend heading there out of season.
Typically, harvest season in South Africa runs during the country’s summer months (January - March). The wine estate will make the call as to when they start harvesting, and it all depends on the sugar levels they want from the grape and the cultivar. So, if you’re looking to visit the Winelands in Autumn and Winter, it’s unlikely you’ll see grapes on the vines. The best time to see grapes on the vines would be October to early January, or in other words, during South Africa’s mid-spring to early summer season.
Regional Destination Manager and South Africa Expert Harriet Whitmarsh says:
“The Winelands offer something for everyone all year round, but there is something very special about seeing the big juicy grapes dripping off the vines between the months of February and March. This time of year offers clear, bright blue skies and follows the crazy busy Christmas period, so it seems quiet in comparison. I could happily spend a day wandering around Babylonstoren and witness the working farm in action before enjoying a delicious picnic made up of fresh goods purchased from the farm shops.”
Whatever time of year you visit, a trip to South Africa’s wine regions is likely to be memorable, as every season offers something unique and the wine on offer is simply spectacular.
Stellenbosch Wine Route
The Vineyards of Stellenbosch are some of the most popular in the region, so a wine tour here is unmissable. If you don’t have a preference as to when you travel, we’d highly recommend visiting between September and April, since this is when many of the region’s vintage wines are released.
Aside from being a hotspot for food and wine, this lively university town also offers a handful of boutiques and museums to explore, or simply take a walk through the town’s tree-lined streets and soak up the Cape Dutch architecture.
The area is particularly well known for its viticulture - the cultivation of grapevines - so there are hundreds of world-class estates with wine tastings here surrounding the town.
Regional expert Harriet Whitmarsh says:
“Stellenbosch Wine Route is one of my favourites purely because I adore the wine and restaurants at Delaire Graff. Delaire Graff is a firm favourite here at Scott Dunn. Ranked as one of the most prestigious wineries in the world, jeweller Laurence Graff has created an opulent and world-class space dedicated to luxury accommodation, design, wine, art, wellness, and cuisine.”
Some of our favourite luxury wine farms include:
Delaire Graff - situated on the slopes of Botmaskop Mountain and offering an array of delicious wines (particularly Bordeaux reds and Chardonnays) Delaire Graff is one of the top 50 wineries in the world. It also boasts two excellent fine-dining restaurants and stunning luxury lodges for accommodation.
Waterford - this luxurious estate offers a whole host of experiences, including a wine drive safari, a porcupine trail walk, and a number of different tasting sessions, including pairing wine with chocolates - perfect for those with a sweet tooth and a love of wine.
Lanzerac - offering five-star accommodation in the heart of the Winelands, the scenery at this estate is just exquisite, nestled in the foothills of Stellenbosch’s Jonkershoek Valley. Things to do here include an indulgent seven-course fine dining menu, hiking, and wine tasting of course, while the on-site spa is the ultimate spot for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Backsberg - this winery is particularly family-friendly, complete with a child-friendly restaurant and play area. If the weather’s good though, we’d highly recommend ordering a picnic basket of delicious treats and spreading out in the estate’s sprawling gardens while the children play.
Franschhoek Wine Route
The Franschhoek wine region in South Africa is likely one of the most beautiful routes of all, combined with some of the best wineries and the quaint Franschhoek town. Lying just east of Stellenbosch, the French-influenced area has become somewhat of a culinary capital, renowned for its incredible gourmet restaurants as well as its wines. It’s even famed for the production of its own variety of South African sparkling wine, known as Methode Cap Classique.
On top of this, the region also provides one of the most unique ways to experience some of the best wine farms in the area via the Franschhoek Wine Tram. Situated near the town centre, this quirky tram allows you to hop on and off at your choice of estate and includes a friendly tour guide as well as wine to sample on board.
Some of our favourite wine estates in this area include:
Boschendal - as one of the oldest wine estates in the Western Cape, Boschendal is a real must-visit, steeped in history. There are plenty of fun things to try at Boschendal, including horse riding, cinema nights, cycling, and wine workshops. This family-friendly spot also features a special kids' area which includes an educational treehouse centre, plus holiday clubs for kids of all ages - offering parents the chance to slip away for that well-deserved wine tasting!
Haute Cabriere - established in 1694, this family-run winery is passionate about the creation of quality wines, particularly Burgundian and Champagne varietals. While wine tasting is part of the course here, the wine farm’s restaurant offers one of the very best views across the Franschhoek wine valley, with a breakfast and lunch menu serving classic French dishes with a twist.
La Motte - boasting a picturesque setting, traditional cuisine, and plenty of historic charm, La Motte is an advocate of sustainable farming and has received many accolades for its commitment to excellence in wine production and environmental sustainability. Aside from luxury wine tasting, here you can go hiking on the vast grounds or a hiking trail, explore the on-site museum, or peruse locally-made produce in the farm shop.
Constantia Wine Route
The Constantia wine route is located on a peninsula along the coastline of the Cape of Good Hope, just 15km south of Cape Town. This is one of the wine routes closest to Cape Town, so it can even be visited for a day trip if you’re staying in the city itself.
Constantia is an affluent local suburb, complete with fascinating heritage and offering both breathtaking landscapes and one-of-a-kind activities like hiking and segway touring - so it’s well worth a visit, even if you’re not there to indulge in the wine. If you are though, you’re in luck, as it’s undoubtedly a region that offers some of the best vineyards in Cape Town, including Groot Constantia and Beau Constantia. In fact, some of the best South African Sauvignon Blanc comes from this region, as well as the delectably sweet dessert wine, Muscat de Frontignan.
