The best wineries in South Africa. Stellenbosch, Wellington, Paarl, Franschhoek and Constantia. A complete guide to visiting the best wineries in South Africa.
South Africa is well known for a lot of things. Exotic wildlife, national parks, stunning landscapes, wild and rugged coastlines and delicious wine. There are hundreds of wineries in South Africa, most of which are located in the Cape Winelands, located in the Western Cape province.
South Africa’s wineries produce some of the best wine in the world. Pinotage – South Africas signature grape features highly across the region, as does Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Riesling. We’ve been lucky enough to visit some incredible wine estates in the Cape Winelands and it’s safe to say, that a visit to South Africa wouldn’t be complete without experiencing some of these wineries for yourself. Not only will you be blown away by the wine, but with a backdrop of valleys and craggy mountains, you will be left speechless.
Popular wine regions in South Africa
Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are probably the most renowned wine regions near Cape Town. However the nearby Wellington, Paarl and Constantia are also incredible wine destinations.
A university town and one of the most famous wine regions in South Africa, Stellenbosch is one of the Western Cape’s biggest tourist attractions. The historic town is full of Cape Colonial architecture and is a short 45 minute drive from Cape Town. With an abundance of wine farms and its close proximity to the city, Stellenbosch makes a perfect day trip or weekend getaway.
Boasting some of the South Africa’s finest wines, best restaurants, boutique luxury accommodation and sweet B&B’s, Franschhoek is one of the countries top wine regions. A little over an hours drive from Cape town, the surrounding rolling grapevines and dramatic mountainous backdrop alone makes a journey to Franschhoek worth it.
The Paarl wine route is the second oldest wine region in South Africa, only 45 minutes drive from Cape Town. It produces some of the best Pinotage, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and shiraz in the country and is well known for its crisp white wines and full bodied spicy vintage reds.
The Wellington wine route is one of the youngest in the Cape Winelands. The valley is home to approximately 90% of the country’s vines, which are grown in nursery’s called stokkieskwekerve, before being planted in surrounding wine regions. Located 45 minutes from Cape Town, Wellington produces some top quality red and white wines.
Dating back to 1865, Constantia is South Africa’s oldest wine producing region. Each of the 9 wine estates on the Constantia wine route offer something different. Located a short 15-20 minute drive from Cape Town’s city centre, it’s the perfect place to explore some of South Africa’s incredible wines.
Best time to visit the wineries in South Africa
The Cape Winelands are a year-round destination. Each season offers something different and there is no single best time to visit.
- Between November and February, the Cape Winelands experience a hot, dry summer. This is a great time to explore the vineyards and spectacular scenery, before cooling down with a refreshing glass of wine.
- Between March and May, as the leaves change from green to orange, the vineyards become alive as the harvest season commences. During autumn, visitors can watch on as delicious vintages are created.
- Winter in the Cape Winelands brings a different vibe. You’ll want to rug up while exploring the quaint towns, before indulging in a gourmet meal and wine tasting in front of a raging fire. Despite the chilly temperatures, visiting in winter time is a wonderfully cosy experience.
- During spring, the weather becomes warmer and the region bursts into full bloom. The estates fill with colourful flowers, making it a beautiful time to explore the wineries of South Africa.
How much time do you need to visit the wineries in South Africa?
The Cape Winelands are located very close to Cape Town. This means you can easily visit several wineries on a day trip from Cape Town. How much time you need really depends on you. If you really love wine, we recommend staying overnight at one of the Cape Wineland wine estates and spending a couple of days exploring the region. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed!
The best wineries in South Africa
There are literally hundreds of wineries in South Africa and choosing which ones to visit can be tough. We went to many during our visit and in our opinion, these were the best:
Of all the wine estates we visited, this was our favourite. Located in Paarl, Fairview is a working farm which hosts several micro businesses. Aside from their relaxed tasting room, they have a deli full of beautiful produce, a small bakery producing freshly baked bread and pastries, along with restaurant. The resident goats will greet you on arrival and the friendly staff are only too happy to assist when deciding which of the various tasting menus to choose. We recommend the cheese and wine pairing for a complete Fairview experience after which, you’ll find it hard not to make a purchase!
The deli and shop is in fact like a small farmers market. You’ll find over 50 cow’s and goat’s milk cheeses, all locally produced. There is also a range of yoghurts, condiments, jams, free range meats, eggs and on offer, making this the perfect place to stock up for a picnic lunch. If you’d prefer to eat in, book a table at the Goat Shed for lunch instead.
Linton Park Wines
Originally known as Slang Rivier, Linton Park is located in Wellington. With sustainability in mind, this smaller scale vineyard produces several ranges of wine and a tasting here offers a more intimate experience. We really enjoyed wines from the Rhino range; a collection of younger wines, suitable for everyday drinking. Not only did we enjoy the Chenin Blanc, but we loved that for every bottle sold from this range, 1 rand is donated to Rhino conservation. Don’t miss the Cafe Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage with soft notes of mocha and chocolate. Such a delicious twist on some already tasty wines. If you’re feeling hungry, pizzas, gourmet platters and seasonal specialities can be ordered from the casual Uncorked eatery, overlooking the gardens. Bookings are recommended.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram
There’s no shortage of incredible wineries in Franschhoek, all producing stunning wines. We found it hard to choose the best ones and although the Franschhoek Wine Tram isn’t a winery, it’s the best way to explore the region. With 8 different lines all stopping at a range of wine farms, you can hop on and off at your leisure. Tickets costs R260 and excludes tastings, which range between R25-R150 per farm. Book in advance, especially if you want to take a certain line.
