Tag Archives: Wine Tasting

All The Reasons Why South Africa Is The Perfect Place To Wine

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Western Cape, South Africa is the Shangri-La of all things wine. The Garden of Eden of wine.  The absolute nirvana of wine ecstasy.

Not to discredit world-renowned wine capitals such as France, Italy, Spain or any others, but everyone already knows how distinguished and prized they are, unlike the hidden gem and severely underrated wine region of Western Cape, specifically in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.  South Africa is the underdog in the world of all things wine and now, more and more people are discovering just how impressive it truly is. If you’re a complete wine enthusiast or love wine even just a little bit, treat yourself and get down to Western Cape for a truly pleasurable experience.

Here’s why:

imagesIt’s Scenic Everywhere You Look

South Africa is one of my favorite countries because of how stunning it is. Oceans, mountains, rivers, valleys, lakes, forests, deserts, vineyards–it’s all here in one relatively small pocket of the world. Each winery I visited in Western Cape (I lost count) was complemented by mother nature during her finest.

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Even my Airbnb in Franschhoek was surrounded by acres of beautiful vineyards and mountainous backdrops.

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What did I do to deserve all of this?

imagesMore Accessible Than Ever

Western Cape presents to you more options than ever to get your wine game going strong. Private shuttles, Ubers, cabs, trains, trams, wine buses, bicycles, and even Segways are at your service when it comes to getting around. My favorite option was the trams and wine trains in Franschhoek which normally requires a reservation.

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In many cases, you don’t have to book a tour in advance. On two occasions, we walked right up to a tourist information center in Stellenbosch and enquired about a wine tour to go on there and now. Soon enough, a knowledgeable driver arrived to chauffeur us around. On another occasion, we simply had different Uber’s take us around to the random wineries we chose on our maps. On another occasion, we took a series of Hop-on, Hop-off buses in Franschhoek to a few wineries. Getting around safely and responsibly was never an issue.

imagesThe Unbeatable Pairings

Sure, wines are known to be carefully paired with select cheeses and chocolates, but where else in the world can you have your wine paired with biltong?

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Biltong is basically South Africa’s unique version of beef jerky. Though the biltong here can be made up of some of the most interesting game meats–from springbok to kudu and even ostrich. They all pair quite well with your reds.

Besides the biltong, you have your go-to pairings of favored cheeses, chocolates, sweets, and other nicknacks all available to your liking.

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imagesYou Will Meet Some Fantastic People

Wine tours attract thirsty people from all around the world who enjoy divulging in the finer things in life. In this case, wine. And in my experience, wine people are happy people. You’re bound to meet others who share in your wine commonality. I met a group of frat-like Dutch dudes who joined in on a custom tour and on another occasion, I accompanied a group of beautiful ladies on a special birthday wine tour that they thoroughly enjoyed.

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imagesThere’s No Better Place To Discover Pinotage

Did you know South Africa has their own varietal of red wine they invented? It’s called Pinotage and there is no better place in the world to try it. It’s a red blend: Pinot noir and Hermitage, hence PINO TAGE. Western Cape offers that and every other varietal you can imagine. As a special bonus, South Africa also offers some of the finest selection of Brandy in the world!

 

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imagesIt’s Conveniently Affordable

I’ve been to South Africa a handful of times over the past five years and have been able to go on SO many wine excursions because of how affordable they are. At one of my favorite vendors, Muratie, I even shipped a few bottles back home to Michigan right there on the spot. As of this post, the US dollar is doing well in South Africa, which means more to spend on your favorite Cabernet or Sauvignon blanc.

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I found a tour that shuttled you roundtrip from Cape Town and included six different wineries with five tastings at each winery and lunch included for R800 which translates to about $65 USD. Quality pricing!

imagesThere’s More Than Just Wine

Another thing that’s great about the wine region here is that there is an abundance of other things to do during your wine day. There are tons of exceptional restaurants and bars, shops and cafe’s, malls and theaters. There was even an instance where a friend and I went to a champagne tasting at the House of J.C. LeROUX and then immediately after went to go play with monkeys in a conservation outreach nearby!

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imagesTips To Make The Best of Your Wine Excursion

  • The wineries in Western Cape are open year round but the best time to visit is during the late spring and summer when the weather is ideal. Remember that the summer in South Africa is in the December to February months.
  • Many wineries, especially in Stellenbosch, close earlier on Saturdays for some reason. Some as early as noon! For that reason, Fridays are the most popular days for wine tours.
  • However, there are a couple exceptional outdoor food markets in Stellenbosch that are only open on Saturdays. Root 44 and the Slow Market in Stellenbosch are the two most popular. There they serve lots of fresh and delicious food in addition to great wines. Beginning there on a Saturday morning is never a bad idea!
  • The birthday girl in one of my wine groups got lots of free samples and larger pours when she told our wine hosts it was her birthday. Hint hint 🙂
  • Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are home to an insane amount of different wineries and I have yet been to a bad one. You should have no trouble finding any as they are all relatively in close proximity to each other.
  • Pace yourself. You’ll be surprised just how fast the wine creeps up on you.
  • There are many other wineries outside of the neighboring towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, but these two places have the most wineries by far.
  • There are loads of accommodation in Cape Town that cater to wine tours, along with hostels, hotels, and Airbnb’s in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Many companies offer direct pickups and returns.

