Skip to main content

1. Waterkloof

Waterkloof

Waterkloof is something of a powerhouse on the local wine scene, with its first vintage under the brand name only released in 2005, and the restaurant rapidly rising to become the number one foodie destination in the country, this year.

Grapes had been planted on the farm that became Waterkloof since the early 1970’s, with a peak in quality production in the mid 1990’s. French wine merchant Paul Boutinot took over the property just before the 2004 harvest and produced that first Waterkloof vintage in 2005. A major new planting and replanting exercise was completed by 2008, with 53% of the 100 hectare farm under vines, and the rest set aside to preserve the indigenous flora and fauna. Biodiversity and biodynamic principles are important at Waterkloof – the team believes that the farm should be treated as a single living entity, and that every action has an effect on its systems. All the vineyard work – from pruning to picking – is done according to phases of the moon, sun and planet to maximise delivery from the vines. The theory is that with a natural balance in place, the wines will require fewer additions to shine, resulting in more flavour in each bottle.

The iconic Tasting Room, Restaurant and state-of-the-art gravitational cellar were constructed in 2009, offering one of the best locations – and views – in the Cape from the Schapenberg mountain. The open-plan venue houses the tasting room, kitchen and dining area for the wonderful restaurant – backed by the staggering vista. For warmer days, there’s a balcony area and in winter, the fluted central fireplace is a big hit.

There are two tasting options – a difficult-to-select Premium Tasting (R70) of 6 wines from the 15-strong Waterkloof, Circumstance, Circle of Life and Seriously Cool ranges and the Standard Tasting (R40) of 6 wines from the smaller and more commercial Reventant & False Bay Ranges, comprising 8 wines in total. It may well all be marketing hype, but there’s something different about the expressions of all the wines – the Sauvignon Blanc and Cape Coral Rosé seem especially crisp, Shiraz is exceptionally spicy and the rare single-varietal Seriously Cool Cinsault rather earthier than most other, more strawberry-lead versions out there. The tasting team is probably the most engaging, enthusiastic and knowledgeable in all the Cape – their passion shines through in every interaction, which is a welcome chance from the rote recitals which are so common in a lot of wineries today.

The Tasting Lounge is open Monday-Saturday 10:00-17:00 and Sundays 11:00-17:00 in summer, while it (and the restaurant) are generally closed on Mondays & Tuesdays from April – October for the winter season. In summer, the Lounge only closes on 25 December and 1 January.

For a really extravagant experience, take the ‘Bird’s Eye View’ tour of the estate. Depart from the V&A Waterfront by helicopter and enjoy a tutored tasting and cellar tour on arrival, followed by an epic seven-course Degustation Menu in The Restaurant, before returning to the V&A by helicopter once more. The cost is R13 800 per person, all-inclusive, with 48-hour pre-booking, essential.

Visit the official website at: www.waterkloofwines.co.za

2. Tokara

Tokara

As you’d expect from an estate owned by one of the country’s richest people, FirstRand Bank co-founder GT Ferreira, Tokara is a place where wine, food, art converge to produce a memorable visit.

Not just any wine, food and art, mind you – the Tokara Restaurant is led by one of the country’s most renowned chefs, the estate’s main building houses more premium art than most galleries and the catalogue of wines produced by winemaker Stuart Botha is impressive in both its ambition and delivery. This is an estate that thrives on showcasing and producing the finer things in life.

Production at Tokara has always centred on Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, in three ranges: Premium Collection (blends from various sites); Reserve Collection (single vineyard offerings) and Directors Reserve (using only the best parcels to create iconic blends). As a result, tastings are split between Flasgship (R100) and Reserve (R75) experiences, with the former offering two whites and two reds for tasting, and the latter offering red-only, white-only and mixed tastings of four, three and three wines. For something different, there’s also the chance to taste the excellent 10 Year Potstill Brandy or Reserve Noble Late Harvest (R25 each), as well as their wonderful Extra Virgin Olive Oil (R50).

Being such a multifaceted destination, the tasting room does draw large crowds, but there’s ample space at the tasting bar, raised tables or the comfortable couches in front of the fireplace, with a few tables next to the massive glass window. Down one wall is a framed record of awards won by the estate’s wines, brandy and olive oils – and it does take up an ENTIRE wall. The staff are well-versed in catering for the influx though, and the tastings never feel hurried, even at peak times. The venue also overlooks the winery’s steel tanks, offering a wonderful complement to the art which populates every corner – indeed, even the bathroom walls.

Tasting & Sales Monday-Sunday 10:00-18:00 closing only on 25 December and 1 January.

Try the olive oil tasting – it’s revelatory to gain an understanding of the fact that quality olive oils can be as complex and layered as wines.

Visit the official website at: www.tokara.com

3. Oldenburg

Oldenburg

The reward for taking the bumpy 4km journey off-road and seemingly into the middle of nowhere, is the opportunity to taste some amazing wines from one of the Cape’s most recently-founded estates, in a fabulous setting.

