A CHRISTMAS CAPE WINE JOURNEY

Wine is Sunshine, Held Together by Water” – Galileo Galilei

 

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Image Credit Babylonstoren Wine Estate
A bird’s eye view over Simonsberg and Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Tasting the fruits of the Cape Vineyards – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

South Africa’s Fairest Cape is synonymous with some of the most splendid wine estates in the world, situated in lush green valleys, flanked by rugged mountains, azure seas and blue skies. Add to that the unique and distinctive Cape Dutch architecture with its elegantly curved gables and soft artful thatched roofs that characterizes the South African wine landscape, and throw in some exceedingly good wines … and you’re just about beginning to get the picture.

There are hundreds – 560 wineries and 4 400 primary producers and counting, of wine, dotted along the Cape Wine routes alone. The obvious ones are situated around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Wellington and Paarl, but of course there are also wine estates and producers in Cape Town’s Constantia, Tokai, Durbanville, Noordhoek, Swartland, West Coast, Breede River, Overberg, The Garden Route, the Klein Karoo, Namaqualand and the Northern Cape … in fact, when navigating vast parts of South Africa’s Cape Provinces there are very few spots where you won’t encounter vines thriving!

To boot South Africa has the largest number of Fairtrade certified wineries in the world and the biggest single Fairtrade accredited project worldwide was recently launched at Du Toitskloof Cellar in Rawsonville in the Western Cape.

It’s an impossible task to scratch the surface when introducing the vast and diverse Cape Winelands, but we made a humble attempt by picking out 4 of our favourite estates. And to make it super special, we’ve asked our local wine expert to recommend a favourite wine from each of the estates (and a few bonus insiders’ tips right at the end too).

Without any further ado, let’s dive head first into the delectable selection …

 

Image Credit:
Babylonstoren Wine Estate: babylonstoren.com and Facebook facebook.com/Babylonstoren
Delaire Graff Wine Estate: delaire.co.za/wine and Facebook facebook.com/DelaireGraff
Tokara Wine Estate: tokara.com and Facebook facebook.com/TokaraWines
Cavalli Wine Estate: cavalliestate.com and Facebook facebook.com/CavalliEstate

 

1. Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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A view over the vineyards and gardens at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

One of the oldest Cape Dutch farms, Babylonstoren, lies at the foothills of the majestic Simonsberg, in the spectacular Franschhoek wine valley, about 45 minutes’ drive from the city of Cape Town. It’s fruit & vegetable gardens and vineyards are exquisite and diverse, it’s wines sought-after, its various restaurants sensational and the accommodation and spa super peaceful and ultra-luxe.

A working farm with acres of cultivated, curated orchards and vegetable beds, a winery and tasting room, boutique hotel, luxury chalets, spa and verdant garden with over 300 types of edible plants supplying their award-winning restaurant Babel with farm-to-fork dishes, Babylonstoren Wine estate is one of the must-experience lifestyle destinations to visit when in Cape Town.

The farm boasts 232 acres of planted vines and produces 13 different grape varieties, with their highest vines – pinot noir and chardonnay – lying against Simonsberg at some 600 metres above sea level. Shop here https://shop.babylonstoren.com/za/categories/wine for my personal favourite, Nebukadnezar, a full-bodied Bordeau blend and the vast range of red, white, rosé and MCC varieties – 10 in total.

Apart from its gastronomic features, the farm has a quaint farm boutique ‘shopping mall’ which includes a deli, bakery, textiles and ceramics, organic cheese and grass-fed meat. In the Scented Room one can choose from a huge range of locally produced fragrances distilled from the aromatic essential oils of the fruit, vegetables and other plants cultivated on the farm – or should you feel creative, you can mix your own in this modern-day apothecary.

Our wine expert recommends:

Babylonstoren Nebukadnesar 2018

The deepest, proudest wine from this picturesque estate. Showing opulence and craft. A proper Bordeaux-styled blend from South Africa.

Babylonstoren Nebukadnesar 2018
Image Credit: Babylonstoren  and facebook

 

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Cape Dutch manor house – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Al fresco eating – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

Watch Garden Expert Monty Don visiting the spectacular gardens at Babylonstoren Wine Estate:

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The garden spa – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Sprankel sparkling wine – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Amongst the blossoming trees – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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A vegetable hamper straight from the garden and onto the plate – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Lunch at the fireplace – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Koi in the spectacular garden – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Award-winning wines: Chenin Blanc, Candide and Mourvèdre Rosé – all the 2021 vintages.
– at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Sparkling wine served on a special Babylonstoren own textiles tablecloth – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Stay at the farm hotel – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Grapes, soon to be wine! At Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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The full delicious selection – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Sweeping views over the vineyards – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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From the garden onto the plate – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Fresh foraged produce – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Everything grows locally in the garden at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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The choice of wines to taste is vast – Rosé at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

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Christmassy colours in this dish made from local ingredients – at Babylonstoren Wine Estate

 

2. Delaire Graff Wine Estate

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Image Credit Eats and the City on Facebook
Iconic memories – at Delaire Graff Wine Estate.

