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Wine Tasting at Peter Falke in Stellenbosch South Africa

Why You Need to Plan a Stellenbosch Wine Tasting Trip Now

In Africa, South Africa, Wine and Beverage by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch13 Comments

Any trip to Cape Town would be incomplete without a visit to the Stellenbosch wineries in the Cape Winelands. Read on to find out why you need to plan a Stellenbosch wine tasting trip now.

Glenelly Estate Grapes - Stellenbosch Wine Tasting

After three months in Europe, we were wary about the wine situation in South Africa.

On our flight to South Africa, Daryl expressed trepidation about the wine situation. South Africa is, more or less, a new world wine region that is growing in popularity. He wondered whether wines from places like Stellenbosch South Africa would be branded with the kind of overinflated wine prices that remove the day to day joy from wine drinking like in the Americas.

Mindi, meanwhile, was so excited by the prospect of drinking bold new wines from the Cape Winelands that she could barely contain herself during the long flight to Cape Town. She looked forward to drinking some good table wine at affordable prices much like we did throughout France, Spain and Italy. In fact, she started enjoying South African wine on the flight.

Scenery at Peter Falke Wines in Stellenbosch South Africa

The Stellenbosch Wine Route is stunning. But how about the wine?

As fate would have it, we were both wrong. South African wines are even cheaper and better than we imagined.

And we’re talking about world class quality here. Yes, the Cape Winelands has carved a wine identity with signature varietals like Pinotage and Chenin Blanc, but the astounding quality wines produced from common grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and even Chardonnay surprised us. No, let’s rephrase that…

Ken Forrester Wines Glass in Stellenbosch South Africa

You haven’t tried Chenin Blanc until you try it in South Africa. The crisp wines from the white varietal are some of the most popular in South Africa.

We were pleasantly shocked by the quality of wine in South Africa.

For two and a half glorious months, we spent just 4 to 5 US dollars for delightfully quaffable Cabernets and Merlots with scents of berries on their nose; lean yet rich Chenin Blancs with scents and flavors of stone fruit and melon. Even better, $10-12 bought us age-worthy wines with earthy complexity, minerality and hints of leather in the bouquet.

Middlevlei Wine Estate Mixing Experience in Stellenbosch South Africa

We didn’t just taste wine in Stellenbosch. We blended it too.

Let it be said that we are wine lovers and not wine experts. Beyond tannins, acidity, mouthfeel and a low-level understanding of olfactory descriptions, our understanding of wine can best be described as above average. That being said, we know what we like.

We’ve tasted some of the greatest vintages of the last 30 years including wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piemonte, Alsace and Tuscany. We’ve enjoyed great wines from California, Oregon and Australia. We can’t give a technical dissertation, but we will say this:

The wines of the Cape Winelands, and Stellenbosch in particular, are extraordinary. As a bonus, these world-class South African wines won’t bust your wallet.

Tasting Area at Peter Falke Wines in Stellenboch South Afrrica

Sure, you can taste South African wine anywhere in the world. But you need to visit Stellenbosch for the full experience. At Peter Falke Wines, wine lovers enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world on the winery’s well manicured (and comfortable) grounds.

To make the South Africa wine situation even better, many of the great South African wines are produced in one of the most beautiful places on earth – Stellenbosch. In Stellenbosch, vineyards are set at the foot of jutting mountain peaks shrouded by misty clouds that evoke a Shangri-la like landscape.

Best of all, wine tasting in Stellenboschf is a casual experience that visitors can easily enjoy without pomp and circumstance. At wineries like Peter Falke Wines, it’s entirely possible to buy wine (we recommend an affordable bottle of Cab), plop down on a bean bag chair in the beautifully manicured garden, order a wonderful cheese sampling and melt into the bucolic, golden sunset  – a sunset that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Check Stellenbosch Hotel Rates

Stellenbosch Wine Video

Watch us taste wine with Luke O’Cuinneagain, the winemaker at Glenelly Estate.

