Cape Winelands

Best South African Wine Regions & Wineries to Visit

Last updated Dec 30, 2022 | Best Wine Africa, South Africa

South African wine is really starting to make a name for itself. You can find some beautifully crafted high-quality wines at an affordable price. Most of these award-winning wineries are less than an hour from Cape Town. We spent several days in the Cape Winelands exploring all it has to offer. Here are the five best South African wine regions and wineries to visit. 

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Map of the 5 Famous South African Wine Regions

Map of South Africa Wine Country

Map of South Africa Wine Regions 

Most of South Africa’s wineries are located in the Western Cape and are classified based on the Wine of Origin Scheme into geographical units, regions, districts, and wards.

Some of the most famous wine regions include Paarl, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch, Constantia, and Walker Bay, and all would make excellent choices to visit! 

To see which one is right for you, I’ve included background information on each of the five regions, which wine varieties to taste, and what wineries are worth checking out.

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Constantia

Constantia South Africa

Constantia

Background 

The first harvest was produced in 1659 thanks to scurvy. What? That’s right, scurvy. It all started when the Dutch desperately needed to set up a refreshment station for their sailors while on the spice trade route to the Indies. Without fresh vegetables and fruits, most sailors would succumb to the debilitating effects and die of scurvy, which is caused by the lack of vitamin C. Part of setting up this supply station was to plant vineyards to produce wine. Cheers to scurvy and findings its cure!

Drive Time from Cape Town 

20 minutes

Constantia Wine Varieties to Try 

Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc

Top Rated Constantia Wineries & Which Wines to Taste 

  • Klein Constantia (Vin de Constance*, Sauvignon Blanc)
  • Groot Constantia (Muscat, Red Blend, Shiraz)

* Vin de Constance produced by Klein-Constantia is considered a world-class sweet wine based on the original legendary wine enjoyed by royalty in the 18th and 19th centuries. Louis Phillipe, Napoleon, and Frederick the Great all had this luscious wine on their shelves.

Number 2 Icon

Stellenbosch

Kanonkop Award Winning Pinotage

Kanonkop Award Winning Pinotage

Background

Winemaking goes back to the 17th century. This historic town is dotted with beautiful Cape Dutch farms. Many winemakers have graduated from Stellenbosch University after obtaining a degree in viticulture and oenology and have become very successful. It is the center of wine tourism.

Drive Time from Cape Town

45 minutes

Stellenbosch Wine Varieties to Try 

Pinotage, Syrah, Bordeaux style blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier

Top Rated Stellenbosch Wineries & Which Wines to Taste

  • Kanonkop (Black Label Pinotage)
  • Beyerskloof (Pinotage)
  • Simonsig (Pinotage, Syrah, Sparkling wine)
  • De Toren (by appt only, Bordeaux style wines, Fusion V and Z)
  • Warwick (Trilogy Bordeaux-style Blend, can book a gourmet picnic)
  • Mvemve Raats (Compostella Red Blend)
  • De Morgenzon (Chenin Blanc)
  • Ken Forester (Chenin Blanc)

Did you know? Stellenbosch is the birthplace of Pinotage, South Africa’s national grape. Created in 1925, pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Its notoriety began when Kanonkop’s Pinotage won the Robert Mondavi Trophy for the Best Red Wine at the ’91 International Wine and Spirits Competition in London.

Chenin Blanc is another South African favorite. Ranging from dry to sweet to sparkling, Chenin Blanc has great versatility. Although Loire Valley in France is the birthplace of this grape variety, South Africa is its larger producer. It is the country’s most widely planted grape. Flavors range from clean, fresh, citrusy with mineral hints (like a Sauvignon Blanc) to notes of toast and vanilla if oaked (like a Chardonnay). Very diverse!

My husband and I designed our own wine tour of the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek wine regions using Uber. Read more about our DIY wine tour experience below. 

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Paarl

Paarl

Paarl

Background

One of the oldest towns in South Africa, Paarl received its name from the three large granite outcrops that comprise Paarl Mountain. The Dutch translation of Paarl is “pearl,” which was used to describe what the granite mountains looked like after a rainfall when they glistened.

