As soon as we decided to go to Cape Town, there was one thing that I was certain we would do.
Go to Stellenbosch, and drink all the wine!
The classy gal that I am, wine is always my drink of my choice. In Korea, we weren’t exactly spoiled with great wine. I’d often spend about £8 on a bottle of mediocre wine and if it didn’t taste like cooking wine, I’d think, “this is great, I should get this one again.”
I’d feel relieved if I ever saw “Blossom Hill” or even “Tesco’s Finest” on the shelves- it was a terrible state of affairs. Let’s just say, I had a lot of lost wine time to make up for. And South Africa completely spoiled me from the get go.
Stellenbosch is a small city just an hour outside of Cape Town and is actually the oldest city in South Africa. Apart from having heaps of wineries, it’s also home to a lively and dynamic student population. Time permitting, it’s a great place to spend a few days on your South Africa trip, enjoying the wine, the food and the general small town vibes.
Stellenbosch was always going to be on our itinerary but the problem was how to get around. There’s no way I was going to drag Veeran out to taste wine with me then make him spit it out while I get tipsy. (Random fact about me- I’m 27 years old and still can’t drive!) And, obviously, there was also no way I was going to let him get in a car after sampling a few, either. (Sensible Sally forever.) We did our research and decided that a tour was the best way to go!
I’m not usually a huge fan of organised tours, so I had to tread carefully when finding one. I didn’t want to be dragged from vineyard to vineyard on a boring, sterile tour. Finding a tour with a bit of personality was crucial.
Luckily, we found Wineflies and loved our experience touring with them. Their guides are funny, welcoming and, most importantly, they care a lot about wine. Rather than hit up the most popular vineyards, this tour took us to small, boutique wineries- the kind you would need a local to tell you about.
And that’s exactly why, now and then, I’m more than happy to spend a bit extra and go with a tour!
Pitstop 1: Champagne for Breakfast at Villiera
The first stop of the day was Villiera where we learned about the process of making sparkling wine as well as the difference between the new country and old country ways of making champagne.
The wine we tried was champagne by nature but, of course, can’t be called champagne as it’s made out side of the Champagne region in France.
I’m a huge fan of bubbly booze which is strange because I hate fizzy juice. I love all the fizzy wines- prosecco, cava, champagne. Let’s be honest, I can’t tell the difference between them (apart from the price) but they all go down very nicely! Paired with some biltong and apricot infused chocolate, the bubbles that we had made for one of the best breakfasts that I’d had in a while…
One of the things that really struck me about Villiera was the price. You can buy a 6 bottle crate of South African “champagne” for 650 ZAR ($50/£38). You’d struggle to find a bottle of Moet in a UK supermarket for that price! If I wasn’t trying to fit my life in a 40L backpack, I would definitely have brought a few back!
Pitstop 2: Cheese and Wine Time at Mitre’s Edge
After spending almost 3 years in Korea, wine wasn’t the only thing I was missing- cheese had left a huge void in my life, too! Being taken for a cheese and wine pairing at Mitre’s Edge felt like gluttony in its finest form.
We were given a board with 5 cheeses- feta, a nutty cheddar, gouda, camembert and stilton. I love feta in a salad but never think of it as something worth writing home about. The feta here was light, creamy without being too rich, and had just the right amount of salt in it. It went perfectly with the Chenin Blanc that we paired it with.
Mitre’s Edge winery specialises in Bordeaux style blends- something that I didn’t know much before the tour. I always thought that blended wines weren’t as good as single grape varieties but apparently, I was wrong! Their wines were so amazingly deep and intense that I had to bring a bottle back for my friends who live in Malta. An award winning bottle of Sholto was the first purchase of the day!
I should also add for you dog lovers that the owners are parents to 8 gorgeous (very well fed) pooches. Apparently, some visitors like to spoon them after a few too many glasses…..
Pitstop 3: Drinking Wine from the Barrel at Middlevlei
I could have continued the day just feasting on wine, chocolate, biltong and cheese- but we all know that’s never going to end well! It was time for us to actually eat something substantial and, being in South Africa, it had to be a braai!
I’m still not sold on the braai thing. I’d only been back to eating meat for a few weeks when I’d arrived in South Africa and found it overwhelming to eat so much of it again. Especially since most vegetables seemed to be smothered in mayonnaise or gravy. I was glad that the braai here was well balanced and even included some green stuff to decorate the plate!
I don’t know why, but I had imagined that lunch time would be a break from the vino. Of course, I was wrong. The braai lunch was washed down with a fair few glasses.
Afterwards, we were ready for the highlight of the tour- drinking the wine straight from the barrel! With a huge droplet, we poured ourselves a glass of Pinotage and then a glass of Shiraz. South Africa is very famous for its Pinotage which is the perfect marriage between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. We also tried some port which I’m not usually a fan of but went down quite nicely after our meaty lunch.
