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Top wine-tasting experiences in South Africa

Nicola Shepherd By Nicola Shepherd
24 Jan 2024
Leeu Estates Mullineux Wines Studio

Nestled at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa boasts a wine culture that is as diverse as its breathtaking geography. This is a land where centuries-old winemaking traditions merge with innovative techniques to produce some of the world’s most sought-after wines. From the rolling vineyard-covered hills of Stellenbosch to the dramatic coastal beauty of the Western Cape, South Africa’s wine regions provide an exquisite setting for wine tasting.

Home to some of the oldest vineyards in the New World, South Africa has a long and rich history of winemaking. The first vineyard was planted in 1655 but it wasn’t until the end of apartheid in the early 1990s that South Africa’s wine industry really took off. Boasting the ‘Big Six’ (pinotage , shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc), South Africa is known for its remarkable diversity of grape varieties. The industry here is also celebrated for its commitment to sustainable and ethical practices, preserving the natural beauty of its wine regions and fostering a sense of community.

Having spent plenty of time in the Winelands of South Africa, I can attest to the warm hospitality you’ll receive as you taste an array of wines - from the crisp and refreshing whites to the robust reds - and immerse yourself in the unique stories of each vineyard. Whether you’re a seasoned wine connoisseur or a passionate novice, we’ll guide you through the world of South African wine and help uncover some of the best wine-tasting experiences in the country.

Pinotage is a South African grape developed by Professor A.I.Perold in 1924 as a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (previously known as Hermitage) and produces a red wine that ages well with pleasant berry, banana and chocolate flavours. History was made when the Kanonkop Pinotage received the Robert Mondavi Trophy as the Best Red Wine in 1991 at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London and Beyers Truter, then the winemaker at Kanonkop, was nominated as International Winemaker of the Year. A separate category was created for this variety, putting it on the same level as the traditional European varieties.


Babylonstoren Wine Estate, Franschhoek - exceptional wine & culinary programmes

Set in the foothills of South Africa’s Simonsberg and Franschhoek Mountains, Babylonstoren Wine Estate is irresistible. One of the oldest Cape Dutch farms, this all-round attraction has been beautifully restored to retain its old-world charm. Babylonstoren offers multiple accommodation options from garden cottages and farmhouse suites to family houses and Cape Dutch-style cottages.

Whilst staying here is a wonderful experience in itself, it’s the myriad of food and wine programmes on offer that take it to the next level. With views of the conical Babylonstoren Hill, Simonsberg and the Banghoek Mountains, the state-of-the-art winery is a sight to behold. Tour the 94-hectare vineyard and learn about the 13 different grape varieties that are produced here. Venture into the working cellar and discover how the production process works, before tasting some of the vineyard's finest wines, paired with platters of farm-grown and handmade delicacies including cured meats, olives, roasted and salted nuts, artisanal bread and pâté.


  • South Africa Egg Collecting At Babylonstoren
  • South Africa Giant Weaver Nests Babylonstoren
  • South Africa Feeding Donkey Babylonstoren
  • Babylonstoren Children Exploring

Start planning your luxury Winelands escape

Wine is not the only attraction at Babylonstoren; there is also a beautiful 3.5-hectare garden of cultivated fruit and vegetables, a rejuvenating spa and a variety of shops including the ‘Scented Room’ which sells fragrant bath and body products made from the farm’s oils, and the ‘Lekker Room’ where you’ll find steaming coffee, four different types of chocolate, almond rusks and other such delights.

Further culinary treats can be enjoyed on an olive oil and balsamic vinegar walking tour. Gain an insight into the traditional methods and production processes and experience a behind-the-scenes look at how Babylonstoren’s table olives are made in the production plant before they’re turned into golden olive oil in the cold press. Of course, you won’t go home without sampling some of the oils and you can even create your own blend as a keepsake.

