Before you visit the West Coast Wine Route, forget the glossy tourist brochure version of South Africa’s winelands with their historic manor houses, ultra-modern cellars and restaurants. Prepare instead to be enchanted by whitewashed fishermen’s cottages, seasonal wildflowers, seafood eaten straight from the sea, and wines with complexity and conscience.

Did you know?

Three of the largest wine cellars in South Africa, Namaqua Wines, Klawer Wine Cellars, and Lutzville Vineyards are on the West Coast.

The West Coast Wine Route isn’t your typical Cape wine route. Along the diverse Cape West Coast, you can be beside the sea, atop a mountain, and knee-deep in daisies all in a day. If you’re up for a tasting adventure, in countryside that’s as complex as a fine wine's bouquet, West Coast wine farms will pop your cork.

On this northwestern Cape wine route, Mother Nature is accorded great respect as the number of organic wine producers, and Biodiversity Wine Initiative member estates attest. Stellar winery is South Africa’s largest organic and Fair Trade winery, and produces a ‘stellar’ natural sweet wine from muscat d’Alexandrie.

West Coast wine estates do things differently. You’ll have to make appointments to visit many of the wineries because their winemaker is off in the vineyards saving endangered tortoises, conserving succulent Karoo vegetation, harvesting by moonlight, or crushing grapes the old-fashioned way – by foot.

At Vredendal’s Namaqua winery, thousands of hectares of vineyards, literally, flow to the ocean’s edge. Here, fussy Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs are nursed beside the Atlantic, while Colombar and Chenin Blanc thrive on the valley floor thanks to careful canopy management and micro-irrigation techniques. Have a bite to eat, and buy some of their super-affordable boxed wines to take with you.

At Lutzville, the second biggest cellar in South Africa, you’ll find some superbly crafted, well-priced red and whites; and you’ll be glad you made the trek to Tierhoek whose Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Granch Noir, and Straw wines are all attracting critical acclaim.

Most of Stoumann’s wines are exported, but if it’s available, buy Vin de la Tortue – the proceeds go towards saving Namaqualand’s geometric tortoises.

The West Coast wine route is home to a number of boutique and garagiste producers. On the outskirts of Vredendal, visit newcomer Bellpost wines. Head on to Cape Rock wine estate, where in addition to award-winning Rhône style reds you can sample their Mourvèdre, Grenache and a Portuguese-style Capa Roca.

Teubes and Sir Lambert wine estates, owned by the Teubes family, are not-to-be missed. With all of the smaller West Coast producers, it's a good idea to make an appointment before visiting their wine estates.

Detour south-west to Seal Breeze winery for 100% handmade wine, or head coastward to the ward of Bamboes Bay and Fryers Cove’s vineyards to taste their exceptional Sauvignon Blancs.

Klawer Cellars wines are super-quaffable and kind to the wallet; also try their unusual African Ruby Rooibos Vermouth – a rooibos-infused red muscadel.

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