Wine tasting vacations in South Africa

Wine making in South Africa dates to the mid 17th century. Settlers creating a supply station in Cape Town for ships of the Dutch East India Company on the spice route to India began to plant vines. The original idea was that wine would help combat the effects of scurvy among the sailors, and the industry began to grow, but it was not until the end of the Apartheid era in the 1990s that South African wines really found a global market.
Most of South Africa’s winelands are concentrated on the southwestern cape. This in fact is one of the only parts of the entire continent that is really any good for vine growing. The climate is similar to that of California, cooled by air currents from the Atlantic and Antarctica, and there is a vast range of soil types in the mountains and valleys that make up the landscape.
Today the South African wine industry is among the largest in the world, and several wineries have garnered significant international prestige, most especially those in the Cape winelands. Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are popular grape varieties, while you’ll also encounter Pinotage here, unique to South Africa, a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. If you’re in the mood to celebrate then look out also for sparkling wines made using the French method, known as Methode Cap Classiques – all of champagne’s quality and fizz but not the price tag.
Self-drive vacations are very popular in South Africa which are naturally convenient for wine tasting as you can move around at your own pace, and choose your own vineyards – being sure to abide by the country’s strict drink-drive laws of course. Appointments for tasting are largely unnecessary but operators on tailormade tours can assist with organisation if there is anywhere particular you want to visit, as well as arranging wine guides or tasting sessions led by professional sommeliers. As with touring any wine region the most popular restaurants do often require reservations.

Another reason to love wine tasting in South Africa is that it can easily be tied in with cruising the iconic Garden Route, whale-watching in Hermanus, safaris in Kruger National Park, or Cape Town, which is just 45 minutes from the winelands.

The Winelands

The Western Cape is the largest South African wine region by some distance, and the area just to the east of Cape Town is commonly known as the Winelands. Of most interest are three historic towns: Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, which were among the first to be settled by Dutch colonists in the 17th century.

Stellenbosch is one of the oldest towns in South Africa, and the bright-white Dutch-influenced buildings as well as the Victorian and Georgian mansions here reflect its colonial heritage. To give you an idea of their cachet, wines from Stellenbosch were served at the ceremony when Nelson Mandela received his Nobel Peace Prize.
Franschhoek is a gorgeous, French-influenced town and it’s here that many South Africa wine tasting vacations will focus, staying on picturesque, peaceful wine estates in the Franschhoek Valley. There is a double-decker wine tram here that makes a fantastic way to get around the various wineries, but you can also cycle or drive between them with ease if you don’t mind spitting out every mouthful.
Like Stellenbosch, Paarl lies along Route 62, which is reckoned to be the world’s longest wine route, and was awarded the accolade of world’s best road-trip by CNN Travel in 2017. Paarl is the spiritual home of the Afrikaans language, and as a break from wine tasting you can also visit the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, which is known for its striking granite rock formations.
Around these three towns you will find some of South Africa’s finest accommodation, boutiques and restaurants serving organic, home-grown food. You can tour beautifully landscaped gardens, sometimes led by professional horticulturalists, discovering delights such as the 300 varieties of edible plants found in the eight acres of Babylonstoren. Enjoy an interactive session learning how to blend your own wines, followed by a tasting menu, and moderate your intake by stopping regularly at farm stalls to taste everything from local cheeses and meats, to olive oil, chocolates, freshly baked bread and preserves.

Our top Wine tasting Vacation

South Africa vacation

South Africa vacation

Explore Cape Town, the Winelands and the Garden Route

From £3395 15 days inc UK flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailormade throughout the year and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Wine tasting or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Simon Mills from our supplier Native Escapes on what not to miss in South Africa’s Winelands:


“Franschhoek has a warm climate, ideally suited to the production of heavy, robust red wines (Cabernet Sauvignons and Shiraz) and rich, fruit-driven white wines (Chardonnays). I do enjoy the local Pinotages though, which helped put South African wines on the map. Personal favourites are Chocolate Block, produced out of Franschhoek and also any of the wines from Babylonstoren, which is a destination in its own right, with a superb restaurant.”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Capricorn Studio] [Casks: Michael Jansen] [Winelands: nairnbairn] [Franschhoek: Marco Zanfarrari]