My relationship with wine is long but probably not overly complicated. In my student days I indulged a bit too enthusiastically in the boxed variety; glugging vinegar-y whites with the sole purpose of improving my dance moves. In the last few years I’ve discovered an appreciation of red wine, but my knowledge of what I like exactly is pretty limited. Essentially I know what I like when I try it, but it’s kind of hit and miss.
The thing is, when I travel to a country I want to sample whatever produce it’s famous for, and South Africa is known for its wine. Although in no way a connoisseur, I wanted to understand exactly what it is that I enjoy in a wine so I’m not blindly guessing next time I’m in a restaurant. Myself and a friend joined African Story Tours for a day exploring the vineyards of the Cape Winelands – starting only about 20 minutes from Cape Town.
The two main areas in the region are Stellenbosch and Paarl, and we skimmed both in order to get a wide sampling opportunity. With four vineyards to cover, and each providing six wines to try, we started drinking at around 10.30am. Now don’t get this confused with a lads-on-tour booze cruise; the emphasis is on enjoying quality and not on getting annihilated. Samples are not an entire glass and spitoons are provided if you’d rather swill and dispose.
We visited Anura Wine, Kanonkop, Backsberg and Fairview each varying in size and offering; all of them sat on estates that you could happily roam on a sunny afternoon. Although the staff at each vineyard (as well as our super friendly and enthusiastic guide James) were all clearly passionate about wine, the mood was never pretentious, as tourism is so paramount to these areas that being picky with clientele would be massively counter-productive.
As well as sampling a few of the famous South African pinotage varieties, plus more well known bottles like cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, we also had a few different options. Two of my favourites were a MCC (SA fizz akin to champagne) and a brandy tasting – both at Backsberg.
The day finished at beautiful Fairview – one of the biggest vineyards in the region. It’s home to some rather adorable goats, whose milk is used in the goats cheese which features in the awesome wine and cheese pairing menu on offer.
We didn’t get to explore the town of Stellenbosch itself sadly, but having somebody drive you from vineyard to vineyard is definitely the way to do wine tasting! And anyway, it’s cultural, right?!