South Africa is one of the largest producers of wine in the world and the Cape Winelands is the heart of the industry. Just 45 minutes from Cape Town, the area is made up of three main ‘regions’ – Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. The Cape Wine Route – which links various estates and farms – is described as one of the most scenic areas of South Africa, marked by majestic mountains, rolling vineyards and gracious estates. Beyond its physical beauty, a rich and storied history is evident in the many museums and monuments and a strong cultural slant can be seen in the galleries, open-air theatres and craft stores.
Like Cape Town, the Cape Winelands has a Mediterranean climate (hot and generally dry summers from December to February), and cold, windy, wet winters (June to August). As the region is inland – and doesn’t benefit from the cooling effect of the coastal air – temperatures can climb to 38°C in mid summer. While the scenery of the winelands is best experienced during good weather, winter wine tasting is still an enjoyable experience. Spring (October and November) and early autumn (March and April) are ideal times to visit, as they’re outside the peak tourist season, and are still sunny but cooler than in the height of summer.
Accommodation wise, the Cape Winelands is well equipped for visitors, with a huge variety of accommodation, from bed and breakfasts, to boutique hotels and luxury wine estate stays. So a trip can be tailored to your budget. Worth spending on are the many award-winning fine-dining restaurants in the area. Wine tasting is very affordable – with many estates charging only a small nominal fee for a basic tasting. Wine bought at the estates is also much cheaper than at retail outlets.