Proprietor Adrian Vanderspuy decided to bring the Oldenburg vineyards to life in 2003, with the farm producing its first vintage in 2007. The wines immediately gained a following, with the Syrah and Cabernet Franc leading the charge. The property’s assertion that there are 8 Natural Elements which are available only on this particular farm, which contribute to making their wines so special.

The winemaker’s focus is on finding balance in creating the wines – working with the natural effects of terroir to create a balanced environment in which the grapes can thrive, resulting in wines with great balance, complexity and elegance in the glass. The terroir of the estate is notable – not only by the wines produced by Oldenburg, but bourne out by the list of illustrious neighbours, including Thelema, Tokara, Delaire, Bartinney, Camberley and Rainbow’s End.

The staff in the beautiful tasting room will relate those 8 Elements in a dedicated tasting – one of six tasting options that encompass the full estate offering. That 8 Elements tasting (R200) is probably the premium option, including a selection from the 9 wines in the Oldenburg Vineyards Series and the iconic Rondekop Rhodium, which is served in its own implausibly delicate hand-blown glass.The tasting is hugely educational – about the estate in particular and about wine in general, offering more than ‘fun facts’ and demonstrating a deep understanding of the winemaking process. Unusually, the price of each tasting includes a complimentary snack of local cheese, crackers and olives – beautifully presented and full of flavour.

If getting away from it all is in order, the 200 year-old Homestead at Oldenburg sleeps up to 12 people in ultimate luxury, with deep verandas, a large swimming pool and a glass-walled that maximises dramatic views of the Groot Drakenstein Mountains. It comes with a resident manager – a trained butler with sharply honed concierge skills – and two housekeepers. Additional staff, such as a private chef, professional butler and childminder can be arranged.

The Oldenburg Tasting Room is open Monday – Friday 10:00 – 16:30 and 10:00-16:00 on Public Holidays, closing on Sundays, Good Friday, 25 & 26 December and 1 January.

It’s rare to be able to taste different vintages of wines, even on the estate – but Oldenburg have a Rare Vintage Tasting (R210 for three wines) as a fixture on the menu that gives guests the opportunity to savour a few vintages of the premium wines.

Visit the official website at: www.oldenburgvineyards.com

4. Delheim

Delheim

Delheim was one of the founding members of the Stellenbosch Wine Route in 1971, when owner ‘Spatz’ Sperling joined Frans Malan from Simonsig and Neil Joubert from Spier in formalising an organised network of wineries at which tourists could experience their products.

Today, the estate retains all its original charm – the family still own the property, and live there – and visiting the tasting room feels like a step back into those early days, in the best possible way. While many modern wineries have set up shop in steel & glass architectural marvels, the ‘Cellar Door’ at Delheim looks pretty much the same as it always has – facebrick walls, varnished pine tables and the signature cobwebbed window that marks the passage of time in the same way that the rings of a tree, do. A visit to Delheim is a reminder that wine is made on a farm, from grapes grown in a field – not an art-filled, air conditioned, glass box.

The wines are uncomplicated – but that isn’t to say that they don’t have great depth and maturation potential, but they’re honest. The choice of varietals also hark back to the early days of Stellenbosch – Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer for white, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage (also for Rosé), Shiraz and Merlot account for single varietal reds and blends, and a limited number of other varietals for the signature Edelspatz and Spatzendreck sweet wines and an experimental Cabernet Franc.

The Cellar Door team also seem to have been part of the family for an eternity – and as a result, the depth of their knowledge of the estate and its wines, is unparalleled. In keeping with the uncomplicated nature of things at Delheim, there are only two tasting options – 5 wines from across the range for R65 and a pre-booked Wine & Fynbos Cupcake Pairing for R120. There’s also a platter of cheese, olives, fruit, dolmades & pickled pumpkin, with bread, for R220 – though the Garden Restaurant is also definitely worth a visit for more substantial fare. Cellar tours are available Monday – Sunday at 10:30 at 14:30 at a cost of R65.

The Cellar Door is open 361 days a year from 09:00-17:00

Take a wander to the back of the tasting room and enjoy a trip back through history, with a display of the estate’s historic bottles and labels.

Visit the official website at: www.delheim.com

5. Babylonstoren

Babylonstoren

Babylonstoren seems like a recent addition to the Cape winelands, but the farm actually dates back to 1692 and is one of the area’s oldest fruit farms.
It’s developed into something of a destination over the last decade or so, thanks to a revitalisation under former magazine editor Karen Roos.

Under less thoughtful curatorship, it could easily have become a caricature of itself, with the addition of a hotel, two restaurants, heavily-Instagrammed gardens, spa and retail options. Fortunately, the additions to the historic fruit and wine offering have only served to enhance the experience, with more than a touch of style bringing the property into the 21st century.

While many of the original buildings – including the circa 1777 Manor House and the older wheat store, cellar, fowl house, dovecote, bell tower and gates – remain, there are plenty of modern steel and glass additions that somehow blend into the existing structures. The overall impression is one of thick, whitewashed stone walls, with ornate gables and thatched roofs – but if you look carefully, you’ll find plenty of modern touches too.

