Wonderful Wine… and So Much More
We’re on a grown-up scavenger hunt. Our objective: to find the most unforgettable and unique wine tastings around Cape Town and South Africa.
And it’s not only about tasting the best wine.
It’s more about the experience—the excuse to indulge in South Africa’s unbelievably beautiful scenery and take a sip of the luxury life at the wine farms’ opulent estates. That’s why even non-wine drinkers can have an unforgettable time visiting them.
And there are a lot of wine farms to visit.
We don’t have indestructible livers nor the time to visit them all, so we have to carefully pick and choose.
Here are the best wine tastings around Cape Town and South Africa that we’ve experienced so far to get you started on your own scavenger hunt.
We’re going to be rating each of the best wine tastings in South Africa we’ve found so far across these six criteria:
How spectacular are the drive in, the surroundings, and the views?
✓ Tasting Room
Does the tasting room take full advantage of its setting? Is it so old-world opulent you feel like the Queen of England might pop around the corner at any time?
Or is it so over-the-top commercial that you feel like cattle being brought in for a drink?
How knowledgable, friendly, and engaging is the person who is leading the tasting for us?
The more generous the pours, the wider the selection of wines to be sipped, and the lower the cost of the tasting, the higher the grades for this criterion.
Altogether, how likely are we to remember the wine tasting experience years from now? Was it unforgettably unique or does it blur in with all the others in one hazy memory?
We’re far from master sommeliers. Not too long ago, Chris mistook a red wine for a chardonnay in a blind taste test. So we’re generous with our scores on this criterion.
Bonus points for originality and variety.
The Best Wine Tastings in South Africa
(…That We’ve Found so Far)
The Welcome to Cape Town Winery
No wine estate screams, “Welcome to Cape Town!” better than De Grendel.
The 180-degree views of Table Mountain, Lions Head, Cape Town, and the sea from the patio of this Durbanville winery are truly iconic.
And since it’s only a 25-minute drive from downtown, we recommend all oenophiles make it their first Cape Town wine tasting.
Or, go straight there from the airport! It’s only a slight, 30-minute, detour.
The only way to beat De Grendel’s view during wine tastings is to see it at sunset, which is what you can do if you stay for a luxury dinner at their multiple-award-winning restaurant.
Or, to fill your belly with brunch before you start drinking wine, stop at Anna Beulah Farm to enjoy some of chef Hendrick’s hearty homestyle farm-to-table cooking. Maybe pick some produce fresh from the garden to take home, too.
Samantha O’Keefe deserves to be interviewed by Oprah.
When she was 30 years old, she moved to South Africa from California with zero winemaking knowledge, bought a plot of land in a non-winemaking area, and started Lismore while all the while raising two infant boys on her own.
That was around the year 2003.
Today, Greyton is an up-and-coming wine region because others followed her lead into the area and Samantha is one of 50 members of the Cape Winemakers Guild (and one of only three women).
Hearing the whole story from Samantha while tasting her wines and petting her dogs outside her house / tasting area was perhaps our most memorable wine tasting experience yet.
Nearby Greyton is relaxed and welcoming and worth a night or two. Stay with Antonio at the Lady Grace for a central, good value hotel.
While there, we recommend getting a platter of the cowboy nachos (R95) at Old Potter’s Inn and Brewhouse in Greyton. Their craft beer’s good, too.
When our friends Tracey and Anton in Stanford raved to us about Springfontein and their unconventional wines, we knew had to go, even if the tastings were a bit expensive for our liking at R15 to R30 a wine.
It was definitely worth it to get inspired by Springfontein’s Master Winemaker and COO, Tariro Masayiti.
Ever since he was the first black student to graduate in Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Stellenbosch, Tariro’s been challenging winemaking convention. On top of his classic wines, he puts out a Daredevils’ Drum line which features his star experiments like open barrel fermented wines and white pinotages.
It was just about as fun to hear the stories of how the wines were created as it was to taste them.
The village Stanford, which is twenty-five minutes east of Hermanus and two hours from Cape Town, has no shortage of fantastic food to go with its wine.
We were so glad the lady at nearby Black Oystercatcher Wines told us they were closed because there’s no way the wine tasting there could have been as good as the one we experienced at Strandveld instead.
It was a blast.
As is often the case with smaller tasting rooms, the lady who led our tasting was super congenial, generous, and helpful. We enjoyed the stories she told us about the winery, which apparently has the southernmost wines in Africa.
And we enjoyed the wines. A lot.
The next day we went to a few wine estates around Stanford and Hermanus’ Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and they tasted plain in comparison.
Even better, the basic tasting is free and the R40 for the reserve tasting was deducted from the wine we bought, which most wineries in South Africa don’t do.
