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Stellenbosch - South Africa's Wine Capital

Updated on November 14, 2015

A look at the largest wine route in South Africa.

Any South African with an interest in wine can tell you that Stellenbosch boasts some of the best wine farms in the country. Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa and only 30 minutes drive from Cape Town International Airport. The area is home to more than 145 wine farms spread across 5 Wine Routes. The climate in the area is great for wine grape cultivation and Stellenbosch is known for its hot summers and rainy winters.

Wine Tours

There is a reason why the word "wine tour" is in the vocabulary of every Stellenbosch University student. Going on a wine tour is a great way to see the countryside around Stellenbosch and to enjoy some wine along the way. Wine tours are not only for the local students though. It can be enjoyed by anyone from students to pensioners, couples to families. Stellenbosch is surrounded by several mountains and provide spectacular views. All wine farms have wine tastings where a selection of 5-7 wines can be tasted (varies between wine farms). Many of these wine tastings are free of charge and some farms even provide cheese and other snacks to compliment the wine. In addition wine farms sometimes offer cellar tours where a guide takes you on a tour of the farm and cellars. This is a good way to get an insight on the history of the wine farm as well as methods they use to make and store the wine. These are normally subject to prior reservation. A few farms offer picnics and have a deli where you can get everything you need (in addition to the wine of course) for a romantic picnic on the wine farm. This can be a perfect and inexpensive activity for couples. There are also several tour guide services to provide a detailed tour of the most notable wine farms to be visited. A typical tour would include a shuttle and a few mine farms on a specific route.

Wine Routes

The Stellenbosch wine route is the oldest in South Africa and was formed in 1971. It is currently the highest rated and biggest wine route in South Africa. The entire wine route is divided into 5 sub-routes.

Bottelary Hills

Covering the area North-West of Stellenbosch the wine farms are are located along parts of Bottelary Hills and Papegaaiberg and includes 25 wine farms. Notable farms: Hartenberg, Beyerskloof, Mooiplaas.

Stellenbosch Valley

One of the bigger wine routes with 35 members, Stellenbosch Valley includes the entire region West of Stellenbosch. The wine farms are located along the Stellenbosch hills and Papegaaiberg stretching all the way to Kuils Rivier. Notable farms: Spier, J.C. Le Roux, Bergkelder, Asara.

Helderberg

The biggest of the 5 wine routes with 41 members. The wine farms are all situated to the South of Stellenbosch and the route even includes farms in Somerset West. Most of the farms are around Helderberg (one of the mountains surrounding Stellenbosch). Notable farms: Ernie Els, Hidden Valley.

Stellenbosch Berg

This wine route nestles between Stellenbosch town and Helderberg Wine Route along the foot of Stellenbosch Berg (the main and highest mountain in Stellenbosch). It is the smallest of the 5 wine routes but still includes 17 wine farms. Notable farms: Waterford Estate, Lanzerac.

Greater Simonsberg

This wine route is located North of Stellenbosch and along the foot of Simonsberg (mountain surrounding Stellenbosch) with 28 wine farms on the route. Notable farms: Simonsig, Tokara, Kanonkop.

Functions and Events

In addition to wine tasting and wine sales, many wine farms also offer function facilities and accommodation creating the opportunity to mix wine with business. There are also restaurants at some wine farms for those who can't wait to test their newly acquired wine with some lunch. If you have a disability you need not worry as about every wine farm has disabled access.

The wine route is great to visit all year round but most tourists are attracted to the area when there is a wine festival taking place. The main festival is the Stellenbosch Wine Festival and usually takes place at the end of July. Over 500 wines are featured and festival goers have the opportunity to taste wine, meet winemakers and watch cooking competitions between top rated chefs. The Cheese and Wine Festival in April is a must if you are in the region as the opportunity to combine South Africa's best cheeses and wines can not be missed. If you are looking further away from Stellenbosch you might also consider wine festivals in Robertson such as the Wacky Wine Festival.

Wine From The Area

Several different types of wine are produced in the Stellenbosch region including sparkling wines. The top 3 red plantings in the region are Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot with the Cabernet Sauvignon by far the leader in the red wines. The top 3 white plantings are Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay with the Sauvignon Blanc the most produced white wine. Rosè has also become a favourite for many because of it's taste with properties of both red and white. But whichever you prefer, Stellenbosch will be the place that could cater to any taste.

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      Ian Stiglingh 5 years ago from Cape Town

      That's great. I love the relaxed atmosphere Franschoek has. We go there on Sunday afternoons sometimes for lunch and to take a break from the studies in Stellenbosch.

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      Ruth Pieterse 5 years ago

      We went to Franschoek last September and are going to Stellenbosch this September - the Cape wine routes are amazing. Voted up.