One such slick addition is the Tasting Room. An earthy building with a high-pitched ceiling is the entry point, but a walk up an accessible ramp, past displays detailing the farm’s history leads to the glass box which houses the tasting area. The stylish space is decorated in fresh greens and warm woods and dominated by a central bar area, lined with symmetrical displays of tasting glasses and the estate’s wines.

Service is efficient and knowledgeable, with guests given plenty of opportunity to actually enjoy the pours of the estate’s various wines, rather than being rushed through the experience. The Standard Tasting costs R60 and includes 6 wines from the Babylonstoren range, with tastings of the flagship Chardonnay, Nebukadnesar blend and Sprankel MCC (bubbly) attracting additional fees of R20, R30 and R40, respectively. There’s also an Express Tasting of the Chenin Blanc, Mourvedre Rosé and Babel Red for R30. Sharing Platters for Two are available for order, to back the tasting – or extend it.

The wines are certainly unique – particularly the Mourvedre Rosé – and the flagships are weighty. Their popularity and potential are on the rise, to the extent that the cellar struggles to keep up with demand – and certain wines may not be available for tasting during your visit.

The Tasting Room is open daily, from 10:00 to 17:00 in winter and 10:00 to 18:00 in summer.

Set aside some proper time to explore all that Babylonstoren has to offer. It’s definitely worth booking lunch at Babel or The Greenhouse and taking a wander through the incredibly manicured gardens, after.

Visit the official website at: www.babylonstoren.com

6. Backsberg

Backsberg

The fourth-generation family estate shares a boundary fence and a history of peach production with Babylonstoren – but couldn’t be more different from its glamorous neighbour.

The history of the farm is interesting and its philosophy, sound – providing pleasure and enjoyment to a broad range of wine drinkers across styles and price points, with finesse, but delivering wines with a high level of ‘drinkability’. Sustainability is important to the process too, with the estate accredited as Carbon Neutral, demonstrating the level of care taken across all stages of the winemaking process.

Grapes for the estate’s wines are drawn from 110 hectares in situ, with satellite vineyards in two other areas contributing fruit with complementary properties. The range is extensive, with around 30 different wines and brandies across varying levels and in different styles – including a Kosher range.

Tastings are conducted in an airy room with the options of sofas or long tables. The estate’s products line the walls and the historic cellar is adjacent. In fact, taking a trip to the bathroom will lead you past ‘cages’ containing much of the estate’s wine stock – including plenty of historic vintages and rare wines. The warm atmosphere of the farm carries through to the tasting room, where guests are welcomed as though they’re returning family, rather than one-off visitors.

The Premium Tasting allows for the sampling of 5 Premium Range wines for R50; while levelling up to the Exclusive Tasting allows access to five Black Label or Family Reserve wines for just R10 more. Try five of the wines from the Kosher Range for the same price, or something a bit different – the estate brandies and two fortified wines, for R60 as well. There’s also the option to pair wines with Dalewood Cheese or Huguenot Chocolates – five wines and five cheeses or chocolates, both for R95.

The Tasting Room is open Monday – Friday: 08:30 – 17:00; Saturday: 09:300 – 16:30 and Sunday: 10:30 – 16:30.

Pre-book a Blending Experience for larger groups, which starts with a tutored tasting and leads into a blending challenge – with a prize for the best blend.

Visit the official website at: www.bacskberg.co.za

7. Beau Constantia

Beau Constantia

Situated at the top of the winding Constantia Nek, Beau Constantia overlooks False Bay and its vines are planted on some of the steepest agricultural slopes in the Cape. The property is relatively new, with the first vines planted in 2003. Despite the challenges of planting on the steep slopes and the relatively small size of the estate, there’s still space for varietals including Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Shiraz and Petit Verdot.

Refreshingly – if not a little confusingly – the wines are named for family members: white blends Cecily and Pierre, Shiraz-only Stella, a Merlot & Cabernet Franc Blend (Lucca) and Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot blend (Aidan). There’s also a lifestyle range called Pas de Nom, comprising a white blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Viognier, a red blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, a Rosé and a non-vintage MCC.

The views across the vineyards and all the way to the Bay are mesmerising and showcased to the maximum by the ‘glass box’ design of the Tasting Room (and, indeed, one of the most scenic bathroom facilities in the world!).

The tasting team largely let the wines speak for themselves, with just a basic explanation to start with – but have a depth of knowledge that rewards questions, which they’ll engage incredibly passionately, about. There’s also a house gin and two vodkas on the tasting menu – try them if you dare!

The Beau Constantia Tasting Room is open Tuesday – Sunday from 11:00 – 18:00, 360 days a year.

The beautiful Tasting Room is relatively small, so it’s advisable to make an advance booking to ensure you get a spot. Ask for a seat around the edges for the best opportunity to enjoy unobstructed views across the valley – though there’s no such thing as a ‘bad seat’.

Visit the official website at: www.beauconstantia.com

Leave a Reply

Monthly Newsletter

South Africa is one of the most visited countries in the world, and for good reason. We highlight some of the best bits

Get the next Seven Best delivered to your inbox