The Cape has a long tradition of wine production dating back to the Dutch settlers of 1652. When the British took over a new wealth was brought to the country and many of the gracious Cape-Dutch homesteads were built. It was hoped initially that the Cape would become “the vineyard of the Empire”. This happened to some extent, although quality table wine production didn’t catch on, Cape ‘Port’ and ‘Sherry’ became popular and ‘Constantia’ Muscat established a superb reputation.
Then came a downward spiral caused by the political situation, a partial boycott and bad publicity. At the same time European laws to protect names such as ‘Sherry’ came in and there was a surge in quality elsewhere in the New World. This led to a near total disappearance from international markets. Following the country’s ‘opening up’, exports and quality increased, and recently, soared to very highest levels.
We start our South Africa wine holiday in Cape Town where we stay on the lively waterfront. On the Victoria & Alfred wharf there are numerous restaurants, wine shops and even a brew-pub serving food. There are interesting shops and in-door markets to browse round too. Table Mountain, the Two Oceans Aquarium, a boat trip around the harbour and a visit to Robben Island or to Cape Point make it worthwhile to fly out a couple of days before the tour begins or stay on after.
On our first evening we visit Constantia for a comprehensive tasting at the superb estate of Buitenverwachting. The estate is renowned for its refined red wines, lively Sauvignon Blanc and its sweet Muscat desert wine. We then continue to their restaurant for dinner.
We head north of Cape Town visiting first the cool climate Durbanville region that gets influence from both the Atlantic and Southern Oceans, this has turned out to be a very good spot for Merlot. Next we arrive in the exciting Swartland region with its Mediterranean climate and we stay in the charming village of Riebeek Kasteel for two nights. We look forward to visiting or meeting revolutionary, natural winemakers such as Lammershoek, Mullineux and Badenhorst who are collectively perhaps the most exciting group of winemakers in South Africa today. We also visit the Allesveloren estate, who are doing interesting things here with Portuguese grape varieties. From Riebeek we also visit the small Tulbagh region, which is almost enclosed by high mountains giving it a more continental climate of hot days and cool nights.
We continue on to the Huguenot town of Franschhoek (literally ‘French Place’) for the following three nights. In Franschhoek we visit the Rupert family’s Antonji Rupert winery. The wines perform extremely well, in particular in the premium range. From Franschhoek we visit several estates in the nearby Stellenbosch wine region. Thelema Mountain has featured on every tour that we have taken to South Africa and we look forward to a private tasting of these sensational wines. We also enjoy an evening Snoek Braii (fish BBQ) with the masters of Pinotage, Kanonkop. Organic producers Reynecke were the surprise of the 2014 trip – beautiful clean wines with real depth, the spicy Syrah was particularly well received.