Pitstop 4: Wine and Chocolate Time
We were truly spoiled on our wine tasting day. I don’t think there’s anyone who would turn their nose up at the chance to pair chocolate and wine. Except from, maybe Paleo enthusiasts? (But I think they would secretly love it, too.)
We were given four chocolates and five wines because one wine didn’t have its chocolate match yet. Whoever has the job of matching the chocolate to the wine is one lucky, lucky soul!
By this stage in the day, the wines were starting to all blend together so it was nice to have the chocolate to break things up. I was a huge fan of the chai flavoured milk chocolate which I need to hunt down next time I’m in South Africa. You can actually buy this from a local chocolatier in Cape Town. If I hadn’t had been leaving the next day, I would definitely have gotten myself some!
Pitstop 5: The Deep, Serious Wines
The final stop of the day ended up being my favourite. Things had been getting fuzzy by now, as you can imagine, but this stop was very memorable: the stop with the deep, serious, reds.
I’m rarely much of a white wine girl. I’ll take a glass on a really hot day if I’m sitting outside. But, let’s be real, how many of those days do you think this Scottish girl has had in her life?! It’s always red all the way for me.
But, in South Africa, this all changed. I was constantly ordering Sauvignon Blancs and not even giving the Pinotages a chance!
So, I was a very happy gal when I was brought back to my red loving self at Annandale.
I loved this winery before I even tasted anything because it was cosy and full of personality. It wasn’t sterile, it wasn’t trying to put on a facade. It was just making really good wine- and giving out biltong to go along with it.
Since our trip to Stellenbosch fell on our penultimate day in South Africa, we decided to spend the night treating ourselves. So, we got a bottle of the vintage to have with our last Saffa supper.
We decided on an a11-year-old bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that’s won competitions in South Africa. The best part? It only cost 150 ZAR a bottle ($12/£9.) The cost of wine in South Africa is an absolute steal. Throughout the trip, we’d keeping our purchases under 50 ZAR ($4/£3) and were still never disappointed. Our final treat was well worth the splurge, though.
Our day wouldn’t have been half as special if we hadn’t taken the trip with Wineflies. Personally, I think they’re an amazing option for anyone who wants to relax and enjoy the day without flagging down ubers or spitting out the wine. (No thanks!)
They know Stellenbosch. Like, really know it! All the wineries we visited were small, boutique ones off the usual wine trail and we were treated like family because we were there with Wineflies. It was a very special day. Plus, when there’s wine, chocolate and cheese, you can hardly go wrong!
Our guide Terrance was amazing and exactly the sort of person who you want to spend a day drinking wine with! He clearly loves his job and his contagious energy (and clearly planned playlist) rubbed off on the whole group!
How Much Does it Cost to Tour Stellenbosch?
We did the daily Stellenbosch wine tour which is 820 ZAR ($63/£48.) The cost covers transport from Cape Town to Stellenbosch and back, all your wine tastings, nibbles, lunch and the knowledge of your guide. It’s a pretty great deal and definitely worth the splurge.
You can even have your own custom, tailored tour. If you’re a huge wine fiend, this would be an amazing way to see the many wineries of South Africa. It’s definitely on my bucketlist!
If you are travelling on a tight budget, don’t stress. There are alternative ways to see Stellenbosch. A lot of travellers hire bikes and visit each winery independently. You don’t get all the stories but entrance fees are cheap at 50 ZAR ($4/£3) per vineyard and bikes can be hired for 150 ZAR ($12/£9) per day. Just be careful on the roads after all that wine!
In terms of accommodation, here are a few recommendations for independent travellers.
Banghoek Place is one of the cheapest options for overnight budget travellers. A double room is 600 ZAR ($45/£35) per night.
Stellenbosch Hotel looks gorgeous for those happy to spend a bit more for a pool. A room here is 1,000 ZAR per night. ($75/£60)
Lovane Winery also has its own boutique guesthouse and would be a gorgeous place to stay! A standard double room is between 1,280 ($100/£75) and 1,960 ZAR ($150/£115), depending on the season. The scenery here was beautiful and I didn’t want to leave- even after the chocolate and wine was finished.
Ikhaya has dorms and is a good choice for solo backpackers. I should point out, that some reviews haven’t been great. If you’re on a really strict budget, then I’d consider this. Dorms are 165 ZAR ($13/£10.)
Touring Stellenbosch is actually my fondest memory from South Africa! I loved everything about it. The city itself is the sort of place I could easily up sticks and move to. Although I’d probably end up spending all my days cycling about from winery to winery and never getting anything done! Until then, I just have to plan another trip back to South Africa so I can see all the other wineries I’ve missed.
Let me know, have you ever visited a winery before? I want more to add to my list!
Disclaimer:We received 2 complimentary places on this tour in return for online exposure. However, we loved Wineflies and would thoroughly recommend them to any wine lovers visiting South Africa. As always, all opinions are my own.