In South Africa, wine is more than just an indulgent beverage that gives you a pleasant buzz. It’s a culture that fully embodies the spirit and soul of our country, ranging from the people who produce it to the land that brings it to life. I’m no stranger to a fine Cabernet — seeing as I’ve spent years exploring the gorgeous wine regions to pick my very favorite wine estates.
South Africa’s best wine regions are right on your doorstep. Want to enjoy the local vineyards like a South African Mamma? Here’s where to start.
Stellenbosch: your favorite storybook turned real life
Stellenbosch is a university town located in the Western Cape province right in the heart of the Cape Winelands Vineyards, and it happens to have some of my favorite architecture in the country. “Serenity” is probably the best word I can use to describe this charming destination that sits right in the mountainous nature reserves of Jonkershoek and Simonsberg. The myriad of local wineries are always on my to-do list (of course!), but there are plenty of unique shops and galleries to gander at too. Most of my days in Stellenbosch have been spent meandering down the quaint Main Street, collecting souvenirs for family and friends that can only be found locally. Stellenbosch’s Old Dutch charm feels like a European storybook, just a couple thousand miles down in South Africa instead. Take it from me: you’ll feel right at home from the moment you arrive, whether enjoying a leisure breakfast at one of the many local coffee shops or just sitting outside watching the world go by. It’s less than an hour from the city by car, but you’d never know this oasis of calm is so close to the hustle and bustle of Cape Town. Perfect respite for the weekend…or week!
Franschhoek: a place to wine and dine with the best
History, fine dining, and centuries-old vineyards wrapped into one picturesque package is the best way to sum up Franschhoek. After sipping on some fine wines, you can immerse yourself in one of the many local trails that are lined with mountain views and wildflowers. Cape Dutch architecture can be found throughout the town, offering a unique look at the past. The aforementioned is to be expected in the winelands, with all of the classic charm and beauty that the region embodies. One thing that makes Franschhoek particularly special in my opinion is the dining scene, which I found to be of stellar variety and standards. Anyone who knows me personally is aware of my love for high quality, organic food—and I’ll go through great lengths to find the best eateries around the world to support that love. When it comes to dining, Franschhoek steals the show. Not only can you find local and organic produce, but the restaurant scene is also flourishing as well. La Petite Colombe is an internationally acclaimed restaurant featuring seasonally rotating menus full of gourmand delights that are as beautiful as they are delectable. It’s the epitome of edible art—and the open-air dining room makes a gorgeous atmosphere to revel in.
Paarl: a deep dive into the heritage of South Africa
Paarl is a unique stop in the wine region in the heart of the scenic winelands beauty. The town is the third oldest settlement in South Africa, with beginnings rooted in 1687. The rich cultural heritage stems back to the days of the Spice Route, which nowadays includes specialties such as dark chocolates and draft beers. Who can argue with that combination?
South African Mamma’s favorite wine estates
I have many favorite places around the winelands, but there are two wine estates that stand out in particular. Ruste En Vrede and Le Riche are without a doubt some of the finest — and I always find them at the top of my list for recommendations.
Ruste En Vrede dates back 320 years, but my past couple years of visiting the premise have been enough to make me fall in love with it. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of spending many lazy afternoons at this well-known wine estate, basking in the warm sunshine that covers the outside deck. It’s a must-visit. Really, you probably won’t want to leave. The estate has earned many accolades as a result of their specialization in red wines—specifically Syrah, Cabernet, and Merlot. These highly-regarded wines are accompanied by a pairing menu that I still dream about to this day. The outside restaurant is a destination in and of itself with tableside wine tasting curated to your palate. The tastes are incredible, and the surroundings of Stellenbosch’s natural beauty are a perfect compliment. The wine cellar is impressive, too—even if just to admire! With notable visitors including Nelson Mandela and the Queen of Denmark (and me, obviously), Ruste En Vrede has a reputation that it certainly lives up to.
Le Riche rests quietly on Helderberg Mountain’s slopes, warmly inviting visitors from all over the world to bask in the beauty and complex flavors that the vineyard has to offer. It’s another Stellenbosch favorite — and it’s easy to see why. The grapes come from some of the area’s best terroirs. From Cabernet Sauvignon to Chardonnay, the flavors are impeccable.
The wine isn’t the only reason to visit the region
Delectable wine isn’t the only thing available in this region of South Africa. The wine region offers so much more, including horseback wine tasting, cycling, open jeep wine safaris, glass blowing, and artisanal works. Come for dinner in the vineyards, and stay for grappa tasting.
Take it from a South African Mamma: it won’t disappoint!