This is the (Seg)way to do it: wine tasting on two wheels
What is the most unusual attraction you’ve ever been to on a wine route?
In South Africa, that title officially goes to Segway at Spier, a company that offers a thrilling whizz around a real working farm on the coolest mode of transport there is: a Segway Personal Transporter.
'Being recognised as "the most unusual and memorable attraction" in this year’s Klink Awards was a big achievement,' says Segway at Spier manager Erik Neethling, 'because the winner is chosen by public vote.'
Playing outside in the sun every day on these … it’s freedom
And that’s the thing about experiencing a Segway tour. It’s hard to describe the joy and the exhilaration of these machines until you’ve been on one yourself. Those who do become instant converts. Which is probably why Erik has invited me to Spier Wine Farm for a sunset tour through the vineyards.
Three things strike me about the Segway, a two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered electric vehicle. The first is that it must by powered by magic. As if defying gravity, it remains stubbornly upright, whether or not I’m standing on it (actually, this self-correcting mechanism involves some pretty amazing technology, including two tilt sensors and five gyroscopic sensors).
The second is how intuitive it is to operate. No other vehicle relies solely on your shift in weight in order to move. Sure, it takes some getting used to, but Erik’s team is on hand to walk (or glide) you through the basics. Once mastered, you simply lean your body forward or backward, and effortlessly glide through the beautiful vineyards of the Spier estate.
'You’re out in nature, going through the vineyards. You’re not confined to a car. You can physically go up to the grapes, and then have a wine tasting afterwards,' says Erik.
The third is just how much fun these machines really are, and suddenly the popularity of Segway at Spier at the Klink Awards makes sense. Sure, they are eco-friendly, and have a ton of practical uses, but mainly they offer a thrill unlike any other.
'Ah man, it’s a funny little machine,' says Erik. 'Playing outside in the sun every day on these … it’s freedom.'
There are six Segway-authorised tours you can do around South Africa, but Spier is the only one that involves wine – although, quite sensibly, that only happens after the tour! And with so many interesting projects happening on the estate – biodynamic farming, free-roaming chickens, a wastewater treatment plant, and a protea garden – there’s plenty to see and learn about from your tour guide.
'I think we’ve been lucky in teaming up with Spier. You can do these Segway tours in cities all over the world, but there’s not a lot of space. If you look around here, it’s amazing – we’ve got space,' says Erik.
So much, in fact, that you easily reach the top of speed of 20km/h while gliding through the vineyards on your Segway. But it’s worth stopping to take in your surroundings when you can – Stellenbosch is known for its natural beauty, and when the sun sets, the Helderberg mountains turn pink, the sky turns brilliant orange, and the fields of vines become an even more incredible sight.
Maybe you can already tell, but the experience also made me a total Segway convert. While the photos and video from the day give some hint of what’s in store for you at Spier, it really is worth trying it for yourself. You’ll learn a thing or two about wine, and have a blast doing it, too. Whoever said four wheels are better than two?