While many people visit South Africa for the wildlife or its vibrant cities, there’s another reason – the wine. What’s interesting is that while most people know destinations like Italy, Argentina and California craft top notch vino, South Africa’s wine remains less explored. Despite the fact that South African winemaking dates back to the mid-17th century, apartheid really hurt the industry, especially as it isolated South Africa from the rest of the world.
The country is making a comeback though, with winemakers crafting delicious bottles of sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, syrah and pinotage in gorgeous mountain-hugging countryside locations. Best of all, you can stay at a wine-focused hotel to truly immerse yourself in vino culture and the natural beauty.
Note: All hotels below are within an hour drive of Cape Town, too!
Located in Cape Town’s waterfront Bantry Bay area, the five-star Ellerman House is the epitome of charm, character and attention to detail. There are three main draws to the property. For one, the magnificent views of Bantry Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and Robben Island. Second, the impressive art collection showcasing renowned works by South African artists (definitely don’t miss a tour). And third, the wine. The hotel sits just a one-hour drive to the Winelands and 20 minutes from the Steenberg and Constancia vineyards. The property boasts 7,500 bottles of South African wine, which you can savor through tastings - like a Dom Perignon experience or Louis XIII sunset tasting - in their wine gallery. A gorgeous sculpture resembling a corkscrew holds 1,500 bottles, and astounds as the centerpiece of the room. After you’ve had your fill of art and wine, spend an afternoon enjoying the sauna, steam room and treatments at the spa, have a Malay-influenced meal in the restaurant or grab a snack from the guest pantry and head out to explore.
This 26-bedroom hotel and 39-hectare vineyard is owned by Sir Richard Branson, residing in South Africa’s Franschhoek Wine Valley and offers views of the Franschhoek Mountains. Franschhoek sits just 45 minutes outside of Cape Town, with the name meaning “French Corner” due to its French Huguenot refugee settlers. When they arrived in 1688, they began building farms, and you’ll notice many estates named after French destinations like La Provence and La Motte. Both the food and the wine of the region still showcase French influence, with their most prominent wine being the sparkling MCC (Methode Cap Classique), crafted using the traditional French bottle fermentation process. At Mont Rochelle, you can sip during a guided tasting, best enjoyed in their 150-year-old wine cellar, or in a casual setting via a picnic on the grounds.
This 5-star, 504-acre property is the Cape’s oldest farm, with a history dating back to 1682. While the hotel has been restored since then, it retains a rustic old world charm that transports you back in time while providing all the comforts you’d ever want. Sip complimentary sherry while reading books in the library, have a massage in the relaxing spa (the African potato body scrub and wrap is divine) and have a sustainable farm-to-fork meal in one of their onsite restaurants. Wine lovers will undoubtedly have many long lunches in their Bistro1682, sitting next to the onsite winery and looking over the vineyards and indigenous plant gardens. Speaking of winery, in their grand tasting room you can savor the best of Constantia. The valley is blessed to have mild temperatures, consistent rainfall and ideal exposure to sun. Along with amazing sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, make sure to sample their semillon, as Steenberg is one of very few South African wineries to use it in a single varietal wine. Additionally, they’re one of few to grow the Italian red grape, Nebbiolo.
Spier 1692 is not just a hotel, but also one of Stellenbosch’s oldest wine farms. Onsite you’ll find everything you could ever hope for: Eerste River views, multiple restaurants, a deli, a bakery, baskets for picnicking in the vines, an impressive art collection, a craft market, a gift shop and more. One major highlight is the spa, where treatments range from bespoke facials to body wraps laced with orange and sandalwood. This property is also a family-friendly option, with kid-focused offerings including indoor and outdoor play areas, and a full itinerary of activities like arts and crafts and Hide & Seek. Oh, and while you indulge in a chocolate and wine pairing of Spier’s estate wines the kids get an alcohol-free grape juice tasting. While many wine hotels offer walks and bike rides through the vines, Spier 1692 adds a quirky spin by offering Segway tours through the vineyards. It’s here where you can also taste the destination, literally, as granite soils influenced by the local 600 million year-old mountains add a slight minerality
Sitting along the Northern Paarl wine route (R45) is Nwanedi Country Manor, located within the gorgeous Berg River Valley. Along with breathtaking views of the Drakenstein mountains and endless vines, the property features 11 rooms among three different categories, meals laced with ingredients straight from their garden, delicious patio breakfasts overlooking the vineyards accompanied by homemade jams, enormous rooms with huge bathtubs and showers, and opportunities to try their wines through a cellar tour or picnic in the vines. Nwanedi uses winemaking practices that date back to the original farm in 1692, with four separate terroirs influencing the characteristics you taste in your glass. The property is also a 10-minute drive to the town center as well as accessible to numerous outdoor activities like hiking in Paarl Mountain Local Nature Reserve and visiting the Paarl Bird Sanctuary.
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Jessica Festa is a full-time travel writer who is always up for an adventure. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia and doing orphanage work in Ghana. You can follow her adventures on her travel websites, Epicure & Culture and Jessie On A Journey. You can also connect with Jessica directly on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, or follow her epicurean adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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