South Africa recalls to mind fantastic food and wine, and outstanding natural beauty. We will visit some premium vineyards, tasting exceptional new and interesting wines, while exploring the vibrant city of Cape Town as well as the surrounding areas. This is a food lover’s paradise with a huge variety of styles of cuisine as well as the freshness of the ingredients. There is also plenty of free time to explore at your own pace and really enjoy this region’s many sights. One of the highlights of South Africa are the stunning sunsets, which ensure that the days end with a spectacular show, truly fantastic when shared with new companions and delicious wine. This tour showcases the very best of South Africa.
A strong Dutch heritage and a tumultuous past mean that South African wine wasn’t really on the international scene until the late 1980s and 1990s, when Apartheid ended. Today, it is a vibrant and popular region due to its warm winter climate and insignificant time difference with the UK.
A meat lover’s dream – braai is the order of the day, as much for the barbecued food as for the cultural experience. For dessert, tuck into the popular melktert (custard-filled pastry) and you can’t possibly visit South Africa without trying biltong, which is a thinly sliced, air-dried meat (either beef or game) or droewors (an air-dried sausage).
First produced in the 1600s, today there are over 100,000 hectares of wine. South Africa produces bright, fresh and modern wines. Pinotage is the famous red, while Chenin is popular or the whites. The variety and choice means you try wines from Cabernet to Pinot, and from Sauvignon to Chardonnay.
We depart London Heathrow for Cape Town in the evening on an overnight flight.
On arriving in Cape Town we transfer to the fantastic V&A Hotel Cape Town before enjoying an opportunity to wander along the V&A waterfront. In the early evening, we enjoy our first tasting of South African wines at a leading Constantia producer, Buitenverwachting. Following our tasting, we have dinner at Buitenverwachting’s restaurant, one of the Cape’s most prominent eateries.
We leave Cape Town early in the morning and travel to the upper reaches of Stellenbosch for a wildlife drive in the Conservation Park of Villiera Wines. Villiera has joined with a neighbouring farm to create a conservation sanctuary to introduce wildlife, encourage birdlife and create local employment opportunities. We enjoy a tasting of Villiera wines after our drive, before heading to another Stellenbosch winery for lunch at their on-site winery restaurant. After our visit we travel to Walker Bay pioneers – Hamilton Russell Vineyards. The exacting Anthony Hamilton Russell continues to produce world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best examples from around the world. This is always a real highlight of our tour and our tasting is followed by dinner. Olive Hamilton Russell is a renowned chef and her book, ‘A Year on a Cape Wine Estate’, provides a fascinating read. We enjoy further wines with our meal here.
Our first visit of the morning is to Newton Johnson, in the Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley (Hemel en Aarde = Heaven on Earth). The focus here is on producing high quality Pinot Noir with limited intervention in both the vineyard and winery. The winery itself occupies a dramatic site high up in the valley with wonderful views down to the Atlantic Ocean. We return to Hermanus in the late afternoon and the remainder of our evening is free. After such a full morning, you may like to enjoy a stroll along the calming Hermanus waterfront.
We travel east of Hermanus today to visit Springfontein, a visionary estate committed to organic and integrated farming. We visit both the vineyards and winery before enjoying lunch in their contemporary dining room, and our food is accompanied by these truly outstanding wines.
We check out this morning and head north, stopping en route at Paul Cluver Wines. Paul Cluver pioneered the Elgin region in the late 80s, and today produces a full range of wines including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, along with the aromatics Riesling and Gewurztraminer. We enjoy lunch on the way to our final destination of Riebeek Kasteel, which is located in the Swartland region, to the north of the Cape.
Today we visit David and Nadia wines at their remote winery on the Paardebosch Farm. Their range includes a Chenin Blanc from some old bush vines and they are also experimenting with Marsanne. The wines are elegant, structurally light and delicate, but with great depth of flavour. After our time here we head to the Malbec king in the form of Hugo Basson at Annex Kloof. We taste these powerful wines over lunch.The rest of the afternoon is free for you to wander charming Riebeek Kasteel.
We check out this morning and then enjoy our first visit, which is to Vondeling Wines, where wine-maker Matthew Copeland produces a range of outstanding wines, from Rhône-like blends to an excellent Pinotage. We then travel to the university town of Stellenbosch, arriving for a late lunch of your own choosing. Your evening is free to explore and dine in the local area.
We start in Reyneke and then it’s onto Jordan – one of South Africa’s leading wineries – for lunch. Afterwards, we return to Stellenbosch for an afternoon at leisure. Later, we are exploring Snoek Braai at Kanonkop, masters of the red grape and famously of the native Pinotage, but their Cabernet blend ‘Paul Sauer’ is also consistently excellent.
We start our day with a visit to Keermont this morning, where wine-maker Alex Starey oversees every aspect of the production process, from planting and picking, to vinification. The winery is situated in the natural amphitheatre between the Helderberg and Stellenbosch Mountain ranges with stunning views. Lunchtime and the afternoon are at leisure before we come together for dinner as a group this evening.
For our last morning, we visit Glenelly Wines, where we try some of the wine from their Three Collections. The ‘Glass Collection’ contains premium varietals from Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and Chardonnay. The ‘Grand Vin’ is the signature blend of the estate, using Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, aged for 18 months in oak barrels. ‘Lady May’, meanwhile, is the flagship wine made of the best Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 24 months in new oak. After our final tasting and tour, you are free to enjoy lunch in Stellenbosch before returning to Cape Town for some brief free time at the magnificent Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. We fly back to London tonight and arrive the following morning.
With a degree in English and a rich CV in journalism and writing, Andrew Jefford is a revered and eloquent author. Combining his passion for writing with his love of wine, Andrew has written for the Evening Standard and has produced 12 books and guides on the subject, earning multiple distinctions for his work. Andrew knows the wine business inside and out, having worked as a fruit picker, a wine shop worker and - most recently - as a columnist for the Decanter website. He lives in Montpellier, France, and is a regular wine guide on a variety of Arblaster & Clarke tours.
*For UK bookings only