The Cape Winelands
The Cape Winelands are regarded by many as the most beautiful region of South Africa.
This tour is different as it is NOT about wildlife; it is in fact all about vineyards, glorious wine estates, wine, history, culture and some of the best cuisine that South Africa can offer.
This is a vast region with an abundance of wine estates, producing some of the world’s finest wines, and our tours cover inter alia the districts of Constantia, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Worcester, Wellington, Wolseley, Tulbagh, Ceres, Montagu and Robertson. Visitors get the opportunity to visit some world famous wine estates and to experience the unique ambience of life amongst the vineyards. Visiting famous estates like Groot Constantia, Fairview, Muratie, Neethlingshof, Simonsig, Rustenberg, Theuniskraal, and Landskroon is simply an unforgettable experience.
Though the South African wine industry is young in comparison with that of Europe, the country is able to trace its viticultural history back to the very first vine imported and the very first grape pressed – with full documentation of the wine’s character, production methods and the resultant spread of vineyards throughout the Cape.
The wine growing conditions in the Western Cape are ideal and the South African wines are world renowned. The cultivars are not indigenous to South Africa but have all been imported from Europe in the 17th century under the leadership of Governor Jan van Riebeeck and his successor Simon van der Stel. Among the most popular Cape cultivars are Chenin Blanc, Palomino, Muscat d’Alexandrie, Riesling, Clairette Blanche, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsaut, Pinotage, Shiraz and Tinta das Baroccas.
Types of Wine in South Africa
Chenin Blanc was one of the first cultivars to be planted at the Cape, but was always known as ‘steen’. It is found throughout the region and has a taste and character of its own. The small, oval green grapes produce wines which vary from area to area. The Chenin Blanc of the coastal regions is a light, delicate wine; further inland it is more robust and fuller. It is also an excellent base for blended white table wines, sweet wines, sherries, white ports and brandies.
Palomino is one of the oldest cultivars found in the Cape and was originally known as French Grape or French White. Nowadays it is cultivated mainly in the Little Karoo for the production of white table wines, brandy and sherries. The wine made from the medium to large round and rough-skinned grapes is soft on the palate, but lacks in delicacy and bouquet which makes it ideal in blending.
Muscat d’Alexandrie (locally known as ‘Hanepoot’) thrives on the Cape climate, particularly exposure to the hot summer sun and is widely planted. The grapes are large and oval shaped with a thin skin, greenish yellow in colour, turning to pale amber when fully ripe. The wine is light and sweet with a beautiful pale golden colour. It is also used in blending, particularly with Late Harvest varietals.
Riesling is a cultivar of German origin and produces a high quality dry white wine which has a pleasant grapey aroma and a fresh green tint. The fruity taste is characteristically mellow on the palate. It is planted mainly in the Paarl, Stellenbosch and Tulbagh areas.
Colombar was initially planted for the production of brandy until the role of the cultivar changed radically to make it one of the country’s most popular white wines. The medium sized grape is valued for brandy, but it is now mostly used for making a full flavoured, slightly acid white wine with a fragrant, fruity bouquet.
Cabernet Sauvignon originates from Bordeaux region of France and is one of the world’s fifty noble varietals. It is arguably the Cape’s most valuable cultivar for the production of quality red table wine. The small thick-skinned spherical grapes produce a dark wine, high in tannin content and a fruity, slightly acid taste. It should not be drunk when young because it lacks harmony and substance. Two years of cask maturation and two more years in the bottle is required. The Cabernet Sauvignon wines of the Cape are absolutely brilliant and very popular.
Pinotage is a classic cultivar and a good example of successful cross-pollination, being a hybrid of the noble Pinot Noir from Burgundy and the prolific Cinsaut. The small, oval skinned grape produces a soft, round wine with a flowery nose.
Cinsaut originates from the south of France and was first planted in the Cape in 1880 – then known as ‘Hermitage’. The large, oval and fleshy grapes produces extraordinary high yields, but a wine that is thin and light. Cinsaut matures relatively quickly and can be drunk earlier than most other varietals. It is also the most favoured cultivar for the production of high quality brandy.
Shiraz originated in Persia and was imported to South Africa from the Rhone Valley in France where it had been cultivated for hundreds of years. The wine is a smoky tasting red which blends superbly with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsaut. The Shiraz of the Cape is a very good medium to full-bodied red wine, soft on the palate and most drinkable after a long period of maturation.
Tinta das Baroccas was originally imported from Portugal at the turn of the 20th century for the production of Port – a very successful undertaking. It was only some forty years ago that a deep-coloured medium bodied red table wine was produced for the first time and this was an immediate success.
It is also possible to include visits to Table Mountain, Cape Point, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, West Coast National Park, Cedarberg Mountains and the Cape Town Waterfront.
Accommodation is provided in guest houses, hotels and at wine estates.