Five Great Wine-Themed Drives: South Africa
Rows of vines in the picturesque Stellenbosch wine region
Cape Town to Hermanus, South Africa
You could drive from Cape Town to Hermanus in just an hour and a half, but you’d be missing some treats. First of all, be sure to make the most of the city’s many highlights, from the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens to fine dining at La Colombe or a more casual dive into the region’s most exciting independent wine producers at downtown bar Publik.
Once you finally hit the road, take the N2 east out of town, wrestling with the temptation to make a short diversion into the wine nirvana that is Stellenbosch. Just a very short detour off the main road is Journey’s End, home to serious wine and, more quirkily, a fully functioning medieval trebuchet.
As you hit the road again, keep your eyes peeled as you climb the dramatic bends over Sir Lowry’s Pass with its sweeping view over False Bay. On the other side lies Elgin, long famous for its apples but more recently for beautiful cool climate expressions of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Riesling. Paul Cluver is a major pioneer worth visiting here, or disappear truly off the beaten track with a visit to Iona, whose elegant wines are matched by dreamy views and eye-catching art.
It’s worth loitering in Bot River to taste the Beaumont wines, especially their old vine Chenin Blanc. From here you’re probably ready to head straight to Hermanus and a well-earned sundowner at Pear Tree Restaurant, looking out for Southern Right whales basking in Walker Bay.
The next day, fuelled by a leisurely brunch at The Gallery Café, head back west out of Hermanus and turn right up the Hemel in Aarde Valley. The name translates as “Heaven on Earth”, and it won’t take long to see why. Scenery aside, within the space of just a few kilometres this valley houses a cluster of South Africa’s most serious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay specialists. Visit pioneers such as Hamilton Russell and Bouchard Finlayson before continuing up the valley to newer stars including Newton Johnson and Ataraxia. Drink in the breath-taking view from the latter’s Wine Lounge, a converted chapel perched high on the hillside, and try not to think about heading home.
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