If you are looking for luxury, then is the place for you! Delaire Graff is one of the most well known wineries in Stellenbosch and is home to exclusive lodges and spas, two restaurants, boutique shopping, amazing art work and stunning gardens. Nested into a spectacular backdrop of rugged mountains with panoramic vineyard views, Delaire Graff is picture perfect. Tasting are held inside the up-market wine lounge, which offers views of the surrounding landscape. Producing some of South Africa’s finest wines, a visit to Delaire Graff is one you won’t easily forget.
Located next to Delarie Graff in Stellenbosch, sharing a similar backdrop and surrounding landscape is Tokara. The estate is home to more beautifully manicured gardens, a restaurant, deli, art work and of course, wine. Tokara produces 3 ranges of wine, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Make sure you head outside for a stroll along the paths to admire the mountain views and surrounding vineyards.
Another impressive winery in South Africa is Spier Wine Farm. Located in Stellenbosch, Spier has a focus on sustainability and ethics. The massive estate boasts award winning wines, a restaurant, farm cafe, bakery, hotel and shop. There’s a number of self guided walks available, along with segway vineyards tours. They host picnics in the summer time and offer grape juice tastings for the kids!
And let’s not forget the wine! Tastings are available inside the state of the art tasting room. For something a little different, try the wine and chocolate pairing. Tastings take around 45 minutes, but you’ll definitely want more time here to enjoy the surrounding gardens.
This stunning boutique wine farm was our favourite in Constantia. Located at the top of Constantia Nek, Beau Constantia is surrounded by panoramic views of the Helderberg and Stellenbosch Mountain ranges and overlooks False Bay. Every direction you look offers a beautiful backdrop, even from inside the loos! Producing award winning wines, a tasting here is a must and the estates Chef’s Warehouse restaurant is one of the best in Cape Town. Be sure to make a booking in advance for both tastings and to dine at the Chefs Warehouse.
Backing onto Beau Constantia is the ever popular Constantia Glen. Nestled between the Constantiaberg and Table Mountain ranges, the 60 hectare estate has a beautiful restaurant, very friendly staff, stunning gardens and some stunning wines to match. Known for their South African Bordeaux style blends, we indulged in a tasting whilst enjoying the sun and views on the outside veranda. Bookings for tastings are recommended and if it’s chilly, you will want to book a tasting inside the glasshouse.
Highlanders was the first winery in South Africa that I visited, and although not part of the Cape Winelands, it deserves a mention. Located in the Namaqualand on the Cape/Namibia N7 Route, this winery is a 270km drive from Cape Town and 400km from the Namibian border. Highlanders is a working wine farm that delivers its grapes to a local cooperative wine cellar, Klawer Cellars. They offer relaxed and enjoyable group tastings of 6 wines, accompanied by a selection of cheeses. Their specialty wine ‘Ruby’, is a vermouth infused with rooibos, a truely unique twist on an already delicious wine.
Originally set up as an Overland camp stop, Highlanders has expanded over the years and now includes 12 luxury rooms, along with lush campsites and a pool overlooking the surrounding grapevines. If you’re not in a hurry, checkout the range of activities available such as quad biking, mountain biking and hiking in the Cederberg Mountains. Highlanders location makes it a perfect stopover if travelling around South Africa and onto Namibia.
Getting to/from and around the wineries in South Africa
Firstly, you need to decide on what wineries you want to visit as this will determine how you get there.
The easiest way to visit the wineries in South Africa is to join one of the many organised wine tours. These tours have a fixed itinerary and usually include transport, a guide, a visit to 3-4 wine estates with 4-6 tastings at each and lunch. Typically, these tours last for 8 hours or more. Expect to pay R1100+ from Cape Town. Private tours can also be booked but will usually cost more.
For a more budget friendly option, the City Sightseeing Hop On-Hop Off bus runs organised tours to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. This full day tour includes 3 wine tastings – one with a cellar tour, wine and chocolate pairing, wine cheese & olive pairing and 2 hours to explore the quaint village of Franschhoek. Lunch is excluded in the price.
Hiring a car
Car hire in South Africa is super cheap and driving from Cape Town to the Cape Winelands is super simple. Connected primarily by the N1 motorway, the drive is pretty smooth sailing. This option definitely offers the most flexibility and allows you to go wherever you like, for as long as you like. Of course, the downside is that someone has to drive.
Hop On Hop Off bus
If you’re short on time, you can jump on the City Sightseeing Hop On-Hop Off Bus and connect to the Constantia Valley Wine Bus. The bus stops at 3 wine estates: Groot Constantia, Eagle’s Nest Estate and Beau Constantia. You can hop on and off when you please, making this a great way to enjoy a visit to Constantia.
You can also book a ticket with a company such as Vine Hopper. These guys operate a Hop On-Hop Off service in the Stellenbosch region, allowing you to spend as much time as you like at each estate. They have 4 routes to choose from. A 1 day pass costs R350 and a 2 day pass costs R650. Pick up/drop is free from central Stellenbosch.
*Note – These options include transport only. Wine tasting and lunch is not included. Wine tasting costs around R35-R65 per farm and generally includes tastings of 4-6 wines per farm.
What we did
Being a wine enthusiast, I was keen to visit as many wineries in South Africa as possible. Luckily for me, Chris is not as fond of wine, so we hired a car in Cape Town, which only cost R296 p/day. We spent a day exploring Constantia and then spent 2 days in the Cape Winelands. We stayed a night at a small wine estate in Stellenbosch which made a great base for exploring the region.
A visit to the wineries in South Africa is a must. The wine produced here truely is some of the best in the world. It’s very reasonably priced and you’ll find some of the most picturesque scenery ever!
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