South Africa Wineries

How To Visit Cape Town’s Wineries

With the explosion in popularity of South African wines in recent years, it would seem silly to travel all the way to South Africa without going directly to the source. Unfortunately, the process of getting to said source can be kind of a hassle.

See, most of the so-called “Cape Wineries” are located near the city of Stellenbosch, which is further east of Cape Town than the city’s public transport goes. This leaves you with two options: Taking an organized tour (barf); or renting a car and driving yourself.

Say “molo” to my South Africa travel guide
 

But in most instances, this second option is not an option at all: South Africa has extremely strict drunk driving laws, so unless you lack fear/morality or have a non-drinking friend traveling with you, taking a wine tour is your only option.

But sadly, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not a very good one.

Types of Wine Tours

 

In theory, two types of South Africa wine tours are available: Half-day and full-day. The half-day tour leaves in the morning and returns just after noon; the full day tour leaves around the same time, but returns just before sunset.

In practice, however, both types of wine tours feel rather short and rushed. This is largely because of logistics: Traveling to and from the Cape wine region takes a minimum of three hours round-trip.

An alternative option is to hire a taxi or minibus to Stellenbosch (or another wine-producing town, such as Paarl or Constantia) and stay overnight, allowing yourself two (or even more, you drunk) days to explore the South African wine country at your own pace.

Sample Wine Tour Itinerary

 

If I sound cynical, it’s because I am: I arranged a wine tour through the Cape Town tourism office, and it kind of sucked.

It started out fine. The driver picked me up at around 8 a.m. as scheduled; he had finished picking everyone up and was on his way out of town at 9 a.m. By 10:30, we had already arrived at our first wine tasting.

The problem? It lasted just 30 minutes, including a tour of the extremely sterile facility, where grapes from a vineyard miles away had been processed into lackluster whites and reds.

 

We traveled for an hour to the town of Stellenbosch, where we blew another being haggled and hustled by sellers of overpriced goods and services. Then, it was on to a second winery (with an admittedly better setting), where we ordered lunch, which was not included in the price of the tour.

Another 90 minutes would pass before we arrived at our third and final tasting – 60 minutes in transit, and 30 minutes viewing a random Nelson Mandela statue that had absolutely no relevance to South Africa’s rise as a wine-producing superpower.

The good news is that our third winery was by far the best, both in terms of ambiance, hospitality, setting and the wine itself. The bad news? We arrived less than an hour before it closed (in spite, ironically, of how rushed we were the whole time) and barely got to enjoy it.

Wine Tour Pricing and Availability

The unbelievable part about my crappy wine tour is that it was kind of expensive – 690 South African rand, or nearly 80 U.S. dollars. And it didn’t, as I mentioned above, include lunch!

Thankfully, the wine tour I took was not the only wine tour available in Cape Town. (Although I’ve heard from many other travelers that their tours were equally as lackluster.)

 

My best advice to you, if you don’t want to risk imprisonment/sobriety and drive, or stay one or more nights in Stellenbosch, is to ask your hotel staff (or a local friend, if you have one) to recommend a tour that has particularly glowing reviews to you.

It’s your only hope, Princess Leia.

About The Author

is the author of 486 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

  • http://twitter.com/ToursduCap Françoise Armour

    How sad to read this. You are doing the Cape winelands a huge injustice!

    Firstly, if you wanted something nearby, the Constantia Wine Route is 20 minutes away from the city centre and is part of the hop-on hop-off bus which allows you to taste and not drive.

    Secondly, if you don’t want a tour or a car then your only option is to stay in Stellenbosch or Franschhoek and taste from there. Franschhoek (which you seem to have missed) has a lovely tram-ride for tastings at various estates.

    You took a bus tour that, as a seasoned traveller, you should have known in advance would be a rushed affair offering only the most touristy places with no option of deviating. You don’t like tours but private tours offer a service which is like being with a friend, i.e. not touristy, but with the added bonuses of not having to drive and being with someone who knows the area well, can take you to special places, give lots of information, and be very flexible with times! Yes, they cost more than you paid but quality always costs more.

    You complain about the distance from city centre – if the wine routes were in the city they would not be as scenic as they are, the wines would not be so nice and varied, and they would be overrun with buildings and people – you can’t have it all!

    Stellenbosch is a beautiful little town with a lovely history and some gorgeous architecture – something a private guide would have shown you with no rushing around.

    The Nelson Mandela statue at his old prison is included in such tours because most foreign visitors can’t get enough of him and it is minutes from the main road so very easy to include. A private guide would have offered you the option, but you chose a tour that allows you no choices.

  • https://plus.google.com/116480057469316097585?rel=author Robert Schrader

    Hi Françoise:

    Thank you for providing your perspective RE: traveling to Cape Town’s nearby wineries. I hope you didn’t interpret my article as derogatory to the entire wine region – that certainly wasn’t my intention! I was simply providing a candid account of my experience taking a tour that you’re right, I probably shouldn’t have taken given what a seasoned traveler I am.

    I appreciate your comments nonetheless!

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