The Coastal Wine Region in South Africa is not only a wine lover’s dream, but also an epic getaway for those that love food, beautiful scenery, and luxury travel. South Africa ranks eighth among wine-producing countries worldwide! A large percentage of South African wine is rather simple and made by large companies, but the very best South African wine is from private estates that make high-quality, boutique wines.
The first South African wines were made over three hundred years ago by Dutch colonists on the Western Cape. As a major hub for trading and restocking ships, European vines were sent over and the colonists began planting French varietals such as Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc. Once apartheid ended, and bans on goods in South Africa were lifted, these wines were able to be traded and introduced to the rest of the world. This wasn’t until the 1990s.
South Africa’s wine country is spread out into 5 zones called geographical units. The most important region that makes wine of note is the Western Cape. Within the Western Cape, there is Breed River Valley, Klein Karoo, Coastal Region, Olifants River, and Cape South Coast. The Coastal region is a quick drive from Cape Town, and this is where Constantia, Franschhoek, Darling, Valley, Paarl, and Stellenbosch are located.
The climate in the Coastal Region of the Western Cape is mainly Mediterranean with incredible cooling breezes off the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. You will find the very best vineyard sites on the slopes of the mountains. Here, the soils vary extremely. There are so many different kinds that even within one vineyard there can be a considerable amount of variation. Some of the most prominent types are gravel, granite, clay, sand, schist, shale, and cape sandstone.
Some of the most important grapes of South Africa include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah (Shiraz). Cap Classique is also a popular style of wine. This is South Africa’s version of Champagne and is often made with Chenin Blanc. You may also hear people call this “MCC” for Methode Cap Classique.
The Syrah in South Africa is incredible! In South Africa, it produces a bold, fruit-forward wine with some spice and chocolate as well. Chenin blanc is also a stand-out grape in this part of the world. You will find a lot of co-ops make mass-produced Chenin, but I’m talking about the small production Chenin Blanc. You’re really able to taste the terroir and get so much complexity out of the grape in this region!
Pinotage was created in South Africa in 1925. I was shocked to discover that not every wine farm we visited made a Pinotage wine. I assumed because it’s really the only place in the world that make Pinotage it would be everywhere! But the above varieties I mentioned were much more prominent. Pinotage is a crossing between Cinsault and Pinot Noir. Unlike Pinot Noir, this grape produces a wine that is dark in color, high in tannin, and full body. Typically notes you’ll find in pinotage are black fruits, red fruits, dried leaves, bacon, and sweet and sweet tobacco.
The easiest way to visit the Coastal region in South Africa is to fly to Cape Town. I also highly recommend spending a couple of nights there to explore what the city has to offer. But, wine country is a beautiful experience that you won’t want to miss.
We chose to stay in Franschhoek, about a 20-minute drive from Stellenbosch. This is a smaller wine-growing sub-zone, with fantastic wine farms and mountain scenery. It was first settled by the French Huguenots in 1685, so there is a great French influence in this little town. Franschhoek is now known as the Food & wine capital of South Africa.
In addition to incredible restaurants and wineries (see below for recs) there is a wine tram for easy accessibility. The Franschhoek Wine Tram allows you to visit multiple different wine farms in a day, where you can hop on and hop off and choose the line you wish to take.
There are quite a few wineries that have boutique hotels on property. I think this is the best way to get the full Wineland experience because there is nothing better than waking up to a vineyard in your backyard. We stayed at Leeu Estates in Franschhoek. We loved our time here for so many reasons. They have beautifully manicured gardens, amazing restaurants, a spa, great service, and a winery on-sight (with some of the best wines in South Africa), Mullineaux & Leeu.
Okay, now to the best part! There are so many different Wine Farms in the Coastal region I already feel like I need to go back. Here is a list of the ones we went to, and a few extras that are on my list for next time 🙂
Since we went during March / April, it was actually autumn in the southern hemisphere. It’s still a super warm climate, so I was really comfortable in sandals and sundresses!
Interested in learning about other unique wines from around the world? Check out my post on Greek Wines!