Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Magical Wine Route; A Drive around South Africa's Vineyards Pleases the Palate but Puts a Serious Strain on the Car Boot

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Magical Wine Route; A Drive around South Africa's Vineyards Pleases the Palate but Puts a Serious Strain on the Car Boot

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS FOLLEY

THEY'VE been making up for lost time in the Winelands. South Africa's wineries have used the post-apartheid years to make a real impact in the global market - and wine "ramblers" are doing their bit.

Our three-day zip took us to the many wine routes dotted around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. All are within an hour's drive of Cape Town and amid stunning mountain scenery. There are also routes at Paarl, Robertson, Wellington and Worcester, but with more than 100 cellars in Stellenbosch alone, you'd need to be Ernest Hemingway to fit it all in.

Indeed, if you're particularly lazy you needn't leave town at all. The Cape Town suburb of Constantia has a wine route all of its own, including Groot Constantia (00 27 21 794 5128, www.grootconstantia.co.za), the oldest wine estate in the country dating back to 1685. Klein Constantia (00 27 21 794 5188, www.kleincontantia.com), too, is legendary, its wines mentioned in dispatches by Dickens and Austen.

We started at Spier (00 27 21 809 110, www.spier.co.za), on the edges of Stellenbosch, to use one of its excellent tasting initiatives to brush up on our knowledge of South African wine. This rambling, Disney-like estate may be too commercial for some, but Spier makes some impressive wines - try the zesty, full-flavoured Private Collection Sauvignon Blanc.

Fully armed with "the knowledge", it was off to Neethlingshof (00 27 21 883 8988, www.neethlingshof.

co.za), with its kilometrelong pine drive, 300-year-old manor house overlooking False Bay and awardwinning restaurant.

Neethlingshof is also the only estate on the Stellenbosch Wine Route to offer a full estate tour.

Five tastings later - for R20, you buy a glass and can choose five wines from a list of a dozen to try - we walked out with our first haul: Pinotage 04 - a uniquely South African blend of Pinot Noir and cinsaut - Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc.

Next it was a brief stop at Jordan (00 27 21 881 3441, www.

jordanwines.com), one of the new breed of Cape wineries - try the Nine Yards Chardonnay 03.

Similarly impressive was Stellenzicht (00 27 21 880 1103, www.

stellenzicht.co.za), where we picked up some Semillon Reserve (limey, hints of vanilla) and highly acclaimed Syrah.

One of the joys of wine touring is also to visit smaller, less commercial wine farms. One such hidden gem is Susan McNaughton's reds-only Gracelands (00 27 21 881 3121, www.

gracelandvineyards.com), which produces just 3,500 cases a year.

Try not to miss having lunch on an estate. Many offer delicious food tailormade to go with their wines, and often with stunning views. Down a beaten dirt track we found Delheim (00 27 21 888 4607, www.delheim.com), a vine-clad cafe from which you can see Table Mountain on a clear day. …

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