Wine Tasting In Cape Town: A Guide To The Best Vineyards Around The City

One of the most beautifully situated cities in Africa — if not the world — Cape Town is a scenic reverie. Set around a promontory on the ocean, with the iconic, distinctive Table Mountain as a focal point, and a mild climate that makes it a popular year-round destination, this South African gem is a photographer's dream (via Britannica). As if that weren't enough, there is another enticing reason to visit — the region around the city is a hotbed of viticulture, with wine production dating back to the 1600s (via Wines of South Africa). 

Today some of the country's finest wines are produced nearby in the neighboring locales of Paarl, Franschhoek, Constantia, and Stellenbosch, clustered around the city, making them easy day trips. What's more, the country's wines are exceptional — many produced in this area — with South African masterpieces topping the medal chart at last year's International Wine & Spirit Competition. 

You will find a trip to any of the vineyards below a deeply fulfilling excursion, but if you prefer to sample some of the region's best bottles while in Cape Town, the wine store Caroline's has two locations in the city, both promising knowledgeable staff and a huge selection of local delights.

La Motte, Franschhoek

This vineyard in a valley east of Cape Town is named for the rural village La Motte d'Aigues. A large number of Huguenots came to this part of Africa in the late 1600s from France, fleeing persecution back home and emigrating to work the land (the name of the valley hints at its anthropological history — Franschhoek is Afrikaans for French corner, according to Flags of the World

Many of these early settlers had knowledge of viticulture, and among them was Pierre Joubert, originally from Provence. The first owner of the land, he was a French Huguenot, buying it in 1709. It took almost half a century more before the first wine was produced here, but now La Motte has established itself a premier vineyard, with its whites and reds winning a number of awards. Wine-tasting sessions here can be taken on plush sofas, a welcome departure from the typical stand-up bar, with a roaring fireplace on hand during the cooler months. For culture buffs, the onsite museum traces how the estate evolved, and it also hosts art exhibitions.

Beyerskloof, Stellensbosch

According to the Stellenbosch Heritage Foundation, this settlement east of Cape Town was inaugurated in 1685, named by the Governor of the Dutch Cape Colony Simon van der Stal for himself. Visitors to this town at the heart of wine-growing country might find it hard to picture its modest beginnings three centuries ago, with Stellenbosch, beautified by lovely Cape Dutch architecture, today a lively hub. 

This is where you'll find scores of winemakers, among them Beyerskloof. The vintner specializes in Pinotage, a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut that traces its genesis to South Africa almost a century ago, according to Wine Folly. Though Beyerskloof has a fairly compact history, bottling its first batch in 1995, it's a well-known stop on the wine route, and wine expert Natalie Maclean identifies the Beyerskloof Pinotage 2019 as "rich and medium-bodied." Tastings are offered every day of the week, and start at South African Rand 50 (about US$3) per person, with five wines available to sample.

Beau Constantia, Constantia

A suburb south of Cape Town, Constantia is also only 20 minutes away from the center of the city. Here, with a picturesque setting on a hill, and vines swooping down below, Beau Constantia produces just a handful of wines, all named for the owners of the business. Wine tastings are served in a modern building where a wall of windows allow guests to enjoy spectacular views of the area's mountains. 

Beau Constantia prides itself on its small operation, and its current stock lists just 10 reds, whites, rosés, and one MCC, South African sparkling wine that undergoes the same painstaking, time-consuming techniques that are used to create French Champagne, according to "Wine Spectator." The Cecily 2022, for example, is a white wine that uses Viognier grapes plucked over a two-week period in early 2022, and exudes heady floral notes. In addition to wine tastings, Beau Constantia has a restaurant where the inventive cuisine mines local, seasonal produce.

De Grendel, Cape Town

One of the closer wineries to the city center, with a trip out here taking only 20 minutes from the heart of Cape Town, De Grendel offers not only great pours, but also views of Table Mountain that are likely to take your breath away. The vista is one of the highlights during a wine tasting here, taken from a glass-enclosed deck, with rolling vines, the spread of Cape Town's buildings, and the Atlantic Ocean all part of the panorama. 

While the estate has a rich background, dating to the early 1700s, its first wines were produced 30 years ago, with Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot as the debutants. The range of wines now encompasses whites, reds, and includes the recently added Op Die Berg Syrah 2019 that uses grapes grown in mountains northeast of Cape Town (the wine can be sampled during an Exclusive Tasting). In addition to wine tasting, which starts at Rand 110 for a Premium Tasting of six wines, De Grendel offers visitors farm tours.

Nederburg, Paarl

Visitors to this part of South Africa are likely to see some beautifully maintained examples of Cape Dutch architecture in their travels. A vestige of early Dutch settlers that first arrived in late 17th century, this architectural vernacular has a distinctive form, with whitewashed walls, gables with curved facades, and thatch roofs commonplace; a fine set of examples is published by The South African. 

