Your Guide To: The South African Winelands

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I dipped my toes into the pool and I was in heaven.  A glass of cool  Chenin Blanc perched next to me, as I immersed myself in the valley of vines.

Why South Africa?

With over 60 different wine regions, South Africa is a great place to indulge.  The cool, arid conditions brought about by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meeting at the southern tip of Africa has created the perfect mediterranean style climate for growing vines, ensuring the grapes grow slowly; creating a more intense flavour.   South Africa is the 9th largest wine producer in the world and produces over 450 million litres of wine per year.

Where to go?

Stellenbosch is probably the most well known wine producer in South Africa and, at only a 30 minute drive through stunning scenery from Cape Town, it is definitely the most accessible to tourists.  Far less pretentious than French or Italian vineyards, it still offers a restaurant and other facilities to make your vineyard tour a day long experience rather than a fleeting visit. R30 (£1.87) will buy you an afternoon in the sun, 5 bottles to sample and a platter of food carefully paired to each wine.   

Away from the tourist hubbub there are plenty of smaller producers which create fantastic wine and port, these tend to be small vineyards that cater to  that are unavailable in the smaller family-farm run vineyards in remoter regions.  In the north of South Africa’s wine region is Klawer Cellars, the beauty of this area is astounding, verdant greens and neat trellises line the steep hills, bathed in the late afternoon African sun.

Many of the wines here are often crisp and refreshing, styled like ice wines.  Others are complex and full bodied.  Some vineyards are now trying to develop fashionable flavoured wines, to appeal to the feminine consumers who wish for a tastier, lower alcohol content tipple.

Given the exchange rate between the Pound and the Rand, South African wine also offers fantastic value for money.  I have tasted exceptional wine here at less than £15.00 a bottle, with the average table wine costing less than £6.00.

What else to do?

Believe it or not wine in South Africa is not all about the drinking. You can now camp amongst the vines at Klawer Cellars and a number of other vineyards.  There are also some beautiful walks to be had amongst the trellises, and plenty of spots to stop and soak up the same sun that ripens these berries into making the most delicious wine.  

If you really are too busy enjoying the hustle and bustle of Cape Town to venture out into the country, there is good news for you too, restaurants and bars in the city take great pride in offering huge selections of the countries finest.  The benefit of course being that they are not limited to selling wines made by just the one producer.

A new resurgence in national food means that many of the top restaurants are looking to pair local wines with local dishes.  A particular favourite is a good quality Pinotage, served with one of South Africa’s rich and spicy dishes; Bibotie.  



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