Sample fine wines on a holiday to SA
There are lots of great things to see and do in South Africa (SA), and one of the highlights of my trip to the country was visiting some of its many vineyards.
Its Winelands region is where its top tipples are produced, so it is definitely worth a visit – especially if you love your wine!
Where to visit?
South Africa’s Winelands are located in the south of the country in the Western Cape, which is why lots of people (myself included) combine a trip to the region’s most famous towns, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, on a holiday to Cape Town. Wanderforth, along with other holiday specialists, offer trips that allow you to enjoy a tour of the Winelands as well as other excursions in the country.
On my holiday in South Africa, I visited the vineyards surrounding Stellenbosch, which meant that I not only got to see some of the best wineries in the region, but I also took in the main sights of the quaint Dutch town. Coming here is like stepping back in time, with its architecture remaining as it did during its colonial era – something that feels very out of place compared with both modern Cape Town and rural Africa. Nevertheless, this meant I could combine my love for wine with my passion for history.
Why is the area good for wine?
This area is ideal for wine production because of its temperate climate. When you come here, you’re more likely to feel as though you’ve gone to the Mediterranean for your getaway and not Africa, with the winds from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans causing temperatures here to be cooler than north of the country, where it can be boiling at times. If you come in December or January, you’ll arrive in SA’s midsummer, meaning you can make the most of the beautiful weather.
I went during its winter in July, but the weather was on our side and it was still very pleasant, despite a day of rain. But it is this rain and the cool winds that help cultivate the grapes, with the soil, climate and land being very similar to those in Mediterranean countries – and we all know how good the Med is at producing some top notch tipples!
To add to this, many grapes that grow here are of the French variety, and so are the wine-producing practices you’ll find in the Winelands. This is mainly as a result of the fleeing of Huguenots from France in the late 1600s. They came to SA for refuge, and bringing with them their skills and knowledge about producing wine, which had been passed down through generations.
What types of wine can you try?
These days, many French vines are used in producing wine, including chenin blanc. Much like I did, you’ll recognise a lot of the drinks you’ll try in the Western Cape.
But one type that you’re unlikely to have sampled before is the pinotage. This is the viticultural cross that is only produced in SA and is a mix of pinot noir and cinsaut. The production of this variety was started by Stellenbosch University’s professor Abraham Perold in 1925, and the result of this amalgamation is a rich red wine. My top tip is to try this with a smoky meat dish, as the earthy notes of the tipple really complement South African cuisine. Yum!