Did you know?
The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek consistently ranks among the World's 50 Best Restaurants.
Tucked away in the Groot Drakenstein Mountains the Franschhoek Wine Route is a bit like Monte Carlo, a playground for the super rich in the winelands, only much greener and more scenic.
Proud of their French ancestry, its residents love nothing better than an excuse to whip out the Tricolore or trot out some French phrases, in honour of their Gallic heritage dating back to 1688, during the towns’ annual July Bastille Festival.
Selling itself unabashedly as ‘South Africa’s gourmet capital’, Franschhoek’s lifestyle attracts gastronomes and sybarites from across the globe.
The Franschhoek winelands fall within the Western Cape’s coastal wine growing region, and thereafter they are a ward of the Paarl wine district. There are 43 active wineries along the route, ranging from super-brands like Boschendal and L’Ormarins to very small, garagiste producers, My Wyn.
Well-suited to viniculture, sauvignon blanc, merlot, chardonnay and semillon cultivars make up the bulk of the plantings in Franschhoek.
The typically Mediterranean climate (wet, cool conditions, and clayey, kaolin-rich loam topped with granite shale weathered from the surrounding mountains and Berg River) create acidic, potassium-rich soils that give the wines of this region their character.
On your tasting tour of Franschhoek’s wine estates, expect Loire-style sauvignon blancs and buttery, French-oaked chardonnays, along with Bordeaux-style reds and some bold shiraz.
Méthode Cap Classique Sparkling wine production is popular, with Haute Cabrière and Graham Beck bottling some very quaffable joie de vivre. Sample their wares at the Cap Classique and Champagne Festival in December. Other tipples worth seeking out include port, schnapps, grappa, and some exceptional potstill brandies.
Superb local produce, a willingness to experiment and the desire to provide world-class gastronomic experiences, seasoned with award-winning chefs, and served with French flair, sums up the synergy that exists here between food and wine.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Franschhoek Wine Route
Tel: +27(0)21 876 3603
How to get here
Cape Town International airport is approximately 70 km from Franschhoek, around an hour by car.
Best time to visit
Franschhhoek is especially lovely from September (early spring) until April (end of summer).
Around the area
Drakenstein prison (formerly Victor Verster), Mont Rochelle and Paarl Nature reserves, wine tours on horseback, Pearl Valley Golf Estate, the Franschhoek Motor Museum, and the nearby Paarl and Stellenbosch Wines Routes.
Tours to do
Take a tour of Mooiwater township or Pniel, and see French-Huguenot architecture at Boschendal Manor (1685), Burgundy Bourgogne farm, or the Dutch Reformed Church (1847).
A hire car or self-drive option is recommended.
What will it cost
The price of a wine tasting varies from estate to estate. Advance booking, particularly at award-winning establishments, is essential.
Length of stay
You could just pop in for half a day's wine tasting and lunch, or take an entire week to explore the valley.
What to pack
Sunblock, a hat and sunglasses are recommended, as are comfy shoes for traipsing around wine estates, or through the vineyards.
Where to stay
Accommodation ranges from boutique hotels, country lodges, B&Bs, and guesthouses to self-catering cottages, mostly three four and five-star establishments.
What to eat
Franschhoek is renowned for it's local produce that includes charcuterie, fresh and smoked salmon trout, cheeses, chocolates, olives and olive oil.
Four annual Franschhoek festivals not to miss are the Franschhoek Oesfees at Solms-Delta at the end of March; the Franschhoek Bastille Festival in mid-July; the Franschhoek Uncorked Festival in early September; the Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne Festival in early December.
Local wines, salmon and trout products, hand-knotted carpets; art and jewellery by local artists, and olive oil.