Stellenbosch Wine Tasting Guide

Ken Forrester Wines Tasting Sign in Stellenbosch South Africa

All signs lead to the tasting rooms in Stellenbosch in front of the Helderberg Mountains.

The best place to drink South African wine is at the source, and we suggest you start with the 150+ wineries located along the Stellenbosch Wine Route. Not only do these wineries produce extraordinary wines, but many offer themed tastings with foods as varied as cheese, biltong, ice cream and cupcakes.

When we weren’t eating at Stellenbosch restaurants, we visited as many Stellenbosch wine farms as our livers could handle during our six-day visit and can honestly report that there were no clunkers. Not one.

Not-To-Miss Stellenbosch Wineries

French Oak Barrels at Glenelly Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

Glenelly’s owner, May de Lencquesaing, sold her family’s vineyard estate in Bordeaux France and set up shop in Stellenbosch. Pictured here are some of the Stellenbosch winery’s French Oak Barrels.

We recommend that you start your own wine tasting  Stellenbosch journey at the following six wineries. These wineries stood out to us foremost for the quality of their wines and secondarily for the wonderful wine tasting experiences that they provide. These wineries offer some of the best wine tastings in Stellenbosch.

Peter Falke Wines

Peter Falke Wines Tasting in Stellenbosch South Africa

Life is good at Peter Falke Wines, especially when you pair your wine with local cheese.

Peter Falke Wines knocked our socks off. We’re not just saying that because owner Peter Falke made his fortune by selling socks in Europe. The hosiery mogul bought the Stellenbosch wine farm in 1995 and produced his first wine, a Cabernet, in 2003. Today, winemaker Werner Shernek produces more varietals, most of them red.

Reuben Munyanyi at Peter Falke Wines in Stellenbosch South Africa

Reuben Munyanyi represents Peter Falke Wines well.

You need to visit Peter Falke to taste many of them since the winery chooses to distribute its wine primarily to restaurants and boutique stores. The grounds of the winery are nothing short of gorgeous, with a colorful rose garden, designed by Falke’s Parisienne wife Danièle, and views of the Helderberg Mountains in the distance.

Interestingly, Peter Falke Wines does not host weddings or other private events. Instead, the winery chooses to keep the property open to visitors looking to enjoy good wine in a breathtakingly chill environment.

Pro Tip:  Order a cheese plate to go with your wine and the view. Also, be sure to try the Bordeaux style Exclusive Blend with 85% Cabernet, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot.

Peter Falke Wines is located at Groenvlei Farm, Annandale Road, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa.

Meinert Wines

Martin Meinert, Winemaker in Stellenbosch South Africa

Martin Meinert, who produces some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon in Stellenbosch, may be the world’s best winemaker you’ve never heard of  – until now.

Off the typical tourist track, Meinert Wines conducts limited tastings by appointment only. These tastings don’t include any sugary treats or a flashy tasting room. At this Stellenbosch winery, wine tastings are all about the wine and the man who makes it.

A former journalist from Namibia, Martin Meinert trained and studied as a winemaker and worked at top South African vineyards (including the legendary Vergelegen Wine Estate in the 1990’s) before opening his self-named winery. He quietly runs his boutique winery by annually producing 80,000 bottles of affordably priced, age-worthy wines, each bottle labeled by hand and sealed with a screw top. If you’re skeptical about wine bottles without corks, these luscious, complex wines will turn you into a screw top believer.

Pro Tip:  Buy a bottle of Synchronicity, the top Meinert wine with 55% Cabernet and a blend of Pinotage, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot grapes, to enjoy later. Better yet, buy a case or two.

Meinert Wines is located at Devon Crest Vineyards, Devon Valley, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa.

Ken Forrester Wines

Cheese Plate at Ken Forrester Wines in Stellenbosch South Africa

New Rule – All wine tastings should be served with colorful screw caps like the one that we enjoyed at Ken Forrester Wines.

Known as the “Home of Chenin” for the wonderful Chenin Blanc wines they produce, Ken Forrester Wines also makes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon. Many of the wines here sparkle with fruit forward flavors including the aptly named Sparklehorse, a white sparkling wine produced with 100% Chenin Blanc grapes grown on 37-year-old vines.