A visit to Strandveld’s wine tasting room obviously pairs well with a trip to the Southernmost point in Africa, Cape Agulhas, since it’s on the way from Cape Town. Swing through the cute houses of Elim, too.
Springfield is the type of place Kim and I would visit regularly if we lived nearby.
As we sat under a tree by the lake tasting their famous white wines and eating warm, marinated olives from their farm, we were thankful that our friend and hiking guide Justin had recommended it to us.
And we were thankful all the crowds go wine tasting in Stellenbosch rather than here in the Robertson Valley.
If you’re out that way, stop by the stilted lake house tasting room at Excelsior Wine Estate, too.
After sampling their reds you get the opportunity to blend and bottle your own and custom make its own label.
Since we visited on the tail end of our Johannesburg to Cape Town road trip, we made a “Hectic Route Blend” to commemorate the occasion. We saved the bottle for half a year until ended up drinking on another road trip in Namibia.
Reyneke makes easily the best biodynamic and organic wines we’ve had in South Africa.
As for what “biodynamic” means exactly, and how it differs from “organic,” you’ll have to ask Lizanne.
Her parents worked for the owners and she grew up on the farm, so she knows all about it. She’ll be happy to enlighten you and brighten your day with her friendly nature, during a tasting.
If you share a normal tasting (R75) and a reserve tasting (R150) like we did you’ll taste 11 different wines. That gives you plenty of time to learn all about biodynamic and organic winemaking.
Unbelievable Desert Wines
Cederberg, a desert mountain wilderness area about 250km northeast of Cape Town, is paradise for people looking for a getaway from the city.
And no South African getaway is complete without wine, of course.
At first, we couldn’t believe it when we saw Cederberg Wines’ bright green vines growing out of the otherwise barren desert.
Then we couldn’t believe how busy their middle-of-nowhere tasting room was on a Saturday afternoon.
But after an extensive, informative, and unbelievably tasty sampling of, by our count, ten different wines it all made sense.
Cederberg Brewery’s beers are delicious, too. Buy some at the Sanddrif reception next door, drive over to the campsite, then walk 25 minutes to the swimming hole for a dynamite desert day.
Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, energetic, and brave, hike (and scramble) the surprisingly challenging Wolfberg Cracks Trail.
Seriously West Coast
Of all the unlikely locations for wine tastings in the Western Cape, Fryer’s Cove takes the cake.
The fish cake.
Better yet, the abalone cake.
Fryer’s Cove’s cellar is located on a pier below a lighthouse and right beside an abalone farm. And if you look past the fishermen across the bay, you can see the grapes being grown just off the shore.
You’d be hard-pressed to find such a unique wine tasting location anywhere in the world. And their wine’s sea-salt-infused flavors are equally unique.
The Jetty Restaurant is a community project that recently opened so that tasters can sit on the pier and enjoy West Coast South African flavors along with their wine.
Vergelegen and Babylonstoren
The Great Estates
The extra emphasis is on the word “estate” at these two. Their opulence, grandeur, and gardens are next level.
At Vergelegen, it’s about the history, the old trees, and the mega rose and hydrangea gardens.
And at Babylonstoren, the appeal is in their vegetable gardens and artisanal shops of farm fresh meats, cheeses, pastries, chocolates, and homeware.
You can spend hours exploring either wine estate.
And of course you can taste their wine. But you don’t even have to.
Not surprisingly for wine estates famed for their gardens, both have renowned restaurants.
Babylonstoren’s Babel and Greenhouse restaurants made our best restaurants in Cape Town for 25 unique occasions.
We haven’t had the opportunity to eat at Vergelegen’s Camphors, one of the country’s top fine dining experiences, but will happily accept invitations.
South Africa Wine Tastings We Can’t Wait to Visit
Our fellow wine farm fanatic friends and the staff and winemakers at the places we’ve been to have told us the following are some of the best wine tastings in South Africa, so they’re atop our must-visit list:
Please share what others we should add!
Where Are These Wine Tastings?
As you can see, our picks for the best wine estates in the Western Cape are all over the map, so if you manage to visit them all, you’ll have seen a good chunk of the province as well.
Tip: See our Google Maps tips for simple instructions to save these locations to your phone.
More Tips for More Fun in South Africa
Congratulations on getting on The Unconventional Route, Kim and my blog for curious folk like us who prefer to follow their own path, not somebody else’s.
Continue your journey by visiting the following:
Our 5-part series where we turn Cape Town upside and dump out all the best tips on how to visit, where to stay, what to do, and where to eat.
Start with our mythbusting, no-brainer basic giving, and tourist ABC teaching Idiot’s Guide to Visiting Cape Town blog post and go from there.
Our 4-part series on the Hawaii of South Africa, the Garden Route.
Start with our Garden Route Travel Guide, then go from there to read our tips, pros and cons, and restaurant recommendations.