When you think of great wine, does South Africa come to mind? I’m certainly no wine expert. But a recent visit to the winelands around Franschhoek and Stellenbosch outside of Cape Town gave me a renewed respect for this age-old alcoholic beverage. South Africa’s wine-making traditions are actually much older than those of Napa Valley in California. The fertile, rust-colored African soil has been producing delicious reds and whites for hundreds of years.
I decided to spend a whole afternoon tasting many varieties of South African wine at 2 different estates, both with surreal landscapes. Row upon row of vibrant green vines spread out in all directions, while majestic mountains off in the distance rose up to touch the sky. It’s hard to imagine a better wine-tasting setting than this!
First up was the Delaire Graff Estate, perched on a hill overlooking fields of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc grapes. We began our tasting experience in the estate’s luxurious wine lounge with a fantastic view of South Africa’s iconic Table Mountain in the distance. A short tour of the wine-making process taught us step-by-step how grapes from the vineyard turn into that intoxicating liquid we all know and love.
Next we drove down the road to Vrede en Lust (“freedom and passion”), an African wine farm with more than 300 years of history behind it. More incredible mountain views greeted us, along with a bevy of “red ladies.” The whole operation is run by women, including their head winemaker. Tasting a wonderful mixture of reds, whites and a very special homegrown South African blend called pinotage, we all chose our favorites as the sun set in the distance.
Think this type of wine experience sounds too pricy for your budget? You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out that tastings at these vineyards are very affordable and can sometimes be completely free of charge. Visiting South Africa’s renowned wine country should definitely be included on every traveler’s itinerary. It’s a unique experience that will have you sounding like a wine expert in no time.