Grape harvesting season in South Africa
South Africa’s booming tourism industry must be thanks, at least in part, to its reputation as a wine producer. While France has the culture and Australia and California get the weather, South Africa’s wine region offers both, and more.
One of South Africa’s advantages over other wine destinations is the ability to combine a Pinot pilgrimage with a world-class safari. A South Africa wine holiday to this breath-taking grape-growing region is sure to leave you dizzy. Though, as all seasoned wine tasters will know, there’s a lot more to wine than just drinking it. Join tours through the top vineyards, lend a hand (or a foot) at the traditional grape stomping, or even leave the wine behind and hop into the local microbreweries.
Foodies on Foot tour, Stellenbosch
Stellenbosch is a 335-year-old university town teeming with culinary secrets. To get the best of the artisan flavours and local recipes, take a tour around the old town centre. Pause at the historical sites and architectural jewels of the city, learning how the town came to be.
Of course, the staples of the walk are the visits to family-owned butchers, fashionable wine bars and restaurants that only the locals know about. Each establishment here has its own story. You’ll also be able to sample coffees and the famous South African teas, and as you move between these stops you can munch on olives and handmade pastries. There’s no better way to imbibe the culture of a new destination than combining its cultural highlights with its culinary delights.
Wine Tram, Franschhoek
The Franschhoek Wine Tram takes you on a circular route through the picturesque Franschhoek Valley, crowded with sprawling vineyards. Each has its own identity and palette of flavours for you to sample, and you can experience the region’s famous hospitality as you hear about its history.
Enjoy wine tastings and cellar tours, and there are ample opportunities for lunch. No other tour will take you deeper into the heart of South Africa’s wine-producing culture, or closer to the dramatic landscapes that make the region so inviting.
Tuk Tuk microbrewery, Franschhoek
Not everyone’s a budding wine connoisseur. If you prefer a malty pale or a crisp lager, pay a visit to Tuk Tuk, a Franschhoek-based microbrewery producing delicious craft beers. Try the taster menu to get acquainted with their popular tipples, or take a tour to find out how it’s brewed. The Taqueria gives you the chance to fill up on Mexican treats like nachos, ceviche and tacos – and since you’re in South Africa, there’s always a good range of meat on the menu. By the time you leave, you might have discovered your new favourite brew.
Join in with the harvest, Babylonstoren
Journey to Babylonstoren Wine Estate, a Cape Dutch working wine and fruit farm in the Drakenstein valley, to lend a hand in the harvest. You’ll be made to feel at home by your hosts, who offer hospitality, good humour and cheer as you join in with the picking. Immerse yourself in the smells of the fruit, herbs, nuts, spices and vegetables at this three-hectare vegetable and fruit garden.
The duck herding is an experience not to be missed, and any youngsters will be thrilled to come close to all the farmyard animals around them. It isn’t all hard work here though – there’s no shortage of wine to taste. You’ll also get to reap the rewards of your hard work, feasting at Babel, the farm restaurant. Here, all the food comes directly from Babylonstoren or from the neighbouring farms in the Cape Winelands.
Harvest Festival, throughout Western Cape
South Africa’s summer heralds a busy period in the Western Cape. Not only do the grapes need to be picked, the harvest needs to be celebrated. In times gone by, grape stomping was just as much a part of the production process as the picking. These days, it’s how producers and locals welcome in the end of the harvest in the Cape Winelands.
Many farms and vineyards in the region hold harvest events, and you can easily travel around to find your favourite celebration. Just make sure you wear old clothes for the grape stomps. This is a wonderfully messy way to take part in these traditional South African festivities.