Brent Rhode at Ken Forrester Wines in South Africa

Server Brent Rhode keeps the wine flowing at Ken Forrester Wines.

A tasting at Ken Forrester includes either six tastes or the full range of wines, with the winery waiving the fee for tasters who purchase two or more bottles after the tasting. We recommend ordering a cheese plate to enjoy with the wine tasting. Be sure to select several Chenins to taste since this is the “House of Chenin” after all. Then just sip and nibble away the afternoon at the winery’s lovely outdoor tasting room.

Pro Tip:  Don’t be surprised if you love the FMC, a Chenin Blanc that fizzes with minerality. Martin Meinert (see above) produces this wine for Ken Forrester Wines.

Ken Forrester Wines is located at Scholtzenhof Farm, 96 Winery Road, R44, 7600, South Africa.

Glenelly Estate

Tasting Room at Glenelly Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

The grounds at Glenelly Estate are gorgeous. More importantly, the soil is perfect for growing amazing grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.

Proving that it’s never too early to reinvent yourself, May de Lencquesaing sold her ancestral winery in Bordeaux and started Glenelly Estate on a former fruit farm on the Stellenbosch Wine Route at age 78. That was over a decade ago, and both de Lencquesaing and the winery are going strong.

She doesn’t do it alone though. Winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain runs a tight ship in Glenelly’s pristine, modern facility, utilizing his previous experiences in Bordeaux and Napa to make bold red wines rooted in South African soil.

Grapes in Barrel at Glenelly Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

We wanted to dive into this crate of grapes at Glenelly Estate. Don’t worry, we controlled ourselves. Or did we?

We were surprised to discover the winery’s excellent, crisp Chardonnay – the kind of varietal we don’t usually associate with the hot Cape Winelands climate. As O’Cuinneagain explained to us, the Stellenbosch soil never suffered through the ice age, making it older and more weathered compared to the soil in Europe and the Americas.

O’Cuinneagain produces three wine ranges, including the Lady May, all of which can be sampled during an on-site tasting. If you’re hungry, you can order an accompanying cheese plate from the onsite bistro.

Pro Tip:  Take some time to peruse the winery’s spectacular glass collection. Not only do its pieces span the centuries, but it also happens to be one of the largest private glass collections in the world.

Glenelly Estate is located at Ida’s Valley, Lelie Street, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa.

L’Avenir Wine Estate

L'Avenir Estate Wine in Stellenbosch South Africa

L’Avenir is known for their Pinotage wines which some consider among the best in the Cape.

If L’Avenir represents the future of South African wine, then that future looks bright.

Owned by a French company, the winery’s name of L’Avenir literally translates to “the future” in French. This French theme carries over to the mostly French barrels (except for those from Hungary), but L’Avenir’s grapes are pure South African. The team at L’Avenir picks these grapes by hand before Winemaker Dirk Coetzee transforms them into highly drinkable wines.

Ryan Bredenkamp at L'Avenir Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

Hospitality Manager Ryan Bredenkamp generously poured wine after showing us around L’Avenir Estate.

Although the winery makes some fun Rose and sparkling Methode Cap Classique wines, the real winners at L’Avenir are the big fruit forward Pinotage wines. Be sure to try L’Avenirs best in class Single Block wines.

Pro Tip: Do your tasting outside in a serene spot overlooking water and vines. Better yet, pair your wine tasting with a selection of Wagyu beef biltong from Ken Forrester Wines (see above).

L’Avenir Wine Estate is located at Off R44, Klapmuts Road, R44, Stellenbosch, 7599, South Africa.

Middelvlei Wine Estate

Wine Tasting Spread at Middelvlei Wine Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

Our Tapas and Wine Tasting at Middelvlei Wine Estate included three wines paired with snook pate, biltong and boerewors.

