The first wines were produced in the Cape back in 1659, and since then, the country has been known for world-class vintages coaxed out of grapes in some of the most picture-perfect settings in the region. The heart of South Africa’s wine production lies 45 minutes from Cape Town in the Cape Winelands, and the hubs of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl. But other burgeoning wine regions are secreted away throughout the Western Cape, and areas like the Swartland Valley and Hemel en Arde are gaining global recognition. You should definitely add a few days of wine-tasting to your itinerary, and you’ll find both your tastebuds and your wallet will thank you: these delicious wines are some of the most affordable in the world. From celebrated wine farms featuring the country’s top restaurants (spots that Nelson Mandela used to frequent) to tiny, family-owned estates oozing with personality, here are the area’s top five vineyards.
Rust en Vrede
For more than 300 years, this Stellenbosch estate has been producing a robust range of reds: full-bodied Cabernets, Merlots, and Shirazes. It has counted some high-profile personalities among its fans: Nelson Mandela had its wines served at his Nobel Peace Prize dinner. These days, Rust en Vrede is perhaps best known for its namesake restaurant, which consistently ranks among the top 10 in the nation.
This scenic Somerset West estate sitting below the Helderberg Mountains dates back to 1700. Stop by for a stroll through the lovely gardens and Cape Dutch manor house, tour the cellar tour and then taste the wines that rank among the top 100 in the world; don't miss lunch at its elegant Camphors restaurant.
Mullineux Family Wines
Andrea Mullineux grew up in San Francisco and worked in Napa Valley before traveling to South Africa, where she met and married local winemaker Chris. These days, their small winery produces award-winning Syrahs, which you can sample at their charming Riebeek Kastel tasting room.
The beautiful, French-influenced village of Franschhoek is the heart of the Cape Winelands, and this wine farm, featuring a restaurant, is touted as one of its best. Their Sauvignon Blancs, Shirazes, and Chardonnays are best paired with a decadent meal at its Pierneef à la Motte, one of the country's top restaurants.
The name might be a tongue twister, but this 1776 winery's Boekenhoutskloof, Porcupine Ridge, Wolftrap, and Chocolate Block labels are veritable tongue pleasers. A visit to their lovely Franschhoek tasting room comes complete with stunning views over the Hottentots-Holland Mountains.