10 of South Africa’s best wine tasting spots

Jane Broughton
11 June 2015

There’s no need to go down to the cellar to taste the pick of the crop these days. Wine-tasting experiences are getting more sophisticated and spaces more conducive to lingering for hours. Here’s where to go

1. L’Avenir
French-owned L’Avenir recently launched a Pinotage Lounge in honour of this uniquely South African varietal. Separated from the barrel cellar by a glass wall, it’s an elegant space in which to taste, among others, current vintages of Single 
Block Pinotage and rare vintages dating back to the 1970s. Dominating the lounge is a table hand-carved by the winemaker and inlaid with brass plaques engraved with the history of this Stellenbosch farm.

2. Beau Constantia
Suspended above vineyards, 350m above sea level, Beau Constantia’s tasting room is a clever glass box with bird’s-eye views across the valley to False Bay. Better still, there’s a fully fledged wine bar below for lingering over a glass (or bottle) of your favourite from this boutique winery on the slopes of Constantia Nek. Platters from pop-up Sushi Box go equally well with craft beer or cider, for those not fond of wine.

3. Cavalli
Thoroughbred race horses dominate the landscape and theme of super-chic Somerset West estate Cavalli and its Equus restaurant. But step into a glass lift and descend to a subterranean wine-tasting lounge with a nightclub ambience and, with no views, visual stimulation in the form of a contemporary art collection. Once settled into a designer leather chair, the wines to taste are the Chenin Blanc-based Cremello 2012 and Warlord Red Blend 2009.

4. Spier
Meticulously restored heritage buildings lend context to Spier’s airy, modern tasting centre on the banks of the Eerste River. Its beautifully curated shelves hold everything you may need to taste and serve wine at home. Wines include the Spier 21 Gables range and Spier Creative Block (made from varietals from specific vineyards in the style of an artist’s collage). A delicious tasting diversion pairs the likes of white cardamom and passion fruit Honest chocolate with Creative Block 2, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

5. Glenelly
Glenelly in Stellenbosch has serious pedigree and a lustworthy collection of glass art. Owned by Madame de Lencquesaing, formerly of Bordeaux, it has additional clout in the form of wine superhero Adi Badenhorst, who assists winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain. The tasting room, attached to a state-of-the-art gravity-flow cellar, is a fine, feminine setting in which to sip The Lady May, a show pony Cabernet named in honour of Madame.

6. Rust en Vrede
Rust en Vrede’s new winery and tasting facility is both cutting-edge and timeless. Its trump card is a casual lunch-only restaurant, with smartly attired tables in the winery itself and under the oaks, that serves a very simple menu – a choice of steak or fish – paired with a glass of Syrah or Steen. One of Stellenbosch’s best-kept secrets.
7. Peddlars & Co
Chef Brad Ball (ex-Bistro Sixteen82) has given Cape Town’s old Peddlars on the Bend a much-needed makeover with his clever Peddlars & Co concept, a quartet of eateries showcasing the best of Constantia on the plate and in the glass. Just-opened Graciales is a wine bar offering small plates paired with exclusively local labels. All wines are available to taste, which makes it a handy one-stop hub in the heart of this historic suburban wine region.

8. Delaire
The displays in the Graff Diamond store may wink invitingly, but there’s also 
plenty more enchantment in the art-filled wine-tasting lounge at Delaire Graff in Stellenbosch – from beautiful glassware and corkscrews to inspirational books. Lavender leather sofas around the fireplace are the best place to ease into a tasting of Delaire’s classy line-up. Bite-sized tastes may be ordered in advance from the restaurant: shucked oysters with tomato essence pair magically with the Sauvignon Blanc; smoked beef-dusted pork rillette and prune purée with the Botmaskop.

9. Gabrielskloof
Gabrielskloof’s over-scaled tasting room with a vast fireplace has views of this Overberg farm’s lavender fields and olive orchards. Both of the estate’s most inspired wines are available to taste – The Five Arches 2010 and Peter-Allan Finlayson’s Crystallum range of handcrafted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Hemel-en-Aarde grapes.

10. Benguela Cove
Benguela Cove’s vineyards are the closest to the ocean in the Walker Bay region. It’s an enviable terroir that results in elegant, easy-drinking wines with intriguing names like Matilda’s Secret and Moody Lagoon. The new tasting room has double-volume ceilings and arresting views of the fynbos-fringed Bot River lagoon and the sea. Excellent cappuccinos and iced rooibos tea are a bonus.