A city of immense beauty and stark contrasts, South Africa's Cape Town holds the memory of its dark history deep in its veins without managing to lose any of its appeal. Head to Robben Island to learn more about Cape Town's Apartheid past, and then relax and unwind an hour out of Cape Town at some of South Africa's top wineries, located in the Cape Winelands. Plato said, "Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine has ever been granted by the gods to man." And how right he was.
Here are our pick of Cape Wineland's top wine routes.
First settled in 1688 by French Huguenot refugees, Franschhoek has since become the gourmet capital of South Africa. Follow the Franschhoek Wine Valley Food & Wine Route, enjoy a cooking class or a chocolate making class, and stop for the best food and wine pairings at la Motte, Dik-Delta, or Cotage Fromage, which offers regular and vegetarian tasting menus. Famous for its vibrant festivals, celebrate with locals during the Franschhoek Bastille Festival, the Franschhoek Literary Festival, the Franschhoek Uncorked or the Franschhoek Cap Classique Champagne Festival.
The Paarl wine route, close to Cape Town in the heart of the Cape Winelands, boasts historic wine estates to suit even the most discerning travellers and tasters. Many vineyards are family owned, steeped in local history, and offer the comfort of homestyle meals and accommodation. At Nelson Wine Estate, nestled in the foothills of Paarl Mountain, go hiking, horse riding, canoeing and fishing, and meet the winemaker during your personalised stay at the family estate. Visit Rudera Wines at the nearby d'Olyfboom Family Estate, and the boutique cellar of barrister-turned-winemaker Gesie Van deventer's Domaine Brahms.
In South Africa's Stellenbosch, experience the warm welcome and generous hospitality of the local community. Surrounded by spectacular mountains, and retaining historic Cape Dutch farmhouses and 19th century university buildings, Stellenbosch boasts the oldest wine route in South Africa, with daily tours and tastings, and child-friendly cellars along the way. For something stronger, stop by Dalla Cia Wine and Spirit Company in the Stellenbosch Valley and try Giorgio Dalla Cia's famous Dalla Cia Grappa.
In the picturesque Darling region overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, an hour from Cape Town, sample South Africa's award-winning wines and experience a gourmet barbeque before an evening at the theatre. The vineyards here benefit from rich, granite-based soil, which retains a high level of moisture, producing low-yielding vines of thick-skinned berries. The Wonderful Wines of Darling will introduce you to the West Coast's cellar doors: Darling Cellars, Cloof, Groote Post, Tukulu and Ormand Vineyards.
Breedekloof, home to twenty-two wineries and just an hour's drive from Cape Town, boasts imposing mountain scenery and crystal clear streams. While in Breedekloof, enjoy trout fishing, mountain biking, hiking and horse riding, or take it up a notch and experience quad biking through the vineyards. Breedekloof's wines are distinctive in flavour, owing to the area's diverse climate and unique soil composition, earning the region "wine of origin" status.