For those who have not had the opportunity to visit the fairest Cape in all the world( Francis Drake words, not mine) there is a multitude of interesting and unique wine farms that really overachieve in terms of the combination of setting, facilities and of course excellent wines!
The reality of the wine industry in South Africa is that we have been blessed with over 350 years of persevering and innovation, coupled with a fortuitous benefit of French refugees. From the initial settlers from Holland through to the Huguenots, as well as a smattering of Italian and Portuguese transplants, the local industry has embraced and thrived in the melting pot of the universal passion for wine from our European forefathers.
If one was to converse with a winemaker, they would be loath to single out a particular wine style or grape that would be anointed as their favourite, much like trying to select their favourite child! It is as difficult to select the top 5 wine farms as each have their own unique personality and heartbeat. It would however be totally unfair to rank them numerically due to the absolute diversity and unique special features.
To prevent any conflict I have decided to offer a non numerical/ non alphabetical / random list.
Nederburg is a world renowned brand and a pioneer of many styles and innovations. Once one moves beyond the commercial imperative of the well- priced, friendly wines, one finds numerous gems that are still great value in relation to the top end wines of some producers. Look out for the winemaker’s reserve. It is for this reason they are annually selected as one of the top 50 wine brands in the world. Their tasting facility in Paarl is an essential stop.
Vergelegen are a welcome product of the backbone of the S.A. economy for many years, namely mining. For decades, the Anglo American company has ensured that the farm in Somerset West has enjoyed the financial support and unwavering commitment to excellence. Their restaurant Camphors is a destination in their own right! The restaurant is named in tribute of the centuries old trees which have flourished under the stewardship of the Barlows as patrons and winemakers, which has ensured an enduring legacy. Their reserve wines are beyond exceptional.
Tokara is perched high up on the Helshoogte( Hell Heights ) pass at the apex of Stellenbosch, and is a recent phenomen. The combination of an exquisite site for grape growing, attention to detail, and skilled wine making ensures a truly memorable experience. A wonderful feature is the art work and clever planting of an example of a row of every vines grown on the farm is informative and indicative of the attention to detail of a talented team. Their eatery is a must do!
Groot Constantia is a place steeped in history that stretches all the way back to the governor of the Cape, Simon Van der Stel, Napolean and the British are inorexarably linked due to the European nobility love of this farms Vin De Constance. Glorious buildings, magnificent views and diverse facilities which include a number of different eating venues, both indoors or under the centuries old Oak trees ensure that no visitor will be disappointed!
Meerlust is a wine farm that is geographically located in Stellenbosch, but is close to the False Bay coast. The farm itself boasts a unique windpomp that is semi submerged in the earth dam. The farm house and cellars are over 300 years old and are classically rustic. There are no airs and graces, rather just a commitment to the art of winemaking by focusing on a few classic labels. Since democracy (1994) Meerlust Rubicon has consistently outperformed the more glamorous big name producers.