South Africa’s Winelands

About an hour’s drive east of Cape Town, there is a wine lover’s paradise known as the winelands.  This agricultural area is the home of many “farms” or wine estates.  With rolling hills and mountains as a backdrop, it is beautiful country.

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The architecture is Cape Dutch, featuring whitewashed stucco and ornate gables.  It’s a very balanced and pleasing look, especially set against the natural splendor.

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It is the end of winter here in the Southern Hemisphere, and the vines are dormant.  But the ground cover plants are green.  In the dry summer months, the colors reverse with the vines green and the ground cover plants yellow-brown.  Many estates use ecologically friendly growing techniques such as this one, planting wheat, rapeseed (canola), etc in between the vines; the pests preferentially attack these and leave the grape vines alone.

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In addition to vineyards, there are diary farms in the area.  And fruit orchards.  These plum trees brightened up the landscape as they begin to bloom and herald the arrival of spring.  As you can perhaps see from this photo, the farmers here grow them pruned on linear rows of trellises rather than as a grid of individual round trees.  Very interesting.

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Exotic plants can also be found in gardens.  We are always delighted to see colorful Bird of Paradise flowers..

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Most of the wild animals that used to inhabit this region are long gone, driven out by the farmers.  A few leopards still inhabit the surrounding hills.  But the closest we came to a big game sighting was this neat cork holder seen at a shop in Franschhoek!

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But on to the topic you all are waiting for:  Wine!  Anyone familiar with the American-style of wine tasting will be in for a big treat.  Rather than stand around a bar as happens at most tasting rooms in Napa, etc, here the tastings are conducted in a very civilized manner seated at a table, with a server who explains each wine as they pour it.  You can even have a tasting with lunch, as we did at this spot, enjoying a leisurely meal at a window table looking out on this nice view.

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The size of the tasting pour is also larger here, so visiting three wineries in a day is usually enough to induce a nap!  The wines are excellent, and many of the grape varieties are well known to even beginner wine enthusiasts:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.  Two grape varietals that are new to some people are the white Chenin Blanc, and the red Pinotage; the latter was developed right here and won us over.  We will definitely be looking for South African wines at the shops back home.

Like all wine regions, good wine and good food seem to go hand in hand.  The towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are home to many great restaurants.   Check out this awesome lamb and feta in pastry masterpiece that was as delicious as it looks.

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We will leave you salivating, since we have a little more wine to drink before heading off to the airport and on to the next stop on our African adventure, Victoria Falls.

 


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