Meanwhile, if you fancy a break from the wine tasting, the local town offers the chance to browse both high-end boutique shops and unique local crafts.
Whilst here, don’t miss these excellent wine farms:
Groot Constantia - a real must-visit, Groot Constantia is South Africa’s oldest wine-producing estate, boasting over 300 years of history. In fact, this fully operational farm is one of South Africa’s most visited tourist attractions, offering a variety of high-quality wines, the majority being reds. On-site you’ll find two outstanding restaurants, wine and chocolate tasting rooms, a museum, and a stunning historic winery, so there’s plenty to see and do.
Beau Constantia - this boutique wine farm is situated at the top of Constantia Nek, overlooking False Bay and providing stunning views. The common varieties you’ll find here include:
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Cabernet Franc
Here you can take a tour of the farm, book a wine tasting, or enjoy an indulgent dinner at Chef’s Warehouse Restaurant while admiring the views.
Klein Constantia - situated in the upper foothills of the Constantiaberg mountain range, Klein Constantia is often described as one of the world’s most beautiful wine estates - beloved by the likes of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Napoleon Bonaparte. The estate has been producing wine since 1685, with its Riesling and Sauvignon Blancs the sure favourites. Enjoy wine tasting and cheeseboards or take a leisurely lunch at the on-site bistro.
Paarl Wine Route
The second-oldest wine route of South Africa, the Paarl South Africa wine region, is roughly a 50-minute drive inland from Cape Town, and is renowned for its rich, full-bodied red wines and its cool and crisp white wines - Shiraz is a particular favourite here.
Framed by the picturesque Paarl Valley, there are plenty of outdoor activities to try here, including mountain biking, horseback riding, and canoeing, while the town itself is well worth exploring. Dating back to 1657, this quaint town is home to many impressive Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian buildings, along with a variety of coffee shops, craft stores, and monuments to peruse.
Some of our favourite wine estates in this area include:
Fairview - another sustainably-run winery, Fairview is a working farm, established in 1693, with a focus on creating artisanal and sustainable produce, specifically wine and cheese. Some of the best varieties to try here include Shiraz, Pinotage, Petite Sirah, Viognier and Grenache. We’d recommend you do a master wine-tasting session here, but you could also take dinner at the Goatshed, and pay a visit to the shop and bakery. Whatever you do, don’t miss the quirky ‘goat tower’, home to the farm’s resident goats. A highlight for kids in particular.
Spice Route - Just a 45-minute drive from Cape Town, Spice Route is one of our favourite family-friendly choices. Alongside wine tasting, the farm offers chocolate tasting and local beer and gin tasting but is also home to a coffee shop, restaurant, gift shop, deli, and even a glass-blowing and ceramic studio. Meanwhile, the kids can have fun in the outdoor play area and pump track - great fun on bikes!
Nederberg Wine Estate - one of the best-known wine farms in the area, Nederberg Wine Estate is set amongst the stunning Drakenstein mountains, offering majestic views to admire while you sip on your wine. There’s plenty to do here, be it wine tasting, enjoying a gourmet meal at the Manor Restaurant, or spreading out with a delicious picnic on the extensive grounds.
Elgin Wine Route
Situated around 40 miles southeast of Cape Town, the Elgin region is sometimes referred to as the ‘Hermanus wine route in South Africa’, since the two are within a 40-minute drive of each other. In fact, we’d recommend heading to Hermanus afterwards for whale watching if you have the time.
The route is home to no less than 15 wineries, and there’s even a unique experience in the form of the Elgin Railway Market - complete with a wine bar, craft, and food stalls. Meanwhile, outdoorsy activities to do in the area include the Cape Canopy Tour zipline in the Hottentots Holland Nature reserve, mountain biking, kayaking and hiking, and of course, visiting the array of local restaurants and wine farms.
Wines to enjoy here include the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay varieties which tend to thrive in Elgin’s cool climate.
Some of our favourite wine estates in this area include:
Paul Cluver - this family-owned estate has been running since 1896, with the winery forming part of a larger farming business called De Rust Estate. There’s plenty to do here, as in addition to the vineyards and cellar, there are apple and pear orchards, eco-tourism activities, and concerts held in the on-site amphitheatre. The Paul Cluver estate even forms part of the UNESCO world heritage site, the Kogelberg Biosphere.
Almenkerk Wine Estate - another family-run wine farm, the beautiful Almenkerk Wine Estate features acres of vineyards, beautifully-manicured lawns perfect for picnicking, and a Belgian-inspired restaurant called De Brasserie. This winery is renowned for its excellent Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Merlot; however, you’ll also be able to try a range of unique Dutch-inspired wines.
South Hill - a picturesque boutique wine farm, South Hill produces top quality wines across three ranges:
- the South Hill range; an accessible, easy-to-drink wine
- the Kevin King range; expressive wines made for food pairings and made in limited quantities
- the King of the Hill range; an exclusive collection of selected stand-out vintages
As well as wine tasting, the farm offers luxury accommodation, a boutique art gallery, a high-end restaurant serving delicious local fare, and a venue for weddings and functions.
Booking Your Winelands Trip
If you’re looking to include a wine-tasting tour as part of your luxury South Africa itinerary, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our friendly and knowledgeable travel specialists can recommend the best wine tours in South Africa for you, as well as share some of their favourite experiences.