Wine & Spirits
South Africa’s acclaimed vineyards have long been drawing passionate oenophiles and gastronomes to its picturesque wine regions for desirable sips of unique Pinotage, fruity Chenin Blanc and other varietals thriving amidst the region's unique terroir. Let us decant the fascinating history and vibrant future of South Africa’s fine wine industry, as well as introduce you to more up-and-coming tipples that are worth travelling to the continent for.
Historic Constantia ValleyEstablished in the late 16th century by Simon van der Stel, Constantia Valley is the cradle of winemaking in South Africa and one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the southern hemisphere. On your next visit, fill your days sampling the legendary Vin de Constance late harvest dessert wine that European royalty the likes of George IV of England and Napoleon Bonaparte were obsessed with, as well as modern favourites such as Muscat Blancs, Sauvignon Blancs and Bordeaux Blends. Located just 15-minutes from Cape Town's city centre, Constantia is the perfect quick countryside getaway with stunning 17th century Cape Dutch homesteads, boutique wine farms, stylish restaurants and lush greenbelts right on the slopes of Table Mountain.
Magical Hemel-en-Aarde ValleyReputed as the Cape’s equivalent of Burgundy, the idyllic Hemel-en-Aarde Valley ('heaven on earth' in the local Afrikaans dialect) is a hidden gem for many wine connoisseurs looking to taste top-notch Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. All of the estates here are boutique, quality-driven and very focused on small production, but gaining world-class recognition rapidly as exemplified by Bouchard Finlayson and Hamilton Russell Vineyards. Combined with the glistening waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the whale-watching capital of Hermanus close by, this is the ultimate destination for sun, sea and sips.
Avant-garde SwartlandThe remarkable yet underrated Swartland is fast becoming South Africa’s most exciting wine district – producing great value awarding-winning wines. Driven by innovative young winemakers who value craft over consumerism, Swartland wines are more natural and terroir-focused without the additives and heavy oaking. Syrah and Chenin Blanc thrive from the area’s harsh climate, ancient viticultural soils and abundance of old vines here. In addition, the area is popularly known for growing less-familiar varieties such as Tinta Barocca, Sémillon Gris, Carignan and Cinsault. And since only half of the Swartland wines get exported, one has to wonder if South Africans are keeping the best stuff for themselves.
Iconic Cape WinelandsA big highlight of any trip to South Africa has to be wining and dining in the iconic Cape Winelands. Top-flight wineries of all stripes can be found here; ranging from large estates to micro-producers, across a spectrum of stubborn traditionalists to daring modernisers. Wine lovers in the know would make a beeline for the prestigious Stellenbosch and its many acclaimed estates like Tokara, Delaire Graff, Lanzerac and many more. Paarl, on the other hand, charms with its full-bodied spicy reds, crisp whites and the Instagram-famous gardens of Babylonstoren.
As a destination famed for its diverse landscapes and adventure activities, touring a winery can be an interesting add-on to your itinerary. Visit Neuras just outside the otherworldly Sossusvlei Desert; Thonningii Wynkelder en route to Namibia’s prime wildlife area of Etosha; or Erongo Mountain Winery and Kristall Kellerei as a day trip from the pristine Okonjima Nature Reserve (home of The AfriCat Foundation) and rugged Damaraland which is famous for its desert-adapted wildlife and ancient rock art.
The burgeoning Ethiopian wine industryMany may not know that wines have been produced in Ethiopia since the Italian occupation, as the bottles have never travelled beyond its borders for the last 70 years. This changed when late president Meles Zenawi struck a deal with French beverage giant Castel to develop quality Ethiopian wines for the world to enjoy. Exports of the first Rift Valley wines began in 2014 and wine enthusiasts can now savour a selection of fruity and aromatic dry wines (featuring Bordeaux-style Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay) made around the beautiful Rift Valley lakes south of Addis Ababa, or pair spice-rich Ethiopian dishes with sweet Acacia wines at restaurants and bars across the country. It doesn’t hurt that they come at really affordable prices too.
Dive Deeper into the Realm of Africa's Spirits
Amarula, South AfricaMade from the humble marula fruits that African elephants so love, Amarula is undoubtedly Southern Africa’s signature liqueur. Characterised by its velvety vanilla, berry and spice flavours, it is best served chilled or infused into cocktails or hot coffee/cocoa, and preferably with a view over the African savannah. Add in the elephant conservation and community projects that Amarula supports, indulging in this delicious cream liqueur is a win-win.
Gin, South AfricaOur favourite spirit in the iconic and historical G&T (as it’s called on safari) has enjoyed a fairly recent global renaissance driven by small-batch distillery offerings. Gin drinking is especially exciting in South Africa, as local artisan gin makers are turning the craft into an experimental art – infusing endemic botanicals like buchu, rooibos, maroela, a variety of cape fynbos or even Kalahari truffles, to give gin lovers a unique taste of Africa.
From dedicated gin joints, distiller-led tastings, cocktail masterclasses to curated distillery tours, your gin experience in South Africa is going to be amazing.
Agave spirit, South AfricaGone are the days when tequila was a cheap drink that we threw back from a shot glass and suffered horrible hangovers from. In recent years, craft distillers in the Karoo region have been working with local farmers to produce a spirit using the ancient mezcal-making methods with earth, fire, smoke and water. The result is a 100% Karoo agave spirit with a uniquely African touch, that rivals its Mexican counterparts. Like a fine whisky, this artisanal spirit is excellent for sipping on its own and definitely gaining notable popularity across the globe.
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We do not subscribe to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy. Sample itineraries and cost estimates are meant purely as a guide. To find out more, please contact one of our expert travel consultants to plan a customized itinerary based on your budget and interests.