Saltar Menú de navegación
Archive |

What to do in Andalusia


Hit the road and explore South Africa’s Cape Winelands - the country’s beautiful food and wine destination
25.09.15 - 13:46 -
0 votos

Cerrar Envía la noticia

Rellena los siguientes campos para enviar esta información a otras personas.

Nombre Email remitente
Para Email destinatario
Borrar    Enviar

Cerrar Rectificar la noticia

Rellene todos los campos con sus datos.

Nombre* Email*
* campo obligatorioBorrar    Enviar
A journey of good taste
Babylonstoren, a typical Cape Winelands farm, has a sculpture honouring every slave who once worked its land. :: SOUTH AFRICA WINELANDS
Taking the Helshoogte Pass that climbs north east from Stellenbosch through the mountains towards Franschhoek is a demanding drive. Not for the road itself, which is now a modern, well-maintained highway, but for the scenery it offers; expansive cinemascope views that cannot help but command your attention even though you know you should be concentrating on driving. Immense, jagged mountains shelter lush valleys planted with fields of lavender, olive groves, orchards and vines. Along the way signs invite you to pull in, stop and visit a winery; try artisan food; or pause to buy flowers like South African Proteas from road side vendors. This drive is one of almost 20 official wine routes through South Africa’s Cape Winelands-one of the world’s great wine-growing areas.
Yet it’s not just the grapes that bring visitors to this special place in the southern hemisphere – there is a compelling combination of excellent food, notable hotels, historic architecture, an awesome landscape and the world-class wines. Most definitely the sum-of-the-parts creates a unique holiday experience that really showcases the finer things in life – it’s the quintessential experience of South Africa.
Stellenbosch style
I had started my day walking the tree-lined streets of the university town of Stellenbosch, enjoying her elegant Victorian, Georgian and Cape Dutch buildings. Breakfast was in De Companje, a gourmet bakery &brasserie on the corner of Bird and Church street, in an old Bank building. It’s a cool place with effortless vintage styling that celebrates good food thanks to a collaboration of producers and suppliers of artisan products – from gourmet breads, organic freshly roasted coffees, tempting ice-creams, healthy juices and yes of course, wine.
It’s the kind of place you find in the Cape Winelands –here you just can’t help but eat well and in stylish surroundings. Stellenbosch benefits from the youthful energy of the university students and is one of the most sort after places to live in South Africa, making it a popular place for families.
Foodie Franschhoek
For a different vibe I decided to head to the small town of Franschhoek, a popular destination for self-drive holidays of the area, taking one of the country’s most scenic drives through the Helshoogte Pass. Together with the towns of Stellenbosch and Paarl, Franschhoek , meaning ‘French Corner’ in Dutch, forms a triangle encompassing some of the best places to visit, eat and stay.
Franschhoek is pretty much a one-street town, its main thoroughfare lined with boutiques, gift shops, and galleries. Yet it is considered to be the food and wine capital of South Africa,a foodie hub of creativity, where talented chefs, attracted by the region’s wine, natural produce and superior lifestyle have opened destination restaurants attracting clients not just from across South Africa but internationally.
It’s also a pull for the rich and famous who have invested in staggering real estate, wine farms and posh resorts. For example, if you fancy one of the best terrace views in the area, order a cocktail at Sir Richard Branson’s place, the Mont Rochelle Hotel and Vineyard which is just a few moments away from the town centre.
Helping hands
Exploring by car, getting a flavour of the culture, seeing the architecture and visiting the pristine estates makes this part of the African continent feel very European. Yet the majesty of the scenery, the extraordinarily striking mountains remind one that this is Africa. Sadly, so do the disadvantaged communities that sprawl out from the edge of the towns.The economic, educational and health challenges faced by so many here in South Africa are very much those of a developing country – and as a visitor to South Africa it can hard to reconcile the inequality that continues within the country – there are two distinct worlds of privilege and poverty.
At just an hour’s drive north east of Cape Town, the Winelands are distanced from much of the deprivation of the metropolis’ sprawling townships. However some of the wine estates reach out to the local disadvantaged communities with educational and health initiatives facilitated by local charities.
For example the Delaire Graff Wine Estate has created a charitable foundation ‘For Africa’s Children Every Time’ (FACET), and supports ‘Pebbles Project’ charity – both helping children and their families with education, nutrition, and health.
Also the Glenelly Wine Estate actively supports its local employees, helping the families own their homes, assisting with childcare on the estate, and creating recreational facilities to help with education and personal development.
Lesson in history
Found in South Africa’s affluent Western Cape Province, the Winelands first began to grow vines in the late 17th century, when the Dutch East India Company started to use the Cape as a trading stop-over between Europe and Asia.
The trading company brought with it slaves from South East Asia and migrants from Europe, especially from the Netherlands, Germany and France who made South Africa their home, many bringing with them expertise in agriculture, wine growing and production.
Jump to the 21st century and Cape wineries and farms are now beginning to recognise the contribution made by slavery. For example, as part of the new Cellar Tour at the Babylonstoren farm, guests are invited to stand around a glass table. It’s a sculptural monument, the layers and layers of glass are engraved with hundreds of names – each one a slave that worked on the farm over the centuries; finally given a name and recognition.
More than vineyards
Now the more commercially-minded and entrepreneurial wine estates have attracted significant investment, developinginto centres of lifestyle tourism, where wine tasting, restaurants, retail, galleries and museums and often a fancy hotel are all found together. So don’t think this is aplace for wine bores. In my experience the Cape Winelands attracts visitors that value the natural environment, the sophisticated aesthetic and style of the hotels, and the quality and value of the restaurants.
Clearly wine plays a huge part in the experience here and even if you don’t consider yourself particularly interested in wine-making, I recommend taking at least a couple of cellar tours and wine tastings.
It’s a good idea of course to stay over at the winery if all members of your group or family are planning on partaking – either that or agree a nominated driver each day as it is easy to enjoy a few tastings per day. Sometimes these are free, or simply cost a nominal fee that is credited against purchases on the estate.
It’s a seductive way to be immersed in the local culture – an opportunity to walk amongst the vines, enjoy the spectacular scenery, as well as discover new wines in fascinating wineries, many with striking historic or contemporary architecture – each day is an adventure in good taste!