The quaint rural town of Franschhoek is located on South Africa’s Western Cape, about 40 kilometres out of Cape Town. It is the centre of venerable, world-class wineries. With a backdrop of stark, blue, rocky mountain ranges Franschhoek was the starting point for our 3 day wine tasting tour.
The town, although touristy, boasts fabulous restaurants, fine art galleries, outstanding shopping and is at the beginning of the famed Wine Tram journey, serving most of the 200 wineries, some dating back to the mid 1600s. The hop-on, hop-off Wine Tram was a fun and highly convenient way to see the wineries and tickets can be purchased in the Franschhoek town centre.
For the wine lover in all of us, or the true connoisseur, the Cape Wineland District has some truly stunning options. On our short journey we only had time to scratch the surface. These were our favourites.
Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate, part of The Huka Reteats group, is a stylish and elegant winery with a magnificent large garden studded with native blue agapanthus, magnificent old shady trees and a waft of fragrant lavender. Seated in the garden, under the filtered light of the African summer sun, we sampled the variety of wines on offer. A standout for us was the Angel Tears Rosé, accompanied perfectly by a half dozen freshly shucked oysters. It doesn’t get better than this.
Smaller family run Eikehof Wine Estate was another delightful stop. Wine maker Francois Malherbe explained the winery has been running since the mid seventeenth century. Sipping his locally made product, accompanied by a variety of cheeses and cured meats, was perfect while surveying the distant, sun-drenched grapevines. Francois’ wines were delicious and the Merlot was one of the best we had tasted in South Africa.
Fairview Winery took it to another level. The tasting room, with a large number of ‘horseshoe bar’ tasting stations, set up with individual cheese samplers, was an impressive start. We tasted six wines and each was outstanding. A number of our group members purchased bottles for later enjoyment. We then had some amazing food at the Goatshed Harvest Table. Lunch outside under the grapevines, a satisfying and relaxing conclusion to a busy but thoroughly enjoyable adventure.
Our accommodation was located bout half an hour out of Franschhoek. Cascade Country Manor was once the residence of the Duke of Bedford. This grand manor house is an isolated green oasis at the end of a gravel road. Feeling like true nobility with our mansion in the background we settled ourselves by the pool to take in the late afternoon sunshine.
The highlight of our stay was not only the well appointed rooms but also the huge veranda that faced west looking over well manicured lawns, pool and mountains where we imagined lions and elephants once roamed. We ate dinner on the terrace with twinkling stars, great wine, food and the wonderful company of our Detours Group. We easily relaxed, chatted and laughed late into the evening.
One evening we drove into the small town of Paarl and ate at a superb Italian restaurant called Terra Mare’s. The food was fresh, well presented and the Springbok, cooked medium rare with a dark, rich, blueberry sauce, forced us to savour every bite. Olivier the owner is passionate about his restaurant and the food he serves is outstanding.
Drakenstein Lion Park
Although the wineries are about fine wine and delicious food, Drakenstein Lion Park is not to be missed. Established to provide a sanctuary for mistreated lions, the park is situated in the Winelands and comprised of 50 acres of sprawling lion habitat. There is no shortage of lions, including a family of white lions.
At around 4pm feeding time begins and this is an excellent time to visit the park. Set aside a good two hours for your visit as these magnificent animals will mesmerise you with their power, strength and majesty.
Whether you explore the Western Cape Winelands by yourself, with a guide or as part of a tour group like us you will not be disappointed by the region’s flourishing landscape, award winning wines, enticing food and remarkable wildlife. A few days to discover all this remarkable area has to offer is an essential part of any itinerary when visiting this magnificent and fascinating country.