South Africa is the only major wine region in the world that knows the exact date of the birth of its industry. On 2 February 1659 Commander Jan van Riebeeck wrote in his diary: “Today, praise be to God, wine was made for the first time from Cape grapes.”

It wasn’t plain sailing from there though, the original wine was not particularly good and was described as tasting “like old potatoes.” I don’t know about you but that’s not subtle overtones I generally look for in a glass of vino. In fact, some wine that was sent to Batavia in the early years came back with a note, “This wine is more vinegar than wine, more slops than vinegar. No human dared touch it and even the hogs turned away from it.”

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Image: Babylonstoorn

With the arrival of Simon van der Stel, the first Governor of the Cape, things changed though. He established Constantia, the oldest wine region in the southern hemisphere, which rose to fame as the most sought-after wine in the world at one stage. It was a desert wine that sent shivers of pleasure across Europe and was drank by every notable figure across the world from Thomas Jefferson and Casanova to Napoleon and Jane Austen.

The next wine to come out of South Africa was through the creation of our very own varietal. In 1925, the first professor of viticulture at Stellenbosch University experimented in his garden with a cross of pinot noir and hermitage and created South Africa’s most distinct cultivar – pinotage.

In many ways, the discovery of pinotage was an accident. Perold drove himself into a state of utter frustration at not being able to hone the graft of the Pinot Noir vine to the Cinsault vine. He then discarded the remnants in his private garden (rather than on the university campus). A few years later, they were discovered by a young lecturer travelling by bicycle across the lecturer’s housing estate.

Dr. Charles Neihaus happened to pass by Perold’s home as a university crew was in the process of clearing the garden following the retirement of Perold. Niehaus spotted the bramble of pinotage vines and propagated them before they could be discarded to the dump truck that was rabidly clearing the household of former relics. (Incidentally, Niehaus would go on to become known as the father of South African sherry).

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Image: Marlen Juergens

The next major milestone in the rise of South Africa’s wine was in the 1990s, when South Africa, with the help of Nelson Mandela, entered back onto the world stage. Investment and wine-making knowledge flooded onto our farms. Between 1990 and 2003, the amount of wine we produced more than doubled and the quality of our wines has been improving ever since. As we learn more about our terroir, we continue to be amazed by the wine-growing conditions.

Wine of South Africa today

Lying at the tip of Africa, South Africa is surrounded by two oceans, and most of our vineyards are within 50 km of the ocean. What makes us special is that we get a cool sea breeze during the days that push in over the land, where we get warm and sunny days. This is important for acidity and the purity of the fruit.

We also have amazing mountains and we plant a lot of the vineyards on the slopes of these mountains because it’s cooler there. It’s 0.8 degrees cooler for every 100 metres you go up, for example.

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So it’s three things;

  • Proximity to the ocean
  • Our elevated mountains
  • And our soils of ancient granite, shale and quartz.

According to the head viticulturist at DGB, Stephan Joubert, “It’s the most interesting time in our wine history – The last 15 years, we’ve started to really understand our terroir and where is better for chardonnay and cabernet and how to manage our vineyards with new technologies, and understand how to bring out the best in our grapes in the cellar. We know now that if we get old vine Chenin, you not going to overpower it with wood, you’re gonna maybe try a natural fermentation.”

When you pair our excellent wines, with the mountain views, sea breezes and world-class restaurants and gardens you find on many wine farms – you begin to understand why our wine farms are so popular. With 3,000 vineyards near Cape Town, you could spend your life exploring them. The following, however, are the top of the crop.


Klein Constantia

Recently named the 32nd best vineyard in the world by The World’s Best Vineyards, Klein Constantia has it all – a stunning tasting room, superb sauvignon blancs, a world-class sweet wine in Vin de Constance, excellent sommeliers and a top-notch bistro. They even offer wine safaris that feature a mountain drive and a bubbly tasting by their dam.

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Image: Klein Constantia

Constantia Glen

It’s hard not to love the Constantia Glen experience. Their expansive views of the backside of Table Mountain are truly breathtaking – you can hear the sharp intakes of breath as visitors round the corner, sometimes even a shriek or two – while their wines are simply superb and their restaurant excellent too. If you’re looking for a romantic lunch or a place for the day to slip into the afternoon and then early evening with soft ease then Constantia Glen is for you.

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Image: Constantia Glen


Waterford Estate

Waterford Estate is situated in the Blaauwklippen Valley on the rolling slopes of the Helderberg Mountain. They offer a Porcupine Trail Wine Walk but what really makes them standout is their Wine Drive Safari.

The Wine Drive Safari is a unique two to three-hour trip on a safari-type vehicle, through the 120-hectare estate. This experience allows you the chance to taste their award-winning Estate wines amongst the vineyards, and you will be expertly guided through all the aspects of what makes this area so biologically diverse and viticulturally unique.