Happy WINEing 🙂

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Fermented Grapes and Fuzzy Apes

Great news! My iPod has rose from the dead! It got soaked while rafting in Pai (don’t mind why I brought an expensive electronic on a white water raft) and wouldn’t turn on. I’ve kept it ever since though, with the small glimmer of hope that it would work again. I nonchalantly put it on the charger and like magic, it turned on! I had some feel good songs to reacquaint myself with.

Anyways, today Isaac planned on picking Chris and I up and taking us to Lord knows where. But first we had to run into Stellenbosch and pick up a few supplies, including postcards to send to most of the people who donated to our campaign for the kids. Us and the kids are in the process of writing messages on them all now so expect a postcard in a few weeks, I would imagine. After running around town, Isaac picked us up from the minibus station around noon and took us to Franschoek. Franschoek is essentially a wine country neighboring Stellenbosch. He took us to The House of J.C. LeROUX, a facility known for processing champagne and sparkling wines. Let’s do some tasting!

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I’m not a fan of champagne really, but the champagne offered here was probably the best I’ve ever tasted. We had five glasses of different champagnes, including an extra sixth one that Isaac was able to smooth talk the staff into giving us for no extra charge. Each glass was paired with a candy or chocolate of some sort. I love candy, but I came to find that I don’t like eating candy and drinking champagne at the same time. It’s just…weird. At least to me. Also, I don’t really care for higher end, upscale candies and chocolates. I’ll take a Reese’s or Twix over fancy schmancy chocolates any day!

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We had no idea where we were going next, but Isaac took us to another vineyard, this time to Deheims Winery, a facility started by a German wine enthusiast. Here, they specialized in port wines, which are traditionally a lot sweeter than your norms. The layout of the winery was identical to an old cellar. There were even cobwebs that were purposely left in the windows to show how old this place was. Old wine means good wine so we were up for it!

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First we tried a few ports. They weren’t too bad. Next the host gave us tastings of different Pinot Noirs and Merlots. I prefer smooth wines over most and these wines were as smooth as can be. They were so great that I bought two of them on the spot and had them shipped back home! I bought another for myself for later. The wine I bought is called Ansela van de Caab and is grown and produced by Muratie. Muratie actually names each varietal of their wines after a member of the family. Ansela has the prestigious distinction of being paired with the flagship wine of the company. We tried a few different glasses, and each glass was paired with more chocolates. I still didn’t like eating chocolates and drinking wine together in my mouth but the chocolates by themselves were alright.

One of the best things about enjoying wine, champagne, and the likes is that it gets me super hungry. Same with Chris. Actually, it might just be because we didn’t really eat anything substantial this morning for breakfast; just a cinnabon. Isaac took us to Gino’s, a pizza place, nearby in Stellenbosch. This was my first time here but Chris has been here numerous times before. I ordered a delicious pasta that did the trick.

Chris has always said that on this trip, one of the things he wanted to do the most was hold and play with monkeys. Isaac knew a place nearby where that could happen called “Monkey Town” that neither of us ever knew existed! We made a quick drive and arrived to our destination. This place was similar to Monkey Land except on a much smaller scale and not as many monkeys. But, more importantly, Chris and I were able to have a monkey encounter!

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The monkeys we interacted with were a few squirrel monkeys, a wolf monkey, and a very timid ring-tailed Lemur named King Julian. I think this is the third lemur I’ve met named King Julian. The squirrel monkeys were pretty playful and would leap around on our shoulders, heads, laps, arms, and anything they could to reach the peanuts and cheetos we had in our hands for them. I could never get enough of their tiny human-like hands lifting each of our individual fingers one by one, to try and find something to eat. I tried my best to get King Julian to socialize with us but he was too shy. I did manage to get him to take some food out of my hand though. Before we knew it, our time limit was up and we were encouraged to go around Monkey Town and see all the other monkeys that were in an enclosure. The other monkeys included capuchin, tamarin, owl, and spider monkeys. There were also parrots and meerkats around, and also a caracal which I really wanted to play with really bad!

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It’s great to have a local friend like Isaac who can take us around and show us places that a lot of tourists don’t go to. Although I don’t consider myself a tourist at all here in South Africa, I practically live here! I don’t think I really thought about what exactly we were going to be doing today – all I knew was whatever we would be doing, it would be a good time.

And there was no better way to spend the day than drinking tons of wine and playing with monkeys. 🙂

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