Visitors to Nederburg will encounter the style in all its glory, most notably at The Manor restaurant, housed inside the main Cape Dutch building. Wine tastings take place here, a cozy spot with stone floors and wood beamed ceilings. They include a red, white, and sparkling option, together with a surprise sample thrown in the mix; five wine samples will set back sippers Rand 70. The winery has received a number of accolades, including Platter's by Diner's Club International South African Winery of the Year in 2017.

Babylonstoren, Franschhoek

This stunning estate could easily take up an entire day trip, a remarkable pastoral destination anchored by a beautiful garden, and enlivened by finely restored Cape Dutch buildings. Babylonstoren has a fascinating background, on old Cape Dutch farm that was purchased by South African telecoms magnate Koos Bekker and his wife, Karen Roos, the former editor of South Africa's "Elle Decoration," who set about restoring it (via Forbes). 

Roos' keen esthetic eye is apparent, with every part of the complex a study in care, detail, and refinement. The gardens generate fruits and vegetables that are used in the restaurant, while other plants and flowers represent the indigenous flora of South Africa. The complex also has a small hotel with achingly gorgeous rooms — no surprise there — and stores that sell locally produced meats, milk, and fantastic bread. Guests can also take tours of the impressive wine cellar, the olive oil and balsamic vinegar production facility, get a spa treatment, and enroll in workshops on subjects such as making your own soap. 

There is, of course, the wine tasting, housed in a contemporary space with a wall of glass that lets the outdoors in; it samples the estate's boutique selection of whites, reds, rosé, and one sparkling wine, with three wines for Rand 50, and seven wines for just Rand 90 (about US$5).

Diemersdal Estate, Durbanville

There's a comforting sense of continuity in the wines at Diemersdal — six generations of a family have honed their craft at the vintner since acquiring the land in the 1880s. Such longevity is to be expected where recounting the story of this estate, a place where wine barrels were on site since the early 1700s. In addition to 180 hectares (about 440 acres) of vineyards, Diemersdal features land for grazing animals and a section of Renosterveld, a rich shrub land that is rarely found anywhere else in the world (via the non-profit One Earth). 

The location is eye-catching, on gentle slopes with a view of Table Mountain, a fertile terroir that creates award-winning wines. The Journal Sauvignon Blanc 2021, for instance, was given a Gold Medal at the Concours Mondial du Sauvignon 2022. The tasting room, blessed with natural light, is open every day, and offers a snapshot of some of the winemaker's fine whites and reds.

Delaire Graff Estate, Stellenbosch

At the heart of the Cape Winelands, the Simonsberg Mountains climb to 4,500 feet above sea level (via Simonsberg Wines), appearing like a ridge formed by a row of peaks. It's a stunning sight, and one that you'll see during a visit to Delaire Graff Estate. This luxury winery has plush accommodations with private plunge pools, a full-service spa whose treatments are inspired in part by Africa, an expansive garden filled with sculptures, and a restaurant where dishes explore the flavors of Asia. 

Wine tastings, which start at Rand 75 for three pours, take place in a dedicated area — outdoors on a terrace during the warmer months, or next to a wood-burning fire in the winter — with a large selection of art always visible, a visual treat to accompany the fabulous drinks. Among the wines sold here, the Delaire Graff Cape Vintage 2020 is a dessert wine, aged in 20-year-old Cognac barrels, with a profile that is pleasingly dark and robust.

KWV, Paarl

The cellar complex at winery KWV is huge, spreading more than 50 acres, with the wine emporium here a vast trove of reds, whites, sparkling and natural wines, as well as select spirits. While the location in Paarl is a little further than some of the wineries above, a trip here can be combined with some rewarding, heart-pumping outdoor exploration. Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve has a network of hiking trails that wind through the indigenous fynbos vegetation, and a number of spectacular, massive granite outcroppings like Bretagne Rock. 

Back at KWV, there is an array of wine-tasting options that cater to guests' tastes, with a couple of alternatives starting at Rand 70 that include six wines from the Classic Collection or Laborie ranges. True vinophiles might opt for the KWV The Mentors tasting, with five pours that include the fabled Mentors Cabernet Franc — the producer's Mentors Cabernet Franc 2019 won a Best in Show award at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2022.

Klein Constantia, Constantia

The history of Klein Constantia dates to the late 1600s, when it was part of a large estate. Today this esteemed winemaker has vines that blanket the slopes and foothills of Constantiaberg. With the crop facing south, catching less direct sun, the grapes benefit from the cooler conditions that help to intensify the flavors of the fruit. The heart of the winery is the U-shaped Cape Dutch Cape main house, shaded by oak trees and bearing the classic hallmarks of that era's design, from the white facade to the fanciful gables. 

