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TTucked 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, during the town’s annual July Bastille Festival - in honour of their Gallic heritage dating back to 1688.
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, in the Paarl wine district. There are 51 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 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.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Franschhoek Wine Route
Tel: +27(0)21 876 2861
How to get here
Cape Town International Airport is approximately 70km from Franschhoek, around an hour by car.
Best time to visit
Franschhhoek is especially lovely from September (early spring) until April (end of summer).
You may want to visit during one of the four annual Franschhoek festivals. These 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 and Champagne Festival in early December.
Things to do
Drakenstein prison (formerly Victor Verster), Mont Rochelle and Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, wine tours on horseback, Pearl Valley Golf Estate, the Franschhoek Motor Museum, and the nearby Paarl and Stellenbosch Wines Routes.
Take a tour of Mooiwater township or Pniel; see French-Huguenot architecture at Boschendal Manor (1685), Burgundy Bourgogne farm, or the Dutch Reformed Church (1847).
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.