One of the undisputed jewels of the Cape Winelands is perched on the highest crest of the Helshoogte (‘Hell’s Heights’) mountain pass, where jeweller Laurence Graff has transformed an extraordinary natural setting into a world-class destination for wine, art, cuisine and an otherworldy escape from the everyday.

In a setting of unbeatable natural beauty, surrounded by spectacular mountains on all sides, this gem of an estate consists of various award-winning restaurants, luxury lodges with private pools, spa, winery, ultra high-end clothing boutiques and a world-famous bespoke diamond boutique.

The gardens and grounds are spectacularly manicured and dotted with local sculpture. Activities that one can partake in – apart from taking in the panoramic views while relaxing on the luxurious terraces, at the poolside, spa or in the hot tub, or exploring the neighbouring wine estates (of which there are literally hundreds) include hiking, horse-riding and fishing.

Delaire Graff’s state-of-the-art winery is their pride and joy, and the reason folk make the trip from across the globe to taste, indulge and purchase the fruit of this estate’s labour. With 20 hectares of vineyards situated on the slopes of Botmaskop Mountain planted with Bordeaux reds and Chardonnay grapes, Delaire Graff Estate produces supremely elegant vintages and was recently named one of the Top 50 wineries by the World’s Best Vineyards – placed first within the African continent. “Delaire means ‘from the sky’, and the wines we craft here are an invitation to savour this unique piece of heaven and earth in Stellenbosch.” – Laurence Graff, owner. Truer words have not been spoken. (Should you feel tempted to have a sneak peek, go ahead! https://www.delaire.co.za/wine/.)

This is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most elegant wine estates in the Cape, and one where you’re likely to encounter a clientele of supremely glamorous fellow-visitors sipping wine and purchasing diamonds – be sure to dress up for the occasion!

Our wine expert recommends:

Delaire Graff Laurence Graff Reserve The ultimate luxury wine. Scoring consistently in the 97+ point range from Tim Atkin. This is truly the best of the best of from the Banghoek Estate. The best barrels of wine are selected, and then selected again. Liquid, concentrated luxury.

Delaire Graff Laurence Graff Reserve
Image Credit Delaire Graff Wine Estate
and Facebook

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Spectacular vistas across the vineyards from the terrace at Delaire Graff Wine Estate

Watch a short video of Delaire Graff Wine Estate here:

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Image credit Will Simpson on Facebook
With gardens in bloom 365 days a year, every season is a sea of different hues – at Delaire Graff Wine Estate

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Christmas grape-like baubles – at Delaire Graff Wine Estate

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Relax at the pristine pool – at Delaire Graff Wine Estate

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Sculptures are dotted throughout the luxury estate, this one by famous sculptor Dylan Lewis – at Delaire Graff Wine Estate

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South African diamonds – at Delaire Graff Wine Estate

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Five-star cuisine – at Delaire Graff Wine Estate

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Views across the vineyards, blue skies and stunning architecture – at Delaire Graff Wine Estate

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Wine and views – Chardonnay at Delaire Graff Wine Estate

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Relax, unwind, watch the sun go down and enjoy the fruits of Delaire’s labour! – at Delaire Graff Wine Estate

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On top of the world – at Delaire Graff Wine Estate

 

3. Tokara Wine Estate

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Marvel at the stunning sculpture garden – at Tokara Wine Estate

The foothills of Simonsberg outside the picturesque town of Stellenbosch is home to the spectacular Tokara Wine Estate with its 17th century vineyards. The views from the tasting room and restaurant over the southern slopes of the Simonsberg with its vines and olive groves are epic, one can see as far as Table Mountain and the ocean at False Bay.

Tokara produces some of the best wine in the Stellenbosch Winelands. Their incredible red wines, based on Cabernet Sauvignon, are the cornerstone of the estate and their Sauvignon Blanc from two diverse vineyard sites is another focus variety. The estate focuses on two Bordeaux varieties in its Director’s Reserve range, both exquisite. The Reserve Collection showcases the unique attributes of terroir-specific, single-vineyard wines in limited volumes, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

The restaurant at Tokara boasts a chef who won the “Haute Performance Award” as South Africa’s most promising chef in the 2020 JHP Gourmet Guide, while the restaurant has been included in the authoritative The World’s 50 Best Restaurants new ‘50 Best Discovery’ list for 2020. There is also a fabulous sculpture garden with regular visiting exhibitions and a rare plant fair, which is a must-see. Tokara’s exquisite local olive oil is just as sought-after as their award-winning wines: Tokara’s Extra Virgin, cold pressed olive oils are produced in their boutique-style production plant where complimentary tastings of their range of Extra Virgin Olive oils are available.

