Did you know?
Stellenbosch American Express® Wine Routes recently celebrated 40 years of wine tourism in the region.
Imagine the biggest mall you can, then take off its roof, replace its escalators and lifts with breathtaking mountain passes and green hillsides, swap its stores for wine estates, and keep the restaurants, but give them exceptional menus, wine lists and glorious vineyard views.
Exchange the supermarkets for specialist cheese, berry and olive farms, and lastly, whitewash and thatch the store fronts and give the big-name department stores a signature scalloped gable, slave bell, or museum. Welcome to the Stellenbosch American Express® Wine Routes.
Found around Stellenbosch (Van der Stel’s forest), South Africa’s second oldest town, this historic region reflects three centuries of occupation in its Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture.
The Stellenbosch winelands are a joy any time of year, boasting fabulous wine, rich Cape Dutch heritage, slick, professionally run wine estates, some of the country’s finest restaurants, and countryside.
Broadly speaking, the Stellenbosch wine district is a coastal wine region, containing the wards of the Jonkershoek Valley, recognised for cabernet sauvignons and blends; Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, known for cabernet sauvignon, pinotage and reds generally; Pappegaaiberg which is chardonnay territory; Devon Valley, producing wickedly good red blends; and Bottelary, noted for powerful shiraz, pinotage and Bordeaux blends.
Westward, the Polkdraai Hills and Banhoek are known for cabernet sauvignons and shiraz, while Stellenboschberg, the Helderberg and Faure (not official appellations) produce both good reds and whites.
The wine route in Stellenbosch has been divided into five sub-routes by virtue of their user-friendliness as opposed to official wards, wine styles, or geographical location.
This bite-size approach helps visitors get the most out of their winelands experiences, on a route that caters to history buffs, golfers, families, romantic couples, nature lovers, gourmands, casual quaffers and serious pilgrims of the grape.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
From Cape Town International Airport, take the N1 to Kraaifontein, and take the Stellenbosch turn off.
Best time to visit
September (spring) – April (autumn) is peak season, harvesting happens between January and April, and from May to October, avoid the hordes and enjoy personal attention and log fires.
Around the area
Saturday Market at Oude Libertas, Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens, golf, hot-air ballooning, helicopter flips and winelands spas.
Tours to do
Explore Stellenbosch’s mountain roads: Helshoogte and the Jonkershoek Valley. Wine tasting tour at Donkey Walk, Polkadraai Hills. Historic tours of Stellenbosch; Kayamandi township, quad biking, tractor rides and horse riding in the vineyards.
A hire car, personal tour guide or a tour operator is your best bet. There is no "yellow cab" service in Stellenbosch. A metered taxi from Cape Town is a plausible, but expensive option.
What will it cost
The cost of a wine tasting varies from cellar to cellar, and will typically require that you buy a glass in the tasting room to taste their wines. Phone ahead or enquire about prices at the cellar door.
Length of stay
From an afternoon to two weeks.
What to pack
In summer, sun protection is recommended; in winter a warm coat and an umbrella.
Where to stay
Accommodation ranges from backpackers lodges and self-catering cottages in the vineyards to five-star boutique hotels. Some historic stays in, or near Stellenbosch include: d'Ouwe Werf, Lanzerac Manor, the Eendracht Boutique Hotel, Stellenbosch.
What to eat
Pick strawberries on-farm in November at Mooiberg, and assorted berries from Hillcrest Berry Orchard. Shop for cheese, olives, olive oil, plums, peaches and nectarines from local fruit farms, and table grapes in harvest season. Cape Dutch/Cape Malay cuisine: The Volkskombuis.
The Stellenbosch Wine Festival in July; the Woordfees (Afrikaans Word Festival) in March; the Helderberg Wine Festival in October, and the Summer in Stellenbosch Festival in December.
Stellenbosch is Cabernet land, Morgenster olives and olive oil, fresh berries (in season) from Hillcrest Berry Orchard, homemade and organic produce from farmers markets and farm stalls.