South Africa

Wine tasting around Stellenbosch and Franschoek

Wine tasting around Stellenbosch: We loved the old school charm of the beautiful Boschendal Estate

Mar / April, 2017: A visit to wine country can turn the most pedestrian plonk quaffer into a wannabe sommelier. Where once they happily drained a 5L cask, suddenly they feel the need to wax lyrical about hints of tropical blossom and the decade’s great vintages. In South Africa’s premier wine country, we found that while you can certainly get amongst some serious wine tasting, people often take a more laid back and social approach. Wine tasting around Stellenbosch and Franschoek wasn’t exactly what we expected. Still, it was good enough that we needed two visits to do the region’s vineyards justice.

Wine tasting around Stellenbosch: cheese and wine pairing at Franschoek wine cellars

Cheese and wine pairing at Franschoek wine cellars

 

After a glorious week in Cape Town, then a short stop in Langebaan we first blew through Stellenbosch and Franschoek on our way up the eastern cape to Johannesburg. We were bound for a boozie lunch at Maison vineyard’s The Kitchen and while we didn’t have time to stop for long, we saw enough to tempt us back for round two. Fast forward a few weeks and we had got the overlanding bug resulting in the purchase of our Toyota now known as Bertha. With a long weekend up our sleeve, we checked into a Protea Hotel and got amongst some tasting

Most of our wine tastings have been in Australia. Usually we would rock up, do some tasting, act like we know about wine and often buy a few bottles. Tasting would be free or waived upon purchase of some wine. Fairly straight forward but no less enjoyable. Wine tasting around Stellenbosch and Franschoek was a little different. Punters come to have a meal with friends or try some local vino with cheese, maybe some chocolate or maybe even pizza. There are lots of different options but it doesn’t always appear to be solely focussed on the wine. At first I thought that this would come at the expense of quality but we definitely tasted some fantastic wine. Here are the spots we visited…

Wine tasting around Stellenbosch – Quality booze:

  • Stony Brook – This boutique winery just outside of Franschoek easily had the best vino we tasted. Founded in 1995, Stony Brook has a small and informal tasting room, super friendly staff and some amazing vino, especially the reds. We could have stayed much longer having a laugh with one of the owners but alas they were closing up on a public holiday. Highlights were a 2014 Reserve Syrah and a 2014 Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier. We bought a bottle of each.
  • Rickety Bridge – Also in Franschoek, this larger vineyard was founded in 1797 and was recommended by a friend in Cape Town as a must stop. It’s also conveniently located just up the road from The Kitchen at Maison Estate. While you can also have lunch, do olive oil and chocolate tastings, for us it was all about their 2014 Reserve Semillon. It was so good we bought two.
Wine tasting around Stellenbosch: View across the grapes from Stony Brook vineyard

View across the grapes from Stony Brook vineyard

 

Wine tasting around Stellenbosch – A beautiful setting:

  • Boschendal – For me Boschendal was the epitome of the old, family owned wine estate and what I kind of had in my head when people mentioned Stellenbosch wineries. Located on the road between Stellenbosch and Franschoek and founded in 1685 it’s big, beautiful and has lots on offer. After our epically rich lunch at The Werf Restaurant, Fi managed to fit in some tasting while I could only manage a few beers. The quality wasn’t as good as say Stony Brook, but sitting in the beautiful old gardens while you taste still makes for a special experience. Having said that we did buy a bottle of 2016 Le Bouquet, an easy drinking blend of Muscatel, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.
  • Hidden Valley Wines – Founded in 2002, Hidden Valley was one of the most modern wineries we visited. The tasting room and impressive looking restaurant commanded an awesome view out across a valley and up into the mountains behind Stellenbosch. We did a standard tasting here which from memory was pretty good but being our last winery of the day I think it’s fair to say that both our palates (and heads) were a little fuzzy.

Wine tasting around Stellenbosch – Something more casual:

