Forty years ago some far-sighted winemakers joined forces to promote their wares.
They blazed a trail with The Stellenbosch Wine Route …
Then, the route pioneered a homely wine tasting experience on fewer than 20 estates. Now, just this route alone consists of a network of some 150 wine farms, with 5 distinctively different sub routes, of diverse character and feel, homesteads and cellars, along with a variety of tasting experiences on offer – such as chocolate or salt pairing. To say nothing of a plethora of restaurants. Or two complementary brandy routes (since South Africa is the fifth largest brandy producing country in the world).
If you are a wine lover you are indeed spoilt for choice. A mere hour’s drive from Cape Town, the Darling Wine Route nudges up to the West coast with its Atlantic swells and maritime influences.
While the spectacular Hermanus Route encompasses the aptly named region Hemel-en-Aarde, (Afrikaans, meaning “Heaven and Earth”) and offers sightings of whales at certain times of the year at Walker Bay, a sanctuary to the whales on the Indian coast.
Or there is Route 62, the longest wine route in the country, taking wine enthusiasts from the majestic peaks of the Western Cape to the heart of the Klein Karoo, on a road less travelled.
Cape wine routes have come a long way … currently there are 22 unique routes to choose from. But the original Stellenbsoch Wine Route remains one of the most popular, where the university town of Stellenbosch with its oak lined streets is the heart the Winelands.
As the world’s seventh largest wine producer with some 524 private wine cellars crushing their own grapes (which entitles them to call themselves estates), things have decidedly moved on since Jan van Riebeeck, the first commander of the Cape, recorded in his diary in 1659 ‘’Today, praise be to God, wine was made for the first time from Cape grapes’’.
Let’s say cheers to Spatz Sperling of Delheim, Neil Joubert of Spier and the late Frans Malan of Simonsig.