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IImagine the biggest mall you can, then take off its roof, replace its escalators and lifts with breath-taking 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 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 following wards: 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 Stellenbosch Wine Routes include 5 sub-routes that are defined by 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.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Stellenbosch Wine Routes
Tel: +27 (0)21 886 4310
Tel: +27 (0)21 883 3584
How to get here
From Cape Town International Airport, take the N1 to Kraaifontein, and take the Stellenbosch turnoff.
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.
Things to do
Explore Stellenbosch’s mountain roads - Helshoogte and the Jonkershoek Valley or take a guided tours of historic Stellenbosch and Kayamandi township. Outdoor activities such as quad biking, tractor rides, horse riding in the vineyards and golf are available. Various festivals take place throughout the year, including the Stellenbosch Wine Festival in February, the Woordfees (Afrikaans Word Festival) in March and the Helderberg Wine Festival in October.
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.
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. Try Cape Dutch/Cape Malay cuisine at the Volkskombuis.