STELLENBOSCH WINE ROUTE
The history and culture, its natural beauty, distinctive sporting activities, a wide range of educational opportunities at the university (founded in 1918) and of course the wonderful wine have made the name 'Stellenbosch' known worldwide as the leading address in South Africa (alongside Cape Town) for tourism, the production of quality wine and academical education. In addition to the renowned university, Stellenbosch is also home to one of the two training centres for young winemakers in South Africa - the other is the "Elsenburg Educational College" outside of Stellenbosch.
Stellenbosch's history dates back to 1679, when this name was given to a small island on the Eerste River by Simon van der Stel, then governor of the Cape. However, it can be assumed that the area around Stellenbosch was home to various indigenous communities before the official naming. The "Eerste River", which still flows through Stellenbosch today, was so named because it was the first river ("Eerste") that the Dutch settlers came across after leaving their base in Cape Town.
After its discovery, Stellenbosch was quickly identified as a settlement area with great potential for agriculture. The surrounding areas were found to be rich in nutritious soils and with the right climate for growing vegetables. This was essential for catering for the seafarers on the ships that headed for the Cape of Good Hope as a stopover on the way to the other Dutch colonies in the east. In addition, there was the thirst of the Dutch and other settlers, which made the production of good wine inevitable. Stellenbosch soon provided its surrounding hills and valleys with numerous grapevines in addition to the other agricultural crops. With the rich agricultural harvest, the early settlers soon established a real trading metropolis. The oldest building in the Stellenbosch area dates back to 1689 and can still be viewed today at the historic Muratie winery. Solid, white plastered buildings were built in the city itself, and the streets were planted with oaks, which earned it the name Eikestad (oak town), which is still used to describe Stellenbosch today. A large number of museums and other sights can be found along these oak avenues.
The region's potential for producing high-quality wines and as a tourist centre has led investors from France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and America to invest heavily in the Stellenbosch Winelands. In 1971, Stellenbosch was the first wine region in South Africa to set up a "Wine Route" as an organized network of more than 150 wineries, offering a unique wine cellar experience for wine lovers.
Franschhoek Wine Route
As you make your way into Franschhoek you will notice that most of the farms still bear their original French names, some complete with a spectacular Cape Dutch homestead, towering oaks and rolling vineyards. You will find an array of cellars, ranging from quaint boutique wineries that cater for those in search of something unique, to the large cellars that offer visitors organized tours and tastings.
The fertile Franschhoek Wine Valley is home to some of South Africa’s noble cultivars and classic styles. These range from superb whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Chenin Blanc, to the full-bodied reds of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot. The area also produces some of the country’s extraordinary Méthode Cap Classiques, which can all be enjoyed during a trip along the Franschhoek MCC Route.
The wines made by the Vignerons de Franschhoek can be tasted, paired with wonderful food available from Franschhoek’s restaurants, many of which are found on the wine estates. Have a look at the Franschhoek Food and Wine Route for more options.
Franschhoek boasts some of South Africa’s ‘Top 100’ restaurants and has become known as the country’s Culinary Capital, providing visitors with a memorable dining experience. Leading chefs create everything from cutting-edge cuisine to stylish light meals, using only the freshest local produce paired with superb local wines. Franschhoek is also a member of The Délice Network of Good Food Cities of the World. Délice is an international network of likeminded cities engaged in promoting the benefits of culinary excellence and good food. Franschhoek was granted membership to this prestigious network in October 2014, and is the only member in the Southern Hemisphere.
Franschhoek also offers visitors diverse culinary experiences through its festivals such as the Franschhoek Bastille Festival, The Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne Festival, as well as its routes – the Food and Wine Route, the Artisan Food Route, and Franschhoek Rond en Bond. The Franschhoek Artisan Food Route, in particular, exposes the visitor to a range of the finest olives, cheeses, salmon trout, charcuterie and artisanal breads South Africa has to offer.
Internationally acclaimed chefs who include Le Quartier Français’ Executive Chef, Margot Janse, Reuben Riffel, Chris Erasmus (Foliage Restaurant), Darren Badenhorst (The Restaurant at Grande Provence), Carmen Muller (The Tasting Centre at Rupert & Rothschild) as well Neil Jewel (the Charcuterie Guru) are based in Franschhoek, adding further acclaim to the area.