Crisp whites, full bodied reds, you don’t need to be a sommelier to enjoy good South African wine. However, we wanted some information from an expert, so we decided to check out some of the best South African wineries with Manfred. If you get a chance to journey to South Africa, you will have to tour these South African wineries near Capetown to experience the best wines in South Africa for yourself. The Cape winelands are family friendly. Therefore, many families spend weekends picnicking on the lawns.
Since we couldn’t physically travel to South Africa to visit their wine regions, we decided to bring those regions to us. We visited with Manfred virtually through Zoom and learned about the history and vineyards of South Africa. When we took the tour it was winter in South Africa, and Manfred explained that parts of it were unseasonably cold. Winter is the perfect time to warm up by making mulled wine. Of course, here in South Florida it was summer so we sipped our South African wine chilled.
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Photos in this post are from Manfred’s virtual experience and are used to complement the information gathered from his narrative. Moreover, you can join the program for yourself. We highly recommend it. Manfred was knowledgeable and personable as a host.
Get to Know Our Host
Since Manfred was born and raised in France, he worked in the French wine regions for many years. Then he moved to South Africa and still maintains dual citizenship. He now lives in Capetown, and due to Covid-19, gives virtual tours of South African Wine Regions.
History of South African Wine
In 1659 this region made its first wine. However, by the late 19th century disease had wiped out wine production in most countries except Australia. Eventually, the United States shipped some of these original vines back to other wine producing countries, and wine production began again. Differences in wines are often as a result of different climate and soil although they often originate from the same types of grapes.
In 1990, when Nelson Mandela was released South Africa was permitted to export its wines. Currently, due to Covid-19, the country has put a ban on all alcohol sales and therefore has not exported any for the past several months.
First we visited the region of Constantia. Constantia is a day trip from Capetown and is a mountain region. Wine tasting is a top activity with friends and family on weekends. You will often see families with children picnicking at the wineries. There are numerous wineries in this area, but we focused on two of them.
Groot Constantia Wine Estate
This is the oldest winery in South Africa. It produces varietals such as Chenin Blanc and Savignon Blanc. These are produced from the Muscot grapes minus the noble rot that is usually accompanied by these grapes. Instead these grapes dry out and become raisins before being turned into wine. These grapes have a natural acidity due to the proximity to the sea. Vin de Constance is one of these wines that uses French Oak during the aging process. This wine matures for 3 years. Jane Austen recommended this wine as a cure for a broken heart.
Cape Point Vineyards
Cape Point Vineyard specializes in Savingon blanc and white blends. Female wine makers own this vineyard. Don’t forget to take the long way around back to Capetown so you can see ostriches and penguins along the way.
This translates to French Quarter. The inhabitants here speak Afrikantz but are French at heart. They celebrate Bastille Day and of course like good wine. They have made wine here since the late 17th century. Franschhoek is the tourist capital for wine.
One main road winds throughout the region, taking you to the best wineries in Franschhoek. Perhaps, you will want to take a long weekend to tour them. But come with plenty of money. This area is expensive. Top chefs from around the world come to work in the restaurants here. Ultimately, you can take a tram on a wine farm tour so you don’t drink and drive.
Known for its sparkling wines, Franschhoek follows the strict guidelines of French Champagne producers. The wine takes a minimum of 12 months to produce whereas most countries are not as strict with their sparkling wine production. The winery brings the grapes in from the cooler regions due to Franschhoek having more of a Mediterranean climate. You can take the MCC wine route in South Africa to hop from one producer to the next over the course of a few days.
Swartland: Hippy Culture South African Wine Region
Swartland gets its name from local black plants which give the impression that the land is black. Off the beaten path, this wine region does not have public buildings or fancy tasting rooms. Manny says you need to contact wine farm owners directly for an appointment. Upon arrival the owners will invite you into their family home for a tasting.Wine tastings are small and family oriented.
In the past, wine from this region was mass produced, but in 2010 a wine revolution took place. In a blind tasting critics rated wines from this region highly. The vines here grow naturally without trellising. Wine farmers don’t use sulfites. Therefore fewer and smaller grapes are produced concentrating their flavor. This region definitely lends itself to a hippy culture.
Here are some sponsored links for wine fridges so you can store all of that wine!
Stellenbosch Vineyards: Family Friendly South African Wine Region
This region produced the wines we purchased for this virtual tasting. This is a cooler region, home to Stellenbosch University, the only university for wine making. This region is located a 25 minute drive away from Capetown and houses the largest amount of wineries. Most of the wine farms are kid friendly with family picnic areas.
The Golden Triangle, a region within Stellenbosch is known for its full bodied red wines, some of the best red wine in South Africa. The elevation here varies from 60 meters to 400 meters. The diversity of the soil such as granite, shale, sandstone, and clay makes possible a wide variety of wines. Highlights include Merlots, shiraz, malbec, and some chenin blanc.
Waterford Estate boasts three trail hikes and a wine safari. Our virtual hosts recommended the 2015 Waterford Estate The Jem. Future grooms often come here to propose over a bottle of this wine.
The Spier Wine Farm is one of the oldest wine farms and has been in existence since 1692. While many South African wines are unavailable in the U.S., we were able to buy some from Total Wine for our virtual tasting. The farm has a restaurant, hotel, and spa. Of course, you can bring your own food if you prefer to picnic on the grounds.
Tulbagh is about a 90 minute drive from Capetown near the mountain. As in most small rural villages, everyone knows each other. You will find a mixture of old estates along with new vineyards, modern wine cellars, and small micro-producers. At Montpellier you can taste wines, witness the beauty of this historic Dutch homestead, go horseback riding, or camp on the grounds. The farmhouse also hosts a B&B. Or you can experience Rijk’s Private Cellar and taste the famous Pinotage, a varietal combining the best qualities of pinot noir and hermitage grapes. On the other hand, If you stay at the Wittedrift Manor the owner, Irishman PJ Daly will give you a tour of the area in a Tuk Tuk. Interestingly enough, he and his wife vacationed here in 2002 and never left!
I included these sponsored links for wine purses. They make great gifts. I want one myself!
Traditionally known for growing apples, Elgin now makes a name for itself because of its wines. Located 40 miles southeast of Capetown, Elgin grows grape varieties which prefer the cooler climate. Wine farms in this region produce Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. For more information on wineries and places to stay in Elgin visit Trip Advisor.