Owned by the Momberg family, Middelvlei Wine Estate clocks in as one of the five biggest wine farms in Stellenbosch. Despite its size covering 160 hectares, the winery manages to feel intimate and fun with its grazing cows, outdoor braai, tapas menu and wine blending. Sure, you could visit Middelvlei just to taste the mostly red wine produced at this certified sustainable farm, but you’d be missing out on half the fun.

Middelvlei Wine Estate Wine Thief in Stellenbosch South Africa

Brand Ambassador Ben Towse uses a “wine thief” to steal us a taste of Merlot straight from the barrel at Middelvlei.

Instead, join Alsace the dog for a cellar tour and learn about how the Mombergs produce their free range Pinotage and why they repurpose barrels for their Rooster wines. If you’re lucky, you can even “steal” some wine from a barrel for a bonus taste.

Pro Tip: Be sure to include at least 40% Pinotage grapes when you blend your own wine at Middelvlei. This is the minimum for your wine to qualify as a Cape Blend. By sheer luck, we included 50% Pinotage in ours plus 40% Shiraz and 10% Merlot.

Middelvlei Wine Estate is located at Middelvlei Wine Estate, Flamingo Street, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa.

Fun Stellenbosch Wine Tastings

Food at Vergenoegd Wine Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

The best part of a Stellenbosch wine tasting is the wine. The other best part is the food.

Now that you’ve tasted the some of the best Stellenbosch wines, it’s time to let your hair down and have fun by… tasting wine yet again. We were surprised by some of the creative wine tastings that we experienced in Stellenbosch. During our visit, we tasted wine paired with some very interesting foods. We recommend that you try these six:

Vergenoegd Wine Estate

Vergenoegd Wine Estate Tasting in Stellenbosch South Africa

Wine Tasting at Vergenoegd Wine Estate

Vergenoegd Wine Estate is a great winery to visit on Saturdays when the winery’s weekly market is in full force. But don’t fret if you can’t make the market. This winery lives up to its name by offering fun activities on every day of the week. FYI, vergenoegd translates to satisfaction.

Mixing Tea at Vergenoegd Wine Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

Daryl takes tea blending very seriously at Vergenoegd Wine Estate.

We recommend that you take a tea blending class at Vergenoegd like we did during our visit. Jan Mahlangu guided us through the process of blending Rooibos, Buho and Tanzanian leaves. We had so much fun that we followed this session by blending coffee beans from Uganda and Ethiopia.

Coffee and Tea at Vergenoegd Wine Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

Mindi is all smiles with her personally blended tea and coffee. Or is it because of the wine?

Though Vergenoegd has an indoor tasting room, we chose to taste wine on the outdoor deck. Not only did this choice allow us to soak up some sun, it also gave us a front row seat for the winery’s duck parade. Trust us – you do NOT want to miss the duck parade when you visit Stellenbosch.

Duck Parade at Vergenoegd Wine Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

You have to see this duck parade in person to believe it! The 1,100 field-tending Indian ducks traverse the grounds three times a day.

Pro Tip:  Plan your visit around the daily duck parades at Vergenoegd. This parade features 1,000 Indian Ducks. We are tough to impress, but we were wowed by the marching canards.

Vergenoegd Wine Estate is located at Baden Powell Drive, Faure, Stellenbosch, 7131, South Africa.

Clos Malverne Wine Farm

Ice Cream Tasting at Clos Malverne in Stellenbosch South Africa

Ice Cream and Wine Pairing at Clos Malverne

If you love ice cream, why not do an Ice Cream and Wine Tasting? It sounds weird, we must admit, but Chef Nadia Louw Smith creates seasonal ice creams that pair well with the estate’s Clos Malverne wines. We’re not just talking about typical vanilla and chocolate flavors. Her sophisticated flavors include the likes of Saffron Cheesecake with Sesame Brittle (paired with Chardonnay) and Salted Coconut with Lime and White Chocolate (paired with Sauvignon Blanc).

Pro Tip:  Be sure to make an advance reservation for your Ice Cream and Wine Tasting. The popular restaurant at Clos Malverne is rated #1 on TripAdvisor.

Clos Malverne Wine Farm is located at Devon Valley Road, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa.

