One of the Cape’s lesser-known jewels is the wine route through the Overberg region, which spans 250km and crosses breathtaking terrain. The route begins with the Elgin Valley Wine Route, only 30 minutes from Cape Town, which boasts 16 wine farms alone. Some of the best wines in South Africa are produced in this valley, which includes Paul Cluver, South Hill Vineyards, Thelema, Tokara and smaller producers, such as William Everson. Most of the wine farms also offer exceptional quality dining at their restaurants, while Paul Cluver opens their amphitheatre to host both national and international musicians throughout summer.
The Elgin wine region is celebrated annually during the Elgin Cool Wine Festival, where anyone can explore the Elgin Valley Wine Route, become acquainted with the various wines, meet the winemakers and enjoy the differing styles of cuisine from wine farm to wine farm. Elgin is apple country and the home of Appletiser, but has so much more to offer tourists and wine-lovers. Elgin’s lush natural beauty and good looks are reason enough to linger, but as an area rich in celebrated wineries (even Everson’s Cider is made from local apples and pears), it is an absolute must for anyone’s Cape lust-list.
Bot River is the next notable leg of the wine route, offering no less than 14 wineries within a 10km radius, including Genevieve MCC. The credo of the Bot River Winegrowers Association speaks of the down-to-earth, unspoilt and social character of the wines produced in this region, which has both small and state-of-the-art wineries. Gabrielskloof is notable for their annual Christmas “Our Favourite Things” market, attracting visitors from all over the country, while all the local Bot River wineries come to together to celebrate during their annual “Barrels and Beards” festival – another quirky and rugged theme that separates them from any pretension associated with wine! Capetonians who are serious about wine, and those who appreciate wine regions which don’t take themselves too seriously, flock to the festival year after year to celebrate along with local winemakers and other fun-loving folk.
The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley is the next stop along the route, and is possibly one of the most exquisite wine valleys you’re ever likely to visit anywhere in the world. The name “Hemel-en-Aarde” translates to “Heaven and Earth” and it is suitably peppered with many establishments offering earthly delights. Creation and La Vierge have spared no expense when it comes to perfection, while Ell offers cuisine to match their Spookfontein wines, renowned for being ethically sourced.
The Hermanus Wine Route consists of 15 wineries, beginning with Hermanuspietersfontein, stretching all along the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Many of the country’s top award-winning wines can be found in this small valley – along with the Overberg’s best restaurants. From Hermanuspietersfontein, which hosts a gourmet market every Saturday morning, through to Creation, renowned for their food and wine pairings, each stop along the Hermanus Wine Route offers something unique and memorable. Newton Johnson and Sumaridge offer views over the still waters of an expansive dam, while Ell sits perched on the hills of Spookfontein with majestic mountains as a backdrop.
The tiny village of Stanford is surrounded by a few of the best wineries in the country, notably Sir Robert Stanford Estate, Stanford Hills and Raka. Stanford Hills is one of the most unique wine farms on this list, set apart by its family-friendly, rustic, all-are-welcome ethos. The Tasting Room is their restaurant and wine outlet, popular with locals and visitors alike due to gorgeous views, value-for-money cuisine and epic Sunday roasts. It must surely also be the only winery in the Cape to host TGIF celebrations once a month! Sir Robert Stanford Estate’s tasting room is slightly separate from their restaurant Madre’s Kitchen, which is a much-loved gourmet breakfast spot, also offering gourmet lunches. Their wines are exceptional, as is evident by their appearance on almost every Overberg restaurant wine list. Raka, which is a little further outside of the village, is the perfect place to stock up on fantastically “daily drinkable” wines as well as award-winning tipple for special occasions.
Swellendam never struck me as possessing enough wine farms to attract wine lovers for wine-centric getaways — that is, until I experienced the region during a five-day sweep of the area. From our first experience at Sijnn in the tucked away hamlet of Malagas, to the sprawling magnificence of Van Loveren, we were swept away by the quality of the wines produced in this area.
The combination of the climate and stony soils at Sijnn produce top quality Mediterranean varieties, such as Syrah, Mourvedre, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. The winery also produces Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne with future plantings including Tempranillo, Nebbiolo and Grenache. It’s impossible to walk away from Sijnn without a few bottles tucked under your arm (as a few of our bloggers found out) and it is so worth visiting.
Van Loveren was another highlight for me, not only thanks to the delightful surprise that was Christina’s (their own restaurant), serving scrumptious, hearty meals in a serene environment, but due to my first experience of a chocolate and wine pairing. We were left to choose our preferred pairings and enjoy the flavours in our own time. My fellow bloggers enjoyed everything from cheese and wine, to charcuterie, nougat and nut pairings, while my little blocks of chocolate melted in my mouth. I could have stayed there all day.
We were spoilt with a table laden with a feast at Joubert-Tradauw, definitely one of the prettiest wineries around, which was decorated with a blanket of rust and gold leaves that children were collecting and dancing in. Their sumptuous “Proe van die Karoo” tapas platters groaned under the weight of nectarines, beetroot with feta, tzatziki with pumpkin seeds, home-baked breads, homemade olive tapenade, pesto, fragrant apricot jam, hummus, cheese, charcuterie, and grilled aubergines, amongst other delicacies.
Our final destination was Zandvliet, home not only to some of the most delectable Shiraz in South Africa, but to award-winning race horses, including Pocket Power (who has his own book). Zandvliet’s wines are extraordinarily drinkable, and as the De Wet family custodians so rightly acknowledged: many of Zandvliet’s wines are about enjoying on your veranda on a Sunday evening while appreciating the sunset.
Finally, the areas of Elim through to Cape Agulhas (the southernmost tip of Africa) include Zoetendal Winery, Lomond, The Berrio, Black Oystercatcher, Quoin Rock, and Strandveld Vineyards – six more reasons to experience the Overberg wine route.