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The Western Cape province is a great bastion of wine tourism in South Africa. We easily accessed it from our first stop in Cape Town. What’s great for wine lovers is that just driving 20 minutes outside the city we came into contact with wonderful vineyards.
The Stellenboch area is one of the best known names outside South Africa and it is a very close drive from Cape Town, but we wanted to find something just off the obvious path. So we settled on staying a few days in a town called Franschhoek. This turned out to be an up close and personal encounter with some excellent vineyards, a pleasant town and thrilling views. This is a food and drink paradise with some of the country’s top restaurants, apartment rentals, and well formed tourist industry. It is around an hour from Cape Town through the winding mountain roads.
A well developed industry
The vibe we found in Franschhoek was a combination of more established vineyards yet not so overdeveloped as to seem ‘touristy.’ Our apartment rental featured an extensive list of local vineyards which included rankings, accessibility to the public, varietals grown and operational times. We found the best approach to be just getting a map, walking to the outskirts of town and dropping by places that were open. Most vineyards close around 4 and 5pm. Tastings and wine purchases overall were extremely affordable in comparison to what this same type of trip would cost in California for instance.
The wine tram
If your time is limited or you really wish to get some serious tastings under your belt consider the wine tram which serves many of the vineyards in Franschhoek. There are 4 different lines which operate and a variety of packages from tastings, to tastings and lunch and cellar tours. There is a lot of historic and vinicultural explanations provided too. The ticket usually includes 2 free tastings.
Do it yourself
If you find there are varieties of grapes you want to explore or specific vineyards which seem interesting or have been recommended to you it is worth knowing that many are in reachable walking distance from downtown. We employed this option and explored Grande Provence La Bourgogne, Boekenhoutskloof just to name a few. Holden Manz was one of the coolest vineyards with an on site spa and country house for guests to stay which we visited.
An even further adventure is to continue to discover this region by pressing on into nearby Swartland and Wellington where the vineyards are considered lesser known, more experimental and down to earth.