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Images: the Steenberg winery
The Steenberg winery resides in the Constantia wine region, renowned for its exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Bordeaux-style reds. Photograph courtesy of Alain Proust/Steenburg

The Best of Cape Town, South Africa’s Wine Routes

In TRAVELER magazine’s September issue, our team of Africa writers engage in six captivating trips—camping in the Sahara, rafting the Zambezi, exploring ape country in Uganda . . . and more. Online we offer our biggest ever Web-exclusive feature, the “Africa Travel Package,” which includes an 18-page travel planner, details on the best cruises to Africa, tips from National Geographic photographers, and TravelWise links guides. Here, we offer the best wine tasting routes in the Cape Town, South Africa area.

If you’re bored with Napa Valley’s predictable wine routes book the next flight to Cape Town, South Africa. The country is, after all, the seventh largest wine-producing region in the world. Only two percent of all wine created in South Africa is exported to the U.S. So most Americans are unaware that South African wineries herald exceptional Pinotage (a blend of Pinot Noir and Hermitage that is endemic to South Africa), Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc. Even the most insatiable wine tasters will find enough wineries with venues to satisfy. We consult the experts—Peter Short, a wine buyer for Conservation Corporation Africa, who frequents the Cape winelands; Lisa Hough, president of Cape Wineland Tours; and Wendy Toerien, author of Wines & Vineyards of South Africa and South African Wine: A Celebration—on where to go.

Just outside of the Cape Town is the Constantia wine region, ranked among the world’s best, because of its long-noted tradition of growing flavorful, wine-producing grapes; it was one of the first sites where the Dutch East India Company successfully grew the sweet fruit. Visit two amiable geniuses, winemakers Ross Gower at Klein Constantia (+21 794 5188, kleincon@global.co.za, free) and Hermann Kirschbaum at Buitenverwachting (+21 794 5190, free). The Groot Constantia (+21 794 5128, gct@mweb.co.za, $1.33 U.S. for wine tasting) and Steenberg (+21 713 2211, info@steenbrg.co.za, $1.22 U.S. for wine tasting) graciously swing open their doors as well. Be sure to try the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Bordeaux-style reds for which this region is known.

At the southern tip of Africa is the Helderberg Wine Route, an area in the well-known Stellenbosch region. Stop first at Vergelegen (+21 847 1334, $2.43 plus wine tastings), and explore the depths of its sunken wine cellar. The ultra-modern cellar houses creations by winemaker André van Rensburg, a renowned Sauvignon Blanc maker. In the high slopes of Helderberg Mountain is Cordoba (+21 855 3744, cordoba@adept.co.za, free) where you will overlook the Jonkershoek Valley and Table Mountain as you sip one of its fine vintages. A short drive north brings you to Grangehurst Winery (+21 855 3625, winery@grangehurst.co.za, only in summer, free), where Jeremy Walker pours top notch Pinotage.

Continue northeast to the Simonsberg-Stellenbosch region. Start at Kanonkop Wine Estate (+21 884 4656, free) and try its bold, fruity Pinotage. The family-owned Muratie Wine Estate (+21 882 2330, $.12 U.S. per wine tasting) also offers notable reds in an ancient setting, as does Morgenhof Wine Estate (+21 889 5510, $1.22). Next, stop at the tasting room, created with a mix of glass, steel, and wood, of Rustenberg Wines (+21 809 1200, free). Traditionally Rustenberg’s winemakers have produced rustic red wines; but when the winery re-opened in 1996, its new winemaker introduced new-world style blends with strong fruit accents. Nearby is Kaapzicht Estate (+21 906 1620, free), virtually unknown because it is so small, but worth seeking out for its award-winning Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Thelema Mountain Vineyards (+21 885 1924, free) makes one of the best Sauvignon Blancs in the country.

Ringed by the Wemmershoek Mountains, the Franschhoek Valley (+21 876 3062) at the beginning of the Paarl region, is known for its spectacular scenery, historical setting, and notable whites, Chenin and Semillon. Make your first stop at Boschendal Winery (+21 870 4200, $1.45), especially if you’re a white wine lover—winemakers there blend 11 different kinds. A small boutique winery, Boekenhoutskloof (+21 876 3320, boeken@mweb.co.za, free) is on your way to Cabriere Estate (+21 876 2630, $3), which specializes in sparkling white wine. Next door the Haute Cabriere Cellar and Restaurant (+21 876 3688) offers an elegant Burgundy-style Pinot Noir.

Glen Carlou (+21 875 5528, $.60), part of the true Paarl Wine Route (+21 872 3605, paarl@wine.co.za), is still thought of as a newcomer, but with two-time Diners Club Winemaker of the Year award-winner Walter Finlayson at the helm, you can’t go wrong. Fairview Winery (+21 863 2450, $1.22) offers a selection of specialty cheeses to sample with your wine. Make Veenwouden Private Cellar (+21 872 6806, veenwouden@interko.co.za, free) your last stop. This boutique winery belongs to international opera singer Deon van der Walt and the classic Bordeaux-style red is one of the priciest in all of South Africa.

—Meghan Aftosmis

Meghan Aftosmis is a TRAVELER associate researcher.

Meet our “Capetown, South Africa’s Best Wine Routes” contributors