It may come as a surprise to some but there has been wine production in the South Africa Cape for over 350 years dating back to when the French Huguenot settlers brought vines for cultivation. The Mediterranean climate and ancient mountainous geography are more reminiscent of Europe than one expects of Africa.
The Franschhoek Wine Valley is today described as the country’s "Gourmet Capital", with leading chefs represented in the top restaurants.
Take a leisurely drive and within an hour your wine experience can be enhanced with coastal breaks including whale watching, wild game farms and one of the seven natural wonders of the World - in Cape Town’s Table Mountain.
Consider either Spring (October - November) - as it offers a chance to taste the current (new) vintages, to get into cellars, meet winemakers and enjoy the flora in bloom after winter rains.
Alternatively, autumn (March - April) as harvest time, has milder temperatures and less windy weather - but with all the festivity of grape trampling and the turning colours.
A week would satisfy most as a taster that should include a visit to the neighbouring wineries of Stellenbosch and Paarl. Winerists may wish to stay longer to explore other wine regions or piggy-back with a "Garden Route" or Safari break.
Franschhoek Wine valley is home to 48 wine farms. A landmark of the mainly Victorian Cape Dutch styled village is the Huguenot monument and museum. This serves to explain the historic connection with France, otherwise echoed in the names of people, street names and traditional homesteads such as La Motte manor house.
Many entrepreneurs have made the valley home and enjoy their success in estates they have developed, so expect modern interiors and architecture in new cellars too such as Boekenhoutskloof.
Your wine holiday will be packed full of adventure as you can taste wine by horseback ride, touring vineyards by mountain bus, or cycling by mountain bike. It is also possible to enjoy a Cape Town Waterfront helicopter trip to Haute Cabriere wine estate and La Petite Ferme.
The surrounding mountains lend themselves to outdoor activities like hiking, nature tours and fishing or explore the valley-floor with golf courses and polo estates.
Most wine enthusiasts enjoy the high quality-of-life in fine dining at renowned restaurants or taste fare from local speciality producers - trout and salmon at the Salmon Bar, charcuterie at Bread&Wine Vineyard Restaurant or chocolates at Huguenot's boutique chocolatier.
There is a local celebration of freedom at the Franschhoek Bastille Festival, during the weekend in mid-July. This is fittingly located near to the place where Nelson Mandela was finally set free, offering plenty of opportunity to learn more about the country’s political history.
The Afrikaans farming tradition is to braai, as in barbecue with the wors sausage spiced from the Malay influence. Locals tend to enjoy this with red wine so why not join in the tradition?
Pictures courtesy of Eddie Wilson – Foto Artist Studio and Franschhoek Wine ValleyRead less