Also renowned for its restaurants, Bablyonstoren’s Babel has a ‘farm-to-fork’ philosophy with a menu made up of seasonal foods, most of which are freshly picked from the estate’s gardens. A feast for all the senses, Babylonstoren showcases the best of South African wine, cuisine, nature and hospitality in serene and picturesque surroundings.


Le Lude Estate, Franschhoek - boutique winery producing Méthode Cap Classique

Fans of fizz should look no further than Le Lude, a picturesque wine farm in  Franschhoek Valley. The region has a long history of wine making; French Huguenots fleeing persecution for their religious beliefs, landed in the Cape and began making wines as far as back as 1693. Today, the Barrow family makes a fine Cap Classique, grown from varieties of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Le Lude was the first cellar to produce an Agrafe (Tirage Liège) Cap Classique. This method of using a cork held in place with a metal staple called an agraffe in preparation for second fermentation is said to increase texture and creaminess while creating a long-lasting mousse (bubbles).


  • South Africa Le Lude Afternoon Tea
  • South Africa Le Lude Orangerie

Welcoming visitors daily, Le Lude offers a fascinating cellar tour with an in-depth discovery into the makings of Cap Classique. There’s an opportunity to explore the production cellar and underground maturation caves before tasting various wines (brut, rosè and vintage cuvée) and sampling delicious canapès or a fresh, seasonally inspired lunch. 

Le Lude is also known for its fantastic Orangerie Restaurant where Le Gavroche-trained chef, Nicolene Barrow, serves classical French cuisine with contemporary and Asian twists, using the freshest ingredients from the Cape.


Leeu Estates, Franschhoek - wine, rest and relaxation

Perched on the slopes of the Dassenberg, Leeu Estates offers a truly immersive winelands experience. An amalgamation of four farms purchased by Analjit Singh, Leeu Estates offers sublime views, landscaped gardens, contemporary art and a beautiful 19th-century refurbished Cape Dutch house to stay in.

Walk from the hotel to the Wine Studio to taste Chris and Andrea Mullineux’s wines, produced from their Swartland farm as well as surrounding Leeu Estates vineyards. Mullinaeux & Leeu Family Wines has been named as Platter’s South African Wine Guide’s ‘Winery of the Year’ five times. There are three tutored tasting options - the Mullineux Signature tasting, the Mullineux Single Terroir tasting and the Leeu Passant tasting. Back at the hotel, unwind with a swim in the vineyard-side pool, or book yourself into the spa, where treatments utilise Healing Earth’s collection of Pinotage facial and body care products.


  • South Africa Ellerman House Wine Gallery Corkscrew
  • South Africa Ellerman House Lounge

Ellerman House, Cape Town - the perfect combination of art and wine

Set on a cliff in Cape Town’s Bantry Bay, Ellerman House envelops you in its warm hospitality and raw beauty from the moment you arrive. A former 20th-century residential home on the brink of destruction, Ellerman House was transformed into a luxurious boutique hotel in 1992 by owner and financier Paul Harris.

A passionate art collector, the property is adorned with a remarkable array of South African art. This impressive collection, spanning various mediums, styles and periods, provides an insight into South Africa’s political and cultural history. In-house art guides are available to take you on a private tour of the collection which is displayed throughout the house, as well as in the garden where striking pieces of South African sculpture can be found.

Although art is a fundamental part of Ellerman House, wine is also of great importance here. A work of art in itself, the Wine Gallery is a oenophile’s wonderland with 9,500 rare and vintage South African wines on display. The cellar, conceived to feel like you are walking through a vineyard, is an experiential piece of art with a dynamic wine rack and undulating curved surfaces. The gallery also incorporates a Champagne cellar stocked with rare and special vintages of Dom Pérignon, a multimedia wine library and a brandy-tasting lounge. Guests enjoy daily complimentary wine tastings accompanying the start of sunset every day. Ellerman’s sommelier will guide you through an enriching tasting experience, bringing to life South Africa’s 350-year-old heritage of winemaking. An experience not to be missed.


Curate your own wine tasting experience