Our wine expert recommends:

Tokara Directors Reserve White 2018
Iconic Bordeaux-style white blend. Sauvignon blanc and Semillon combined to produce a silky, delicious and tremendously age-worthy drop.

Tokara Directors Reserve White 2018
Image Credit Tokara Wine Estate
and Facebook

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Sunset over the Franschhoek mountains – at Tokara Wine Estate

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Dine in style, with a view over the vineyards – Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend at Tokara Wine Estate

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Trellised vines and panoramic views – at Tokara Wine Estate

Enjoy a short virtual tour of Tokara Wine Estate here:

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Be one with nature – at Tokara Wine Estate

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Artisan olive oil from the olive groves – at Tokara Wine Estate

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The sculptural entrance to Tokara Wine Estate

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Panoramic vistas – at Tokara Wine Estate

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Chardonnay grapes – at Tokara Wine Estate

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Views all the way to the ocean – at Tokara Wine Estate

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Tokara’s famous Chardonnay – at Tokara Wine Estate

 

4. Cavalli Wine Estate

On an idyllic route between the coast and Stellenbosch, in the spectacular Helderberg region, lies Cavalli Estate with its award-winning wines, cuisine, design, architecture, indigenous gardens and art. And of course the feature that makes it super special are its beautiful horses! Cavalli Wine Estate boasts 26 hectares of vineyards, 10 hectares of indigenous fynbos gardens, a contemporary restaurant, 350-seater function venue, wine-tasting facility, retail facilities, contemporary art gallery, luxury boutique and a world class equestrian facility.

Consistently voted as one of South Africa’s top wedding venues in the Cape Winelands because of its exquisite setting, luxurious amenities and glamorous interiors, Cavalli Estate is a dream spot for any special event – birthdays and any other celebration, really, that calls for glamour and luxe! The restaurant serves divine cuisine that’s foraged from the estate’s gardens, the wines are second to none, all bottled in spectacularly stunning graphics depicting the equestrian theme of the estate. The wines are elegant and fruity and flavours are shaped by the salty, cool sea air that blows over the vineyards.

Our wine expert recommends:

Cavalli Filly Chenin blanc 2020

Netting 96 points to boot from South Africa’s leading wine publication, this generous Chenin blanc totally over-delivers at its price point.

Cavalli Filly Chenin blanc 2020
Image Credit https://cavalliestate.com/
and Facebook

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Converging panoramic vines – at Cavalli Wine Estate

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Beautiful packaging in Cavalli’s Warlord and Colt – at Cavalli Wine Estate

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The restaurant – at Cavalli Wine Estate

Enjoy a short virtual tour of Cavalli Wine Estate here:

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Cavalli is a favourite wedding destination – at Cavalli Wine Estate

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Red grapes and Pink Pony – at Cavalli Wine Estate

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Five-star food in Cavalli’s restaurant – at Cavalli Wine Estate

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Gourmet vegan food – at Cavalli Wine Estate’s restaurant

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Cremello – at Cavalli Wine Estate

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Ethereal dining – at Cavalli Wine Estate

 

 

We’re leaving you with a few Bonus Recommendations / Insider’s Tips from our Local Wine Expert:

1. Sijnn Low Profile Red blend 2019 – An intense red, showing the unique expression of the isolated Malgas terroir. Broody, dense and earthy.

https://www.sijnn.co.za/archives

2. Reyneke Biodynamic Syrah 2019 – Spicey, juicy & organically grown in the Polkadraai Hills. Once called the Best Value Red Wine in the World by renowned critic Neal Martin.

3. Creation Chardonnay 2020 – An excellent introduction to this world class wine farm’s Chardonnay offering, displaying the freshness and precision that Chardonnay can only achieve in cold climates.

https://www.creationwines.com/wines/#nav_wines

4. Vergelegen GVB White Blend – iconic, high scoring, age-worthy to the extreme. A jewel from this Schapenberg Estate

5. Waterkloof Circle of Life White Blend – a tight, mineral, delicious blend from the Biodynamically farmed vineyards perched above False Bay. 

6. Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2020 – using one hundred-year-old vineyards this wine is immensely ageworthy and all about texture. The only white wine in the Boekenhoutskloof Flagship stable, and certainly is not overshadowed for it.

 

With all those insider’s tips in your wine arsenal, we’ll leave you to ponder your next wine adventures.

Hope to see you in the Cape Winelands soon!

Cecile Paul

Author at Pynck

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