A CHRISTMAS CAPE WINE JOURNEY
“Wine is Sunshine, Held Together by Water” – Galileo Galilei
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 …
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
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.
Watch Garden Expert Monty Don visiting the spectacular gardens at Babylonstoren Wine Estate:
2. 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.
Watch a short video of Delaire Graff Wine Estate here:
3. 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.
Enjoy a short virtual tour of Tokara Wine Estate here:
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.
Enjoy a short virtual tour of Cavalli Wine Estate here:
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.
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.
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!