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The wine tasting will be accompanied by a handcrafted platter, which is well suited to pair with the individual wines. The experience will culminate with a tasting of The Jem and a wine and chocolate tasting experience.


Tokara enjoys a regal position at the base of Simonsberg Mountain, as well as boasting some of the finest wines in the region. Established in 1994 by GT Ferreira, Tokara boasts a picturesque setting with vineyards spread across the Helshoogte Pass and olive groves dotting the landscape.

Tokara’s winemaking philosophy focuses on expressing the unique terroir of their vineyards, which benefit from diverse microclimates and soils. They cultivate various grape varieties, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz, among others.

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Image: Tokara

In addition to winemaking, Tokara offers a range of experiences for visitors, including wine tastings, cellar tours, and fine dining at their restaurant, which overlooks the vineyards and serves contemporary cuisine paired with their wines. The estate also features an art gallery showcasing works by South African artists.

Delaire Graff Estate

This stunning wine farm, just a hop and skip across the Helshoogte Pass from Tokara, is also renowned for its exceptional wines, stunning vineyard views, and world-class hospitality. The estate was founded by Laurence Graff, a prominent figure in the diamond industry, who transformed the property into a premier destination for wine enthusiasts and travellers seeking luxury experiences.

south africa

In addition to its winemaking operations, Delaire Graff Estate features a state-of-the-art winery, a contemporary art gallery showcasing works by both local and international artists, and a Michelin-starred restaurant offering gourmet cuisine paired with their wines. The estate also includes luxury accommodations, such as lodges and villas, designed to provide guests with an unforgettable stay amidst the picturesque surroundings of the Stellenbosch wine region.



This is a farm you will likely hear a lot about in South Africa, and their extensive garden has a lot to do with it. Babylonstoren is a historic Cape Dutch farm with a rich heritage dating back to 1692 when it was established by the French Huguenots.
The farm’s vineyards are meticulously managed to produce high-quality grapes, which are used to craft a variety of wines, including Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon, among others. Babylonstoren’s winemaking philosophy emphasizes minimal intervention and a deep respect for the land, resulting in wines that reflect the unique terroir of the region.

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Image: Babylonstoren Winemaker, Charl Coetsee

Babylonstoren’s famous gardens are designed in the style of a traditional Cape Dutch farm garden. These gardens feature a diverse array of plants, fruits, vegetables, and herbs, many of which are used in the farm’s restaurants to create farm-to-table cuisine. Visitors to Babylonstoren can explore the gardens on guided tours, enjoy wine tastings at the farm’s tasting room, dine at one of the on-site restaurants, and experience the farm’s luxury accommodations, which include guest cottages and suites.


The grand old dame, Boschendal ticks all the boxes with its stylish accommodation, night markets, a beautifully merchandised farm shop, and a top-notch kids’ club. The Werf offers a casual fine-dining farm-to-table feast with floor-to-ceiling vistas of the massive vegetable and herb garden.

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The Cellar Door, wonderfully situated under the oaks, has charcuterie boards to accompany your wine as well as chocolate and wine tastings. The butchery is loved by locals as it’s packed to the rafters with freshly baked goods, condiments and preserves, wholesome readymade meals and a curated selection of bespoke homeware.

La Motte

Situated under the shade of majestic oak trees, this esteemed estate is home to a famed restaurant, a wonderful farm shop, a tasting room, an estate museum and an array of internationally recognised fine wine.

Named after South African landscape artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, Pierneef à La Motte restaurant offers a creative streak that the artist would approve of. The current museum exhibition ‘Mountains and Valleys’ presents a selection of Pierneef linocuts. Pierneef’s graphic work was an important trailblazer in the history of relief printing in South Africa and made a significant contribution to greater awareness of the medium and its recognition as a respected art form.

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Image: La Motte

La Motte’s wines are known for their quality and elegance, from the aperitif-style sauvignon blanc and popular Millennium to the classic chardonnay, syrah and cabernet sauvignon.

Haute Cabrière

Owned by the Von Arnim family for generations, Haute Cabrière lies on the slopes of the Franschhoek Mountains and boasts exceptional views of the undulating valley beyond. Housed in a stone cellar built into the side of a mountain with views into the underground barrel maturation room, the tasting room is a lovely setting to work through their range, which is noted for their sparkling wine.

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Image: Haute Cabrière

Their restaurant’s terrace seating is a good place to let the hours slip by, while the menu, is a selection of à la carte dishes and shareable tapas. The bakery and deli is a must-visit as it offers the best croissants and pastéis de natas in town.

If you’d like to experience the wonder and wine, majesty and mountains of the Cape Winelands, then please get in touch with us today and our travel specialists will not only be able to suggest the best routes for day tours but also be able to suggest the best places to stay in the Cape Winelands.

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