Drive Time from Cape Town 

50 minutes

Paarl Wine Varieties to Try  

Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Chardonnay

Top Rated Paarl Wineries & Which Wines to Taste

  • Nederburg (Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Blend, Sauvignon Blanc, Noble Late Harvest)
  • Fairview (Shiraz, Chenin Blanc)
  • Vilafonte (Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon Blend, Merlot/Malbec Blend)
  • Glen Carlou (Chardonnay)

Spice Route Destination 

This destination located in Paarl can be best described as a food and wine fully-immersive playground. Various establishments have set up shops within walking distance of each other to offer their consumers a fun tasting and aesthetic experience. This list is just a sampling of what is offered:

  • Barley & Biltong Emporium: Try a craft beer, gourmet burger, and beef biltong (a must-try food while in South Africa)
  • Brenda’s Deli: Pick up some fresh natural products that are preservative-free including spices, jams, and preserves.
  • La Grapperia Pizza & Bistro: Enjoy a great selection of wood-fired pizzas.
  • De Villiers Chocolate: Embark on a chocolate tasting menu of 5 delicious single-origin dark chocolates.
  • Spice Route Wines: Enjoy a tasting of Swartland wines (specifically a red blend called Chakalaka).
  • Wilderer Distillery: Founded by German Helmut Wilderer, this distillery offers the consumer a tasting menu of some of the finest spirits including gin, grappa, and eaux-de-vie (fruit brandy).
  • Jewells: From the famous chef that started Chefs Warehouse, Chef Tomlin teamed up with Tina and Neil Jewell (known for their hand made charcuterie) to create a delicious farm-to-table eatery. 
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Franschhoek

Franschhoek

Franschhoek

Background 

It is known as the “French Corner” and the “Culinary Capital” of the Cape. Franschhoek was settled by the French Huguenots to escape religious persecution.

We stayed here several nights for our South Africa wine country getaway and loved it! 

Drive Time from Cape Town 

1 hour 15 minutes

Franschhoek Wine Varieties to Try

Savignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Méthode Cap Classique

Top Rated Franschhoek Wineries & Which Wines to Taste

  • Moreson (Widow Maker Pinotage, Solitaire Blanc de Blancs, Chardonnay)
  • Anthonij Rubert (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot)
  • Boekenhoutskloof (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Semillion)
  • Chamonix (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinotage)
  • Raised by Wolves (Semillion)
  • Colmant (Sparkling)
  • Boschendal (Sauvignon Blanc)

South African sparkling wines are some of the industry’s best and least known! IMPORTANT: Look for the label Methode Cap of Classique (MCC), which means the sparkling wine is made in the traditional French method (like Champagne) where secondary fermentation takes place inside the bottle to create those bubbles.

The best wine producers use the varieties of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but some also use Pinot Meunier and even Chenin Blanc. Graham Beck (the Graham Beck Brut NV was served at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and Barack Obama’s presidential win), Simonsig, and Colmant are some of the industry’s best MCC producers. Champagne style but at an affordable price? Yes, please!  

Number 5 Icon

Walker Bay

Overlooking the vineyard at Creation Wines in Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in South Africa

Overlooking the vineyard at Creation Wines in Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in South Africa

Background 

This coastal wine region is quickly becoming well known for its small production of highly-crafted wines. It includes the charming seaside town of Hermanus, known for its whale watching and its Wine and Food Festival usually held at the end of September every year.

Drive Time from Cape Town 

1 hour 30 minutes

Walker Bay Wine Varieties to Try 

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage 

Top Rated Walker Bay Wineries & Which Wines to Taste

  • Hamilton Russell (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir)
  • Crystallum (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir)
  • Storm (Pinot Noir)
  • Creation (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay)
  • Newton Johnson (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir)
  • Bouchard Finlayson (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay)

When asked the question by CN Traveler of where to go instead of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, head sommelier Luvo Ntezo of the One & Only Cape Town Hotel reports Hemel-en-Aarde valley is one of his favorite regions. This gorgeous valley located in Walker Bay is home to some of the top chardonnay and pinot noir wine producers.

We purposely seek out pinot noir producers in the wine regions we visit around the world. With Burgundy aside, some of our favorite New World Pinot Noirs come from Willamette Valley in Oregon and Central Otago in New Zealand. We are now adding Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in South Africa to the list after trying out some amazing pinot noirs at Storm and Hamilton Russell.

We did a private wine tour to Walker Bay with La Rochelle Tours. Read about our wine experience below. 

Final Thoughts on South African Wine Regions

South Africa has some incredible wine regions to explore. We used Franschhoek as our base and explored the award-winning wineries in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Walker Bay, which gave us a great sampling of some of South Africa’s best wines. You could visit some of these wine regions as day trips from Cape Town, but I strongly advise spending several nights in wine country to really enjoy the experience.  

If you are ready to plan your wine country getaway, don’t miss my article below. 

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What are your favorite South African wine regions? I would love to know your experience.

Let me know in the comments below!

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