  • Spier Wine Farm – Spier is another of the region’s original wine farms founded in 1692 and is usually on everyone’s list when they go wine tasting around Stellenbosch. It’s wine room has been given a decidedly modern make over so I was mildly disappointed that it didn’t have the same historical feel as Boschendal. Being one of the biggest wine houses in the region the service was lacking much personality, at least at first anyway. We did do a chocolate pairing with our tasting which was perhaps more interesting than the wines themselves. Having said that, we have drunk quite a lot of Spier wine since as it’s available everywhere and for the price is great value.
  • Brenaissance Wine and Stud Estate – Brenaissance is another more modern winery with a buzzing little cafe called Cafe Blanc de Noir. We arrived on a relatively drizzly afternoon to find a dining room full of happy weekenders. Everyone was quaffing booze and stuffing themselves with the delicious wood fired pizzas. We took on a pizza and wine pairing which despite my misgivings was pretty impressive. If you’re looking for a more casual approach to wine tasting, this could be a great way to go.
  • Franschoek Cellar Wines – This was our final tasting of our stay and was always going to struggle coming after our visit to Stony Brook. Situated on the main road out of Franschoek, we loved the look of the sun filled courtyard and the fact that it was one of the few places still open on a public holiday Monday. Alas, we had to sit inside for our wine and cheese pairing which was still nice but not as atmospheric. The wines here were probably the least impressive. The only description that our friendly waiter could provide was each wine was a great match for the cheese.

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Stellenbosch lunch for two: fine feasting and rustic goodness - Compass & Ladle
    June 18, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    […] Wine tasting around Stellenbosch and Franschoek […]

  • Reply
    Tanj from A Travelogue
    July 1, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Awesome list! Probably all our lovely places for wine tasting.

    • Reply
      RoamingCo
      July 2, 2017 at 8:50 am

      All were definitely worth a visit for different reasons. Love the region. You should pay a visit for sure!

  • Reply
    Tami
    July 1, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    This is beautiful country. Really? It’s Africa? I always think of deserts and safaris when I think of Africa. With this beautiful terrain I think I’d prefer to be out hiking and taking photos!

    • Reply
      RoamingCo
      July 2, 2017 at 8:49 am

      Southern Africa has sooooo many different landscapes and types of terrains. We have been here for over 3 months and never cease to be amazed. You should absolutely come and visit!

  • Reply
    Paige W
    July 1, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    My best friend was just here and absolutely loved it! She’s a wine-o so I’m not totally shocked. Brenaissance would be my choice because of the pizza. I love a good pizza to pair with my wine.

    • Reply
      RoamingCo
      July 2, 2017 at 8:48 am

      Hey Paige, yep, Brenaissance was awesome. Liked that they weren’t taking things too seriously plus the pizza was delicious!

  • Reply
    Stacey Billingsley
    July 1, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    That cheese and wine pairing looks good! There are so many wineries; I’m inpressed you were able to visit so many. I would also love learning the history of these.

    • Reply
      RoamingCo
      July 2, 2017 at 8:47 am

      Hey Stacey, ha, we definitely had a few boozie days in the area. There are so many good places to choose from. The history of places like Boschendal is fascinating. In one of the original buildings they have a spot where you can see 5 or 6 layers of wall paper going right back to the original!

  • Reply
    Shannon
    July 1, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    What a gorgeous looking area! I think I’d go there just for the views.

    • Reply
      RoamingCo
      July 2, 2017 at 8:45 am

      Yeah, it’s pretty stunning. Can see why it’s one of the original European settlements in South Africa. Absolutely beautiful!

  • Reply
    Tracey
    July 2, 2017 at 2:39 am

    I love, love visiting wineries! And from what I know about South African wines Stellenbosch, would be a great place to check out. Great info on the wineries in the area! I feel totally inspired to plan a trip.

    • Reply
      RoamingCo
      July 2, 2017 at 8:44 am

      You should absolutely visit Stellenbosch Tracey. Such a beautiful spot with some truly awesome food and wine. Loved it and can’t wait to go back!

  • Reply
    Karla
    July 2, 2017 at 7:27 am

    South Africa is one of my favorite places that I have been too. We had a lovely time in Stellenbosch. I experienced this too— it’s not focused on just the wine but I enjoyed it that way.

    • Reply
      RoamingCo
      July 2, 2017 at 8:43 am

      Couldn’t agree more Karla. Such a beautiful part of the world filled with such awesome people!

  • Reply
    Amelie
    July 2, 2017 at 9:16 am

    I’ve somehow never ever done a wine tasting. I love South African wines, so this would be the perfect place for my initiation! The setting looks gorgeous.

    • Reply
      RoamingCo
      July 2, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      Oh wow, you MUST do some wineries. One of the truly fantastic ways to spend a Sunday!

  • Reply
    Jas from My Suitcase Journeys
    July 3, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    I absolutely adore winery visits and wine tasting. Adding this to my list of things to do! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Reply
      RoamingCo
      July 4, 2017 at 6:39 am

      Winery visits can be such a good cheap day out. Absolutely recommend getting to Stellenbosch for a visit!

  • Reply
    Gabriela
    July 8, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Wine is a magic word! Wine tasting it the perfect way to spend a day! Loved your story!

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