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January 07, 2013

There’s more to the Cape Winelands than superb wine

Vintage car museum Franschhoek. Photo by Flickr member Laertes CTB

What’s a visit to the Mother City worth sans a spot of wine tasting in the Cape Winelands?

There are few places on the planet that offer wine lovers such a heady combination: superb wines and excellent cuisine amid stunning scenery. Renowned for their hospitality, Cape Town’s wine estates welcome visitors with cellar tours, wine tasting and on-site wine sales, while a number of world-renowned restaurants have established their credentials in the Cape Winelands.

But it’s not just about the wine! Many estates have come up with novel means of extending the experience. Out in the Cape Winelands a number of health and wellness spas have sprung up, and outdoor attractions such as birding, fly-fishing, horse riding and hiking are ideally suited to the beautiful surrounds.

Also worth investing time in while in the Winelands are fun activities such as cheese-making, wine-making, brandy tasting, olive tasting, wine and chocolate tasting, wine and nougat tasting, or wine and nut tasting.

Wine tasting is just the start of the adventure. Photo by Flickr member Jose Romeu

Known as the birthplace of grape farming in South Africa, the Constantia Valley Wine Route is a 20-minute drive from the city centre.

It features nine estates, many of the oldest in the country and each with its own distinctive heritage and premium wines: Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Constantia Uitsig, Steenberg, Constantia Glen, Eagle’s Nest, Beau Constantia and Silvermist.

Vineyards were established here by Simon van der Stel, the first governor of the Cape, during the late 1600s. Constantia Valley’s terroir and climate facilitate the creation of award-winning wines of a consistently high standard and quality.

Oom Samie se Winkel, Stellenbosch. Photo by Flickr member Michael Clarke

Ancient oak trees and mountainous surrounds are typical of the Stellenbosch American Express® Wine Route, South Africa’s first, established in 1971 near South Africa’s second-oldest city, Stellenbosch.

With around 150 wine and grape producers under its umbrella, the Stellenbosch route has been split into five sub-routes for ease of access: Greater Simonsberg, Stellenbosch Berg, Stellenbosch Hills, Bottelary Hills and Helderberg (Somerset West), producers of fine reds and port.

Visit the historic town of Stellenbosch, where Oom Samie se Winkel harks back to shopping of a bygone era, or take a helicopter flip to appreciate the extent of this route.

Half an hour’s drive from Cape Town, deep in the Tygerberg Hills, lies the Durbanville Valley Wine Route, where a dozen local producers turn out intense, fruity wines.

Mountain biking in the Winelands is a popular pastime. Photo by Flickr member Warrenski

Team wine tasting with lunch at one of many fine dining establishments, or keep it simple and wholesome at a small bistro. If you happen to be there midweek, don’t miss the Wednesday Wine-downer platter and wine tasting.

Renowned as much for its culinary attractions as its wine, the Franschhoek Wine Route features 48 Vignerons de Franschhoek, “some of the most innovative and progressive wine producers in South Africa”. The region includes a sparkling wine Cap Classique Route, with nine cellars in production.

Although the quaint village of Franschhoek features an eclectic mix of highly browsable art galleries, antique dealers and boutique hotels, its numerous restaurants are legendary and the car museum is a must-see.

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