Last Updated on March 2, 2023 by Sammie
Top Wineries of the Cape Winelands
The Cape Winelands are a mere 40 kilometers from Cape Town. Making this an easy day trip or weekend excursion from the city. The Winelands are made up mainly of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Tulbaug, and Wellington.
I refuse to accept it’s a complete trip to South Africa without visiting the Cape Winelands. I’m not even convinced you need to like wine to enjoy them. They encompass some of the most beautiful scenic views in South Africa. All these posts you’ve read up on, all those Pinterest pins you’ve pinned, they aren’t lying. It truly is a wine-infused spectacle with a remarkable landscape, an amazing culinary scene, and a healthy dose of art and culture.
There are about 560 wineries and 4,400 primary producers of vineyards in the South African Winelands. My sister and I were not able to visit all of them because…liver. But we managed as many as we could in the time allotment life had given. This list is made up of the best wineries in the Winelands.
What’s so special about the Cape Winelands?
Though I wanted to become a Sommelier when I was 16, I decided to join the circus and now wine is wine is wine. Except for when it’s good. I Iike my whites, I like my reds, and I like everything in between and bubbles. But here’s the breakdown of why there’s so much buzz about these wines from “The Winelands”. It’s a vineyard’s paradise. The soil is extremely varied being on the belt of the Cape Fold Mountains. This makes for lots of fun variations. Btw, grape vines LOVE a good mountain to get some awesome flavor. And due to these little guys growing in the warm climate, they get nice and juicy then they are hit with some cooler ocean air which helps them retain their freshness and bright acidity. Et Voilà. Delicious wine.
South Africa is famous for: The Pinotage red grape, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Methodé Cap Classique sparkling varieties,
Cape Winelands Logistics
How to get around:
Always a classic. Ubers/Lyfts/Ola/DiDi are widely available. We personally used Uber and had zero issues. We drove to Stellenbosch but of course did not want to be driving after finishing our first wine tasting. Uber to the rescue!
As I mention below, the Franschhoek Wine Tram is an excellent option for getting around Franschhoek. There are 10 different routes available that hit up different wineries. Specifically, they have scheduled departures but you will be given a timetable with available drop-off and pick-up times for each of the wineries.
Wine Tuk Tuk
Offering half-day and full-day tuk tuk tours or you can simply book transfers for wineries in and around Franschhoek. It’s a fun idea and great to do with a group of friends. Just a word of note, it can turn into quite the booze cruise.
Electric Scooter or E-Bike
If you feel like seeing the passing scenery in a slower fashion, renting an electric scooter might be your way to go. However, I wouldn’t suggest this if you’re interested in investigating multiple wine tastings seeing as balance and drinking do not go hand in hand.
Bus Tours are very common to see different wineries. Each region has different options available but make sure to inquire prior to booking to make sure the wineries you wish to visit are a part of the tour.
It is totally possible to drive! Each winery has free parking available onsite or nearby, so this shouldn’t be a worry for those with a designated driver, be responsible y’all ;).
Or put all your worries aside and hire a private chauffeur to drive. You can select from a range of vehicles that seat 3/7/13/17 people. This might be one of the easiest options for getting around because you’ll have complete freedom over your time and not have to give transportation another thought after booking.
Where to stay:
Wherever you go, book early! Especially on the weekends, as properties get booked up quickly.
We stayed at the Ash Bourne Guest House in Franschhoek
This adorable guest house was perfect for us for 2 nights. It’s within walking distance of the main road so there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and galleries to meander to.
Cape Dutch Architecture in Stellenbosch
81 KM from Cape Town (About an hour’s drive)
35 KM from Stellenbosch (35 minutes drive)
35 KM From Paarl (35 minute drive)
Much smaller than Stellenbosch, as in you can enter and exit the town in one swift drive. It has a strong french influence so the restaurants here are Oh la la, so good. Most of the wineries and restaurants are in the countryside but the valley is small so it does not take you long to drive to and from. Consider looking for accommodation on the wine tram route if that is an option you’re considering.
50 KM from Cape Town (40 minutes drive)
35 KM from Franschhoek (35 minutes drive)
30 KM from Paarl (27 minutes drive)
Stellenbosch is a historic lively University town. There is a lot to do here and there are plenty of hotels and AirBnBs to choose from. Between art galleries, museums, and some proper shopping (not just the touristy stuff), you won’t run out of things to do. Plus if you choose to stay here, Franschhoek is a mere 30 minutes away so you don’t have to choose one or the other. You can stay here and make a day trip to Franschhoek or vice versa.
