FIVE STAR GUIDES
Cape Winelands Tour
There’s no such thing as a ‘rote’ or standard wine tour with Five Star Guides’ wine specialist Fiona McDonald.
Firstly, the tour changes – sometimes on the fly – according to the guests’ specific interests. Of necessity and also because of the wealth of wineries in the area, tours focus on Stellenbosch, South Africa’s largest and most prominent wine region.
South Africa is globally unique in knowing precisely when its wine industry began – because Governor Jan van Riebeeck noted in his diary in February 1659: “Today, praise be to God, the first grapes were crushed at the Cape of Good Hope.”
That 350+-year history, allied with a vibrant and dynamic modern generation of winemakers makes South Africa one of the most exciting wine regions in the world to visit. Local producers are respecting a classical ethos while also playing to their strengths, these being dynamism, diversity of soils and people and harnessing venerable old vines to make thrilling new wines.
What To Expect
Generally, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek producers are visited to display what the country does best. Chenin Blanc is one of the foremost examples so tours could encompass a visit to Ken Forrester Wines, one of the standard bearers for this humble grape – or De Morgenzon or Jordan, both of which also produce an excellent range of world-beating wines, notably Chardonnay.
It’s also impossible not to see red – or smell and taste red! Because South Africa is producing fantastic, top-quality reds – from single variety Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or home-grown grape Pinotage, to critically acclaimed red blends, using these varieties and others.
Given advance notice, plans can be changed to rove further afield – to the high-lying plateau of Elgin, for example, which has developed an enviable reputation for cool-climate wines, notably Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Similarly, if bubbly is a particular interest, it’s possible to visit producers who make the traditional bottle-fermented sparkling wine which is known locally as Methode Cap Classique.
But that’s not all; Fiona is cognisant of the fact that guests are on holiday and wish to have a relaxing time. If that means a half-hour is spent strolling around a beautiful garden, a Cape Dutch manor house or walking through a vineyard providing more detail on soils, growing conditions and viticultural practices, or even doing a spot of shopping for gifts, that’s also within the ambit of the day. Sometimes it happens that winemakers open up the cellar doors, allowing a glimpse behind the barrels, explaining their specific vinification techniques and maturation policies.
It’s all in a day’s touring with wine raconteur, Fiona McDonald.