Klein Constantia is known for its natural sweet wine, Vin de Constance, with its 2018 vintage receiving an almost perfect score from American wine critic James Suckling. For inquisitive tipplers, this is one of the wines that is part of the Signature Tasting, costing Rand 150. All sampling takes place at tables, comfortable sofas, or an octagonal bar in a room with high ceilings, stone floors, and skylights — and after a sip, maybe you'll recognize why Klein Constantia was in the Top 50 World's Best Vineyards 2021.

Spier, Stellenbosch

The romantic outlines of mountains, especially alluring in the late afternoon and dusk, and a scattering of attractive Cape Dutch buildings are all lures at this winemaker whose title deed dates to 1692. There is a huge variety of gables across Spier, appearing on the wine cellar, shed, and main manor. Those fine lines have been lovingly maintained and contribute to the strong sense of tradition here, an estate with a farm, spa, several shops and restaurants, Segway tours of the vineyards, and even a smokehouse. 

During tastings set to views of the Helderberg Mountains, guests pay Rand 70 to try three signature range wines and three premium ranges; children can also get in on the action with their own grape juice tasting. Travelers can even take on the mantle of winemaker by signing up for a wine blending session, where participants not only create their own special concoction, but also are put to work designing a label for their wine (the program is open to groups of 8-30 people).

Boschendal, Franschhoek

The cellar of the Manor House at Boschendal is where Werf Restaurant, a refined eatery that promotes soil-to-fork dining, focuses on local, sustainable ingredients in its artistically presented meals. Menus often feature plenty of small plates and items grown at the onsite farm, and dishes like apricot glazed Duroc pork are listed with suggested wine pairings from the estate's roster. 

Visitors wanting to extend their stay here have a grand choice of lodging, from a villa with valley and mountain views to an assortment of cottages. Similarly, wine tastings vary, from a simple Rand 50, four-wine pick to the MCC and Oysters favorite, where four different sparkling wines are accompanied by four oysters (the Boschendal Brut Chardonnay Pinot Noir won a Gold award at the 2022 Effervescents du Monde). For vinophiles powerless to the demands of their sweet tooth, chocolate pairing menus sate both tastes. Guests that want to fully immerse themselves in a gourmet extravaganza should consider attending the monthly Winemaker's Dinner, held on the first Thursday of each month, pairing a three-course meal with Boschendal's liquid luxuries.

Durbanville Hills, Cape Town

Americans will be familiar with jerky, but the word biltong might not be an instantly accessed part of our lexicon. The latter is a dried-meat dish popular in South Africa, often jazzed up with spices and vinegar during the curing process. Ostrich biltong is one of the joys awaiting visitors of Durbanville Hills, part of a tasting menu with dried fruit and wine pairings. For travelers whose taste buds don't lean that adventurous, the traditional wine tasting here lasts about 45 minutes, and features seven drinks, the last one a 10-year-old brandy. Sessions take place in the cellar, or in warmer months, outside by a grove of olive trees. 

This winery benefits from its proximity to Cape Town — it's a short drive from the city center — and wines here are fermented from grapes collected by member farms. The selection of bottles is diverse, from reds like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to whites such as Chardonnay, and a few sparkling varieties.

Vergelegen Estate, Somerset West

At the end of 2019, Vergelegen Estate was gazetted as a provincial heritage site by the local government. By placing it under the National Heritage Resources Act, the destination will be safeguarded for generations to come, a blessing that anyone who visits here will surely appreciate. The vineyard southeast of Cape Town was founded in 1700, and its name translates from Afrikaans to English as 'located far away.' Wandering the grounds is a relaxing endeavor, past varietals that include merlot, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, and sémillon (you'll glean these tidbits on a 90-minute vineyard and cellar tour). 

Travelers can also explore the many gardens here, lovingly restored in the past half century by the owner, the mining company Anglo American. Among the highlights are the rose garden, a bamboo garden, and a camphor forest where guests can enjoy seasonal picnics. As enthralling are the wine tastings, ranging from a Rand 45 entry level program with four pours, to the top-shelf Flagship Range option, where three Bordeaux-style wines jockey to pass the taster's test.

Haute Cabrière, Franschhoek

The French Huguenot Pierre Jourdan purchased a parcel of land in the Western Cape in 1694, creating a farm in the Franschhoek Valley. Today that farm is Haute Cabrière, which markets its wines under three strands — Pierre Jourdan, Haute Cabrière, and Haute Collection. Franschhoek is an undeniably arresting spot, a broad, flat valley with mountains on three sides. The grandeur of that terrain is on full view at Haute Cabrière, not least from the restaurant where doors open to the elements. 

Elsewhere, an onsite bakery is stocked with a selection of yeasty treats, as well as pickles, jams, and other culinary goodies. The winery's focus is very much on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and its rich oeuvre is on display during wine tastings. Four different options avail themselves to guests, from the four pours that delve into the diversity among Pierre Jourdan bottles, to the opportunity to direct your full attention to the winery's Chardonnay (or Pinot Noir) vintages. And with prices for wine tasting topping out at Rand 110 (about US$6.50), this is one tryout that we can all drink to.