Autumn harvest: getting your grape on

Autumn marks the start of the wine harvest in South Africa and an opportunity for you to get both your hands and feet dirty. Whether you choose to meander by yourself, or experience complete immersion in the process, be prepared for a whole lot of fun.

It’s always a difficult task to single out specific regions or estates to visit, especially when you’re talking about a country with a winemaking history dating back to 1659 and 18 official wine routes.

There are 18 official wine routes in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

There are 18 official wine routes in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

The vines are literally planted across the Western Cape as far as the Hemel-en-Aarde valley in the Southern Cape, Bamboes Bay on the West Cape coast, Hartswater in the Northern Cape and Rietrivier in the south western Free State. Unofficially, South Africa’s northernmost vineyards are in Bronkhorstspruit, east of Pretoria in Gauteng!

And then, of course, there are the magnificent range of varietals and copious numbers of awards and medals one should take into account.

The Manor House at Vergelege estate in Somerset West. Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

The Manor House at Vergelege estate in Somerset West. Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

Thanks to a climate that’s quite similar to the Mediterranean, the Western Cape is extremely fertile with perfect wine (and farming) land. Here are a few estates that stand out for us across the region that you could pop in to on your own: Vergelegen (Somerset West), Meerlust and Tokara (Stellenbosch), Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia (Constantia, Cape Town), Hamilton Russell Vineyards (Hermanus), Thelema Mountain Vineyards, La Petite Ferme and Haute Cabrière (Franschhoek), KWV Cellars (Paarl), Nabygelegen (Wellington) and Cederberg (Clanwilliam).

Stunning views from Hamilton Russell Vineyards in Hermanus. Photo  credit: www.nobleroute.com

Stunning views from Hamilton Russell Vineyards in Hermanus. Photo credit: www.nobleroute.com

You might want to consider joining a fantastic winemaker interaction tour instead though. Think ‘up close and personal’ with the makers of their favourite tipples rather than big group tours that can sometimes feel a little impersonal. Check out Adamastor and Bacchus tours or Vineyard Ventures, the oldest and most established wine tour company in the Cape.

 

Join an interactive tour and find out about the wines directly from the grower or vineyard owner. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Join an interactive tour and find out about the wines directly from the grower or vineyard owner. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

If you’re more of a compassionate wine tourist however, consider a tour with Wine Desk where you’ll be introduced to The Pebbles Project, a charity supporting children living in the winelands, as well as experience traditional tasting sessions at three wine farms.

And finally, if you’re a wine ‘newbie’ and are feeling a little daunted at the prospect of the whole vineyard experience, we have something for you too. Thanks to www.wines.co.za, you can skill up by watching a few videos on the basics, like ‘What is wine?’, ‘Varieties & Cultivars’, ‘How wine is made’, ‘Types of wine’ and ‘How to taste wine’. No doubt, you’ll feel much more comfortable with the wine lingo by the time you visit.

Wines from the Western Cape are some of the best in the world. The vineyards are pretty special too! Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

Wines from the Western Cape are some of the best in the world. The vineyards are pretty special too! Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

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A common Stellenbosch sight that's difficult to tire from. Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

A common Stellenbosch sight that’s difficult to tire of. Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org