Delheim Wine Estate

Cupcake Tasting at Delheim Wine Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

Cupcake and Wine Pairing at Delheim Wine Estate

Now that you’ve tried an ice cream pairing, why not keep the fun going with a cupcake pairing?

Delheim Wine Estate has been offering a Cupcake and Wine Pairing since 2013. Don’t be afraid if you’re not big on sweets – these cupcakes skew toward the savory side with flavors like Pomegranate, Rooibos, Pumpkin and Makataan. To us though, this tasting was all about the wines including a big, bold Shiraz aged for 12 years.

Lunch at Delheim Wine Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

We ate this Cold-Smoked Salmon Salad during our lunch at Delheim Wine Estate.

Pro Tip:  Arrive early and eat lunch at the delightful restaurant at Delheim Wine Estate. During our lunch, we ate dishes like Cape Malay Free Range Curry with Homemade Rotie and the Cold-Smoked Salmon Salad pictured here. Be sure to sit on the deck during your meal so that you can enjoy the beautiful view with your lunch as well as a glass or two of wine.

Delheim Wine Estate is located at Knorhoek Road, Stellenbosch, 7599, South Africa.

Avontuur Estate

Thoroughbred Horses at Avontuur Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

Thoroughbred Horses at Avontuur Estate

If you like fine wine and fast horses, then a visit to the lush grounds owned by the Taberer family is a must. During your visit, the 40 magnificent Thoroughbreds (38 mares and 2 stallions) will blow you away with their graceful limbs and powerful muscles. The winery offers a fun tasting pairing five of their wines paired with candy from Basilei Handcrafted Confectionery, a local shop that specializes in fudge and nougat. Request a taste of the Cabernet Franc – it’s owner Michael Taberer’s favorite wine from the estate and ours too.

Candy at Avontuur Estate in Stellenbosch South Africa

Nougat and Fudge

Pro Tip:  Don’t feel compelled to eat all of the candy during the tasting. In fact, we recommend that you taste the wine without candy so that you can appreciate the flavors without hindrance. Plus, the candy makes for a great late night snack.

Avontuur Estate is located at 7130 R44, Firgrove Rural, Somerset West, 7130, South Africa.

Die Bergkelder

Bergkelder Salt Tasting in Stellenbosch South Africa

Salt Tasting at Die Bergkelder

Although pairing salt and wine sound bizarre, the Salt and Wine Pairing at Die Bergkelder is a fun way to taste unfiltered Fleur du Cap wine while learning about salts from around the world. Don’t worry – the tasting doesn’t literally involve eating salt with a spoon.

Rather, the salt is served with foods like Green Olive Tapenade and Chicken Liver Pate. During our tasting, we sampled salts from Pakistan, Hawaii, Himalaya and South Africa.

Corks at Bergkelder in Stellenbosch South Africa

These corkscrews would make a fun Stellenbosch souvenir.

Pro Tip:  Stock up on wine and corks when you’re at Die Bergkelder. The wine shop stocks over 275 wines for sale at all price points, not to mention some really fun wine bottle toppers. Despite the popularity of screw tops in South Africa, these corks are really fun. Or, if you’re not into wine and corkscrews, you can buy some salted caramels like we did.

Die Bergkelder is located at George Blake Street, Stellenbosch Central, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa.

Tokara Wine Estate

Olive Oil at Tokara in Stellenbosch South Africa

Tokara is more than a wine farm. This estate also produces artisan olive oil.

“Olive oil is not fashion. It’s passion.”

When you need a break from wine tasting (trust us, it happens), why not try an olive oil tasting at Tokara? Gert van Dyk runs the olive oil program with a high level of passion and Italian presses. His olive oil sells out every year, with bottles sold locally in South African and as far away as Taiwan and the United States.

During a tasting, you can try our best to identify flavors like rocket, lettuce, tomato and green praline. Hopefully, you’ll do better than us since we found that all of the olive oils tasted like… olive oil.

Pro Tip:  Be sure to taste van Dyk’s experimental olive oil. You will love its bold, unfiltered flavor profile.