60 KM from Cape Town (About 45 minutes drive)
35 KM From Franschhoek (35 minute drive)
30 KM from Stellenbosch (27 minutes drive)
Paarl has some of the most magnificent wineries in South Africa but as for the city, it’s a touch bland. It’s more of a working city. If you are keen to stay around here, look into Airbnbs or hotels near a preferred wine farm rather than being set on staying in the city. Or consider staying in Stellenbosch or Franschhoek since they are both about 30 minutes away from Paarl.
Stay at the Wineries
Not an option for all but if you are set on visiting certain wineries, make sure to check to see if they offer accommodation. A lot of these estates are so large they have lodges connected on site that are GORGEOUS. They can be pricey, but they are so darn pretty.
Restaurants & Tours:
One of the most frustrating things you will run into will be the availability of reservations. Do yourself a favor: book lunch, dinner, & tour reservations in advance. Especially in the high season (November through January). Most wineries will offer tours of the grounds and their cellars through their website. I highly suggest at least doing one. The juice tastes better when you understand the route it took to get to your glass!
La Petite Ferme in Franschhoek
My sister ate here and agreed this was one of the most scenic restaurants we’ve ever eaten at. And of course the food, AMAZING.
Why visit the Cape Winelands?
I hear wine is a common answer. LOLz. I kid.
- Wine, no but seriously
- A world-class culinary scene
- Antique shops
- Art Galleries
- Cycling and Hiking trails (You’re going to want to check out Paarl)
- Sample Pinotage (a red wine blend unique to South Africa)
Known for: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cap Classique Sparkling Wine
Why Visit? Known as the country’s Culinary Capital in addition to its pristine natural and architectural beauty.
Cape Winelands Franschhoek Wineries
Though indeed, this wine farm gains its reputation from its award-winning wines, there’s a lot more to offer than its 6 flagship ranges. This Winelands destination, coupled with the l’Ormarins estate leaves you with much to explore. It’ll be hard for you to decide where to park your butt. There are multiple vineyards to wander, gardens to explore, an antipasti bar, 2 wine tasting rooms, and I saved the best for last, a motor museum. All activities linked through a handy dandy tram. And if you feel like spoiling yourself, I’d highly suggest the mini high tea which takes place in the manor tasting room with beautiful views out onto the veranda.
Come For: Diverse selection of premium wines (historic vines, 35+ years)
A wonderfully understated laid back farm. GlenWood is a local boutique winery with rustic vibes and a laid-back feel. They are a local boutique winery that specializes in Chardonnay and offer their guests the opportunity to do a sushi wine pairing. They offer 3 different wine pairings but the one you’re going to want to prebook is the “Nature’s Window Walk and Wine Tasting Experience”. It offers postcard views from high up on a hill of the wine valley that you won’t believe are real. And make sure to try their specialty curated wine under the “Save Our Rhinos” label, created to provide profits to the Rhino Revolution, a non-profit wildlife organization.
Come For: Chardonnay & Sushi
Another boutique winery that carefully selects a South African flower to symbolize each of their wines. You can enjoy the fauna of the estate by taking a bike available onsite to ride down to the river to enjoy a carefully curated wine farm picnic. It’s a different, far more intimate way of enjoying the estate’s wine. You can sprawl out on the blankets provided while sampling different hand-chosen delectable snacks, from cheese to savory bites, pickled vegetables, sweet treats, and a baguette so fresh that it will make you forget why you’d ever eat normal grocery store sliced bread. It’s beautifully delicate while filling your stomach.
Come For: Cabernet Sauvignon to Viognier, and a picnic!
My sister and I did not partake in the wine tram however, I’ve heard great reviews!
Here’s what you should know:
Cost: Starts at R550 ($35)
There are 5” lines” to choose from but because you can take each route forward or backward you see 10 options of routes.
Orange & Purple– Will take you into the rolling hills of the western range of Franschhoek
Blue & Green– Give you majestic views of the mountain range, most child-friendly route
Red & Yellow- Take you through the endlessly beautiful vineyards
Pink & Grey- Gives a nice little combo of everything
Burgundy & Navy– Newest added tram lines added
Franschhoek Tram Tips:
- Book tickets in advance
- Call ahead and make reservations for lunch
- Fees for wine tastings are not included
- Don’t expect to be able to visit every estate on the tram line, choose a handful (4 or 5) to allocate enough time to see each one
- Lines run in one direction meaning you can’t “backtrack” if you skipped over a winery you would like to visit.
