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View of the vineyards above Groot Contstantia

Three Cape Vineyard tours

by Peter May

Enjoying the wine lands of South Africa's Cape is simplicity itself. Whether you are gouging half a day from a crowded business visit, or on vacation, from Cape Town you can easily visit wineries and taste the liquid sun of the area. These wine lands offer many advantages: English is spoken, travel is easy, the roads are not busy, car hire is inexpensive and they drive on the left. If you do not want to drive there are organised coach tours, but a better bet is to hire a SA registered tour guide to personally escort you.

A little research pays dividends. You should ensure you have an up-to-date copy of John Platter's indispensable annual South African Wine Guide. This narrow book lists every winery, with visiting details, and reviews and marks for every SA wine. The book can be bought in any SA bookshop and many wineries. But it is well worth studying before you travel, and it can be speedily received when ordered through Cyberceller (www.cybercellar.co.za). Platter's book has sketch maps showing winery locations, but if you are driving you need a proper map. I use the Globetrotter Travel Map of CapeTown, available in SA bookshops and branches of Hammicks in the UK.

If you are a fan of South African wines then you will already know the wineries you want to visit, but I am going to suggest three tours you can make depending on the time you have available:

  • Short visit - Constantia
    If you only have a very short time then Constantia offers famous and historic buildings, vineyards and a winery with an interesting wine tour.
  • Day tour
    A whole day opens up the wineries of Stellenbosch and Paarl.
  • Full day tour
    This tour takes a full day and gives the opportunity of seeing a little more of the wonderful Cape scenery and ends at one of the Capes top rated wineries, high in the cliffs above Hermanus.

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Sketch map of major towns and roads

Five things to know

  • Car rental is cheap - see www.valuecarhire.co.za.
  • Credit cards are widely accepted - except at petrol stations.
  • Many wineries charge a modest tasting fee.
  • Guesthouses are of excellent standard and reasonable cost.
  • Most restaurants allow you to bring your own wine with a nominal corkage fee.