Tokara Wine Estate is located at Helshoogte Road, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa.

Transportation

The drive from Cape Town to Stellenbosch takes less than one hour. Although you could easily do a Stellenosch day trip from Cape Town, we recommend a multi-night stay so that you have time to visit more Stellenbosch wine estates and restaurants without feeling rushed. We stayed in four hotels over six days in Stellenbosch, and we didn’t get bored even for a minute.

As for transportation, your best bet is to rent a car in Cape Town so that you can drive to all the wineries as well as the best restaurants in Stellenbosch. Other options include public transportation (i.e. a bus or train) to downtown Stellenbosch or Uber, a popular car service in South Africa.

Once you’re in Stellebosch, Uber is a great option since you can taste wine without worrying about assigning a designated driver. You can also arrange a Stellenbosch wine tour with companies like Cape Food & Wine Tours.


Research Stellenbosch Hotels

We stayed at four great hotels in Stellenbosch. Click here to research these and other Stellenbosch hotels.

Book a Tour

There’s more to do in Stellenbosch than drinking amazing wine. Click here to find an awesome Cape Town tour or try one of these tours:

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Comments

  1. You’ve made me really homesick for the Winelands – especially on such a horribly cold and wet English summer day! You are so right about the quality and value of the wine in South Africa, it is amazing. And Stellenbosch is such a beautiful town. Thanks for giving me some inspiration and dragging me (briefly) out of the grey!

  2. Sounds like a fantastic trip. I’ve always fancied South Africa for the BBQ but I may need to add wine to my reasons to visit. Absolutely love that barrel table with all the colourful screwtops

  3. I love your approach to wine tasting… because I am the same way with knowing what to look for and yet not being an expert. Also, how nice to see that the region is keeping thing chill. Living in Washington State it’s exactly as you stated: inflated and trendy. Wine and safaris have me ready to plan a trip.

  4. It’s always great to see that people have visited our Cape Winelands and really appreciated all the deliciousness they offer. Now you need to come back and visit some more of the wine regions – not something you’ll be fighting, I’m sure 🙂

  5. What an amazing experience. I was already sold reading through the first part of the post and the description of all the wines featured in each location. That was aready enough to make me want to go and visit them all. But when I got to the part where I read about tea blending or cupcake pairings I almost bought a ticket to South Africa. Not to mention the duck parade. It must be hilarious to see live 😀
    (I am from Piemonte and good wine tasting is life. My parents do this every year to go buy wine by the liter all around the Langhe region.)

  6. Ahh, what an impressive list. I love wine, but like the two of you my wine knowledge is average. I definitely do know what I like and do not like. My friend recently bought back a couple of bottles of 2015 pinot noir from his friend’s vineyard in Stellenbosch…it was really good!

  7. Well, Stellenbosch Wine Route is now definitely on my travel wish list!! I do love wine and learning about wine, although I’m certainly not an expert. However, I had started to heard really good things about South African wines lately. The fact that you can combine great quality wines that you don’t feel guilty opening on an average Tuesday because the cost is so reasonable is a major blessing. The tastings you highlighted look amazing, and I love any time you can easily pair a wine tasting with food. This looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Oh I am so happy to see this post! Stellenbosch wineries are on my wine region bucket list. I love the Sauvignon Blanc from Stellenbosch especially. So fresh, fruity, and hints of the sea. The perfect wine pairing with fresh seafood.

  9. I am impressed– and eager to make this an adventure to try SOON! Thanks for the thorough write up. And the ducks?!! How amazing is that?

  10. I’ve heard such great things about this wine region in South Africa and I loved reading more about it!

  11. OMG, ice cream and wine tasting? Dreams do come true.

    I appreciate the detail in this list, definitely saving this for next time I’m in SA. I was lucky enough to have a private tour of Delheim whilst on a sailing trip a while back and remember the charcuterie board being excellent (as well as the wine). Stellenbosch is such a gorgeous area. Two and half months sounds like about the right length of time for a wine route trip 🙂

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