Known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, & Bordeaux Blends
Why Visit? Its wine routes, as well as the fact that it is a historic town with a vibrant and lively street culture.
Cape Winelands Stellenbosch Wineries
Now, this is a destination. Named one of the Top 50 Wineries by the World’s Best Vineyards, and placing first among the African Continent; Delaire Graff Estate offers a touch more for its guests than just amazing wine and charcuterie boards. Visitors are capable to stay on the premises, experiencing the pinnacle of Cape Wineland hospitality. There’s a spa to enjoy, 2 amazing restaurants; the Afro-Asian-inspired restaurant Indochine and the bistro-styled Delaire Graff Restaurant, boutique shopping, and countless tastings of wines. You are capable to visit the estate without staying in the lodges or dining, so if you have time, put this gorgeous estate on your list.
Come For: Bordeaux and Chardonnay, amazing restaurants
Another unique option for accommodation at a winery. Babylonstoren is one of the oldest Cape Dutch Farms in the Winelands. This place goes back to 1962 and is one of the most well-preserved plantations in the region. A winery it is, but also a glorious farm harvesting the freshest of fruits and vegetables that they use for their seasonal menus at their “farm-to-fork” restaurants. Prices are a tad steep for staying at their hotel, starting at around $500 per night (goodness me…). But don’t let that discourage you from visiting this unbelievably gorgeous wine farm and checking out their free tours of the grounds. Check out their website for some truly awe-inducing drone footage of their vineyard.
Come For: Garden tours, “Farm to Fork” restaurants, and elegant well balanced wines
A picture-perfect family-friendly estate. What started as a humble family-owned farm home has grown into an award-winning venture of stunning wines and exquisite olive oils. Once you tire out the kiddos at the on-premise treehouse play area, enjoy sampling the finest of wines in their tasting room with floor-to-ceiling window views of the grounds and surrounding mountains. Not only is wine on the menu at Tokara but you can also have the pleasure of having a unique olive oil tasting at the Olive Shed. It’s not at every estate that the owners welcome guests to wander the grounds freely, getting to soak in the tranquility of the vineyard and olive orchard, so take advantage of it while visiting!
Come For: The Chic tasting room, family-friendly vibes, wine & olive oil tastings
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Known for: Mainly Shiraz but also Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinotage, Viognier, & Mourvedre
Why Visit? The second oldest wine area and home to several of South Africa’s most historic wine cellars.
Cape Winelands Paarl Wineries
A little different than the other wineries highlighted in the post, Perdegberg is a CO-OP meaning they source grapes from a wide selection of growers to make their delicious wines. They are another family-friendly spot, particularly on Saturdays where they have a giant blow-up jumpy castle that the kids or I would personally enjoy (if I was allowed on). Besides jumping up an appetite for a wine tasting they also have a fun wine blending experience that can be organized by Perdeberg for your group. You’ll get a variety of red wines to mix to create your very own bottle of wine that hopefully you can convince a friend or family member to enjoy with you. Wine is wine is not totally wine. But I bid you good luck!
Come For: Picnics, vegan-friendly wines, Family Fun Saturdays, Wine Blending Experience
Located in the foothills of the Simonsberg mountain, Glen Carlou Winery is equal part new-aged wine farm as it is a spectacular art scene displaying works from various artists such as Ouattara Watts and Andy Goldsworthy. Besides sampling their worldly recognized Chardonnay, there is also a wonderful museum available on premises to meander through for free. Now as for the wine, they keep their production line small. They produce three ranges; Prestige, Contemporary, and Classic as well as a few special releases which you can enjoy on the terrace marveling at the spectacular views of the valley.
Come For: On-premise art museum, the Restaurant at Glen Carlou is one of the top-rated restaurants in the Cape Winelands Region
A family-owned winery that believes in the individualistic beauty of each and every bottle of wine. For the wine connoisseurs to appreciate, the head winemaker Lola Nicholls personally monitors each wine put in the cellar. By ensuring best practices while maintaining the unique and memorable flavors of each of the 25,000 bottles produced annually. This boutique winery is a hidden gem to be explored in the Paarl region. Enjoy staying a night, two nights, or heck 3 months to enjoy everything that this area has to offer. Between the countless wine and cheese pairings, you can venture outside and do some hiking, mountain biking, or simply relax in the nature reserves. While you’re there, keep an eye out for some furry family members on the farm. Their adorable menagerie of doggos like to make visitors feel more than welcome and help make sure everyone is enjoying the specialty wines.
Come For: a boutique small-batch wine experience, Bordeaux-styled wines, and for the love birds; a dream wedding spot location
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