Spend a day on your own, private Cape Town wine tour that takes in some of the finest estates in and around the Franschhoek Valley. You’ll be treated to world-class wine, fine dining and even get the chance to blend your own wine.
It was our day to discover the Cape Winelands in South Africa. My partner and I were collected from our hotel one morning by a charming private guide, Jeremy, and we set off for our Franschhoek wine tour.
Leaving Cape Town, it was not long before the cityscape gave way to rolling green vineyards. We reached a grand entrance gate and turned in. ‘Welcome to Babylonstoren,’ said Jeremy. ‘Dating back to 1692, this historic Cape Dutch estate boasts one of the best preserved farmyards in the winelands. I think you’re going to love it.’
How right he was… Jeremy led us on a guided walk through the homestead’s magical garden. It was divided into sections comprising fruit, vegetables, berries, bees for pollinating, indigenous plants and even a prickly-pear maze.
At the back of the garden, we came to a gorgeous greenhouse restaurant where brunch was laid on. We sat on green Luxembourg chairs at brick-red tables in the gracious old conservatory. The food was served picnic-style in wooden crates with the preserves, jams and salads packaged in weck jars along with fresh bread from a wood-fired oven. Brunch was followed by a cellar tour, which included a walk through the vineyards, a visit to the olive-oil production plant and spot of wine tasting.
Next, we drove into the long, narrow Franschhoek Valley. Lined with vineyards, this must surely be one of the most beautiful valleys in South Africa. We arrived at Grande Provence, a 300-year-old estate with lovely views over lush vines to the rugged mountains beyond.
We tasted the wine, followed by a one-hour blending experience with winemaker Matthew van Heerden. My partner and I were given three different varieties to blend our own style of wine. Matthew guided us through the process, showing us how certain varieties harmonise better than others. We corked the bottles to take away and enjoy at home: our very own, individually blended wine!
Jeremy drove us through the charming town of Franschhoek and up a hill to La Petite Ferme. This is an intimate, boutique-style cellar offering a wide range of wines. We did a private cellar tour and tasting with wine-expert Avron Williams and met Cellar Master Wikus Pretorius. ‘Each wine is an excellent example of what the Franschhoek terroir has to offer,’ said Avron as we tried the white, rosé and red varietals.
This was followed by a three-course meal in the restaurant, hosted by executive-chef Neethling du Toit. All the wines were available by the glass, so we were able to pair each course with an estate wine, under the guidance of Avron. A highlight of my delicious meal was the teriyaki pork belly, paired with La Petite Ferme barrel-fermented Chardonnay 2014. Simply to die for!
After lunch, we drove a few hundred metres back down the hill to Haute Cabrière. This famous cellar produces wines and Cap Classiques exclusively from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir cultivars.
We were treated to a private cellar tour and sabrage with Cellar Master Takuan von Arnim, followed by more wine tasting. ‘In accordance with the French tradition, the farm’s still wines are named after the property – Haute Cabrière,’ explained Takuan. ‘The Cap Classique range is named after the original founder, Pierre Jourdan, a French Huguenot who was granted the land in 1694.’
Back in Franschhoek, we visited Le Lude tasting room, set in a stylish environment with soft green panelling and expansive mirrors. We sat on leather banquette seating and sampled a range of artisanal Cap Classique wines. The MCC with canapé pairing was just excellent.
Next door to Le Lude is the Huguenot Monument, a grand structure comprising three tall arches. ‘The monument is dedicated to the cultural influences that the French Huguenots brought to the Cape when they immigrated here in the 17th and 18th centuries,’ explained Jeremy as we ambled over to take a look.
Our tour was drawing to a close, but there was one last stop before returning to Cape Town. Leaving Franschhoek, Jeremy turned right at the grand entrance to La Motte, one of the valley’s most beautiful estates.
‘In 1695, this piece of land was granted to German immigrant, Hans Hattingh,’ said Jeremy as we drove up the long driveway towards an elegant, thatched homestead complex. ‘In 1709, the land was purchased by French Huguenot Pierre Joubert, who is believed to have named it after the village of his birth in Provence, La Motte-d’Aigues. Viticulture on La Motte was established in 1752 with the planting of 4,000 vines.’
We parked and took a stroll through the sculpture garden for a final wine tasting in a room adorned with original paintings by South African master, Jacob Hendrik Pierneef. After viewing La Motte’s cathedral wine-maturation cellar, we rounded off our day with a lavish high tea.
Having indulged to the limit, but feeling none the worse for all the sumptuous food and wine, it was time to return to the city. It had been an unforgettable day, giving us a perfect introduction to the Cape’s majestic winelands.