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My favourite place I’ve visited last year? Cape Town and the surrounding wine region in the Western Cape. After four days exploring the city and all of the natural beauty flung about, from the penguins at Boulders Beach, the gusty winds at Cape Point and a safari at a private reserve, it was time for a few days of rest and relaxation in the countryside. And by that I mean sleepy wine-induced lulls under the African sun and drunk-ordering taxis to as many beautiful vineyards as possible. Cheers to all the fun you can have in a weekend in Stellenbosch!
WHAT TO SEE
The first vineyard my boyfriend and I ventured to was Beyerskloof, also known as the home of Pinotage. The winery specialises in the red grape that’s native to South Africa that combines Cinsaut and Pinot Noir. To experience a tasting here, simply walk in before they close at 4pm, and you’ll be handed a list of wines to choose from. The sampling is priced at around £5 (30ZAR) for five glasses and goes up to a total of nine variations (60ZAR). Certain bottles, such as their exquisite and rare Diesel (named after the vintner’s Great Dane) aren’t available. Bear in mind that it’s done very casually here at a bar, a slightly different experience to some of the more luxurious options.
Ideal for: red wine lovers. There’s just one white wine on the tasting menu, a highly unusual mix of Pinotage and Chenin Blanc, which is definitely something you need to try.
Koelenhof 7605, Stellenbosch
The second vineyard we explored was Simonsig, which boasts the title of being the first vineyard in South Africa to sell sparkling wine. It really is a delight. Tastings here are similarly priced to Beyerskloof, and like most places, will wave the fee if you purchase bottles. The welcome drink is the Kaapse Vonkel sparkling rose, of which I ended up taking two bottles home with me. I’d also suggest adding the Chenin Avec Chêne, a wooded white to the tasting list. After a few glasses, because portions here are very liberal, there are very few things more satisfying than a meal. Bar snacks on offer include fresh oysters, which pretty much sealed this vineyard as one of my favourites. However, for something more substantial, it’s worth staying on for lunch at the restaurant which serves wonderful local fare: hearty, meaty but with a dash of elegance.
Ideal for: those who’d pick a glass of fizz over any other drink.
Kromme Rhee Rd 7605, Stellenbosch
Vrede En Lust in Franschhoek makes the list because it was one of the more impressive places we saw. The 17th century beauty is one of the stops on the wine tram, a charming mode of transport that takes tourists around the area. It piqued my interest for being the site of the only female winemakers and it clearly has big investment. The estate includes accommodation and an adorable cafe and restaurant that’s open to the public. It’s the kind of place you’d expect to see young mums having a sneaky tipple in the afternoon sun before the school run. As for the tasting, it feels more like checking into an upscale hotel than signing up for a couple glasses of wine. Ladies in Red, as they are referred to, take care of guests and instead of choosing your own wines, their style is more towards suggestions based on your preferences. It’s just a shame that all the ones we sampled weren’t very drinkable and into the spittoon it went. Although, there was a red that was accompanied by a bit of chocolate and that was a nice touch. We both went for the Premium Tasting that included six flights (50ZAR).
Intersection R45 and Simondium-Klapmuts Roads, Franschhoek Wine Route, Franschhoek 7690
WHERE TO DINE
An absolute must in your time in the Western Cape would be the Delaire Graff Estate. It is breathtaking. It also looks like a Bond villain’s home. What more could you want? The drive to the main building takes you through exotic gardens that snake uphill. Book for dinner at The Delaire Graff restaurant and sip on some sparkling wine while overlooking the golden landscape as the sun sets. It is truly one of the most romantic places I’ve ever seen.
Helshoogte Rd, Stellenbosch
WHERE TO STAY
Don’t ask me why we chose MolenVliet Oosthuizen Family Vineyards, beyond the beautiful photos on Booking.com, because the real answer is boring. But I’ll be brief – we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. The plan was to find a comfortable hotel to lay our heads as we ventured about the wine region, indulging in tastings and uncovering quiet restaurants serving local food. This estate just happened to be the easiest option. But after experiencing its top service, serenity and unbelievable views, I’d happily make it my yearly retreat.
You’ll drive down a side road, the avenue to the vineyard, similar to any other you might visit in Stellenbosch. Pull up to a white house and a feature fountain, flanked by green gardens and cabanas by a dipping pool. After checking in, you’ll be taken via a golf buggy to the guest rooms. We opted for a Mountain View Luxury Suite, which overlooks a flowing, manicured vineyard and a jagged peak. Although some of the room’s features look a little tired, the decor is any interior lover’s dream. Spacious and dotted with art and (real) potted plants, luxurious rugs and dainty soft finishings… if the Malibu Barbie-esque Belmond Mount Nelson designed my future living room, then MolenVliet showed me my ideal bedroom and patio.
And what about the wine? This accommodation doesn’t cater to tastings but their offerings are available to order or to purchase via the minibar. As a guest, you can expect a bottle of sparkling wine upon arrival and another awaiting your return, every night.
Old Banhoek Road, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch, Cape Town, 7612