Wine tasting in Stellenbosch isn’t just about drinking: it’s about food, culture, and life altogether.
Stellenbosch is a lovely town located around 50 km (31 miles) from Cape Town (about an hour drive, depending on traffic) on the banks of Eerste (first) River. It’s the second oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town, founded in 1679. It was named after its founder, Simon van der Stel, with “bosch” being Afrikaans for “bush.” The first grapes that went to produce the famous Stellenbosch wine were planted in the region in the late 17th century by Huguenots refugees.
Most people visit the region to go wine tasting, which is world class. I am quite the wine connoisseur, and I can promise that albeit I arrived in Stellenbosch with a massive chip on my shoulder, thinking I’d not be impressed by the wines, I ended up buying six bottled and a brand new suitcase to carry them home.
In this post, I will tell you about the best places to do wine tasting in Stellenbosch, and share some practical information that will help you plan your visit.
The Best Estates To Do Wine Tasting In Stellenbosch
There are so many amazing wine estates in Stellenbosch that deciding which one to visit may be a daunting task. Visiting them all is impossible, especially if you are in the region for just a few days. I thought I’d do the research for you (thank me later) and select the best ones – so that the only thing you have to do is book a visit.
One thing worth noting is that where most vineyards around the world offer a basic visit to the grounds and the winery, with a very detailed yet (let’s admit it) sometimes terribly boring explanation on how the wine is made, and finish off with a meager wine tasting; Stellenbosch vineyards offer an incredible range of experiences. They have boutique hotels; restaurants and delis; animal sanctuaries; art galleries and other fun activities. They are fabulous places to visit not only for wine connoisseurs, but also for families with children.
Curious to find out more? Continue reading!
Lanzerac Wine Estate
Lanzerac takes wine tasting o a whole new level, making feel wine amateurs as if they are proper connoisseurs.
This is one of the nicest wine estates in Stellenbosch, located in a beautiful setting, a few minutes drive from the center of town and from where there are gorgeous views of the mountains and the valley. The estate was founded in 1692 and is where the first Pinotage (a South African blend) was ever bottled. In 1914 a certain Mrs English set her eyes on this estate bought it for £18000, giving it its current name.
The estate includes a fantastic deli, a restaurant, a hotel and a spa. At the end of May 2017 a fire tragically occurred in the hotel, but a great effort to rebuild was made and the brand new, stylish hotel was inaugurated on 1 July, 2018.
The staff at the estates does an excellent job in teaching guests how to appreciate wine. You can opt to do the wine and chocolate tasting, pairing the best Stellenbosch wines with some excellent dark chocolate. It is simply heavenly.
Make sure to try Mrs English, Lanzerac Chardonnay which is a tribute to the former owner.
For the best rates of Lanzerac Hotel and Spa, click here.
Middelvlei is one of the most beautiful wine estates in Stellenbosch, a mere 10 minutes drive from the town center. Here, the Momberg family has been crafting its own wines for almost 100 years.
The estate offers a fantastic range of activities, and wine tasting is only one of them.
When I read a post on The Crowded Planet that talked about a wine blending experience in Stellenbosch, I knew I had to try that. And you should do that too.
As soon as you arrive, you will be given 3 bottles of wine – a Pinotage and a Shiraz, which are two fabulous South African varieties; and a Merlot. You will be using them to create your own blend, but in order to blend the wine you will first have to taste them.
Along with the bottles of wine, you will be given a basket of ingredients such as tannin – the host will instruct you on how to get your perfect blend and will hand you pen and paper to mark down the percentages of the various wines in it. You will have 5 different glasses to try the various blends. Now, this wine tasting in Stellenbosch could not get more interesting!
Most wine tours in Stellenbosch include a meal. Middelvlei actually includes a South African Braai – the local version of a barbecue. South Africans take a lot of pride in their Braai, which has to be done on proper wood coal (gas is for amateurs). They grill just about anything – lamb, chicken, beef, pork, sausages, tomato and cheese sandwich: you name it. It’s a fun experience – and delicious.
Spier Wine Farm
Of all wine estates in Stellenbosch, Spier goes above and beyond to give back to the environment and the local community. It’s 100% responsible and sustainable.
Established in 1692, Spier is one of the oldest vineyards in South Africa. But it’s not just its stellar wines that make it a fabulous place for wine tasting.
Some of you may not know it, but the Cape region has been going through a sever drought. It’s so bad that taps in public toilets have been closed and everywhere people are encouraged to use hand sanitizer instead of water. Imagine how great the concern can be for wine estates, with all the water they consume daily.
Spier makes a great effort to reduce the use of water and it recycles 100% of its wastewater, which once cleaned is used to irrigate the gardens and grounds. 98% of the waste produced at the farm, the hotel and the restaurant on the ground is also recycled.
But there’s more. Not only Spier gives back to the environment. The local community, isn’t simply employed at the wine farm but also has the possibility of attending the art studio. It’s a fantastic investment in culture, whereby local artists are encouraged to produce, showcase and sell their art. The singing rocks exhibit in the gardens is simply fantastic.
Spier is a fantastic place to spend a few days, not only for the traditional wine tasting in Stellenbosch, but also to pamper yourself with a delicious meal in one of the onsite restaurants (I especially love Eight); have a picnic selecting the best products at the deli; sleep in a cozy room in the hotel and have a spa treatment. There’s even the “Eagle Encounters” – a bird of pray sanctuary where rescued birds are taken care of before being reintroduced in their natural environment.
To discover the best deals of Spier’s hotel, click here.
Most wine estates in Stellenbosch are stylish in their modern design. Muratie is a vintage estate, with old decors in the restaurants and wine tasting rooms, and dreary yet charming spider webs that give it an eerie look.
Muratie Estate is tucked in the Knorhoerk Valley north of Stellenbosch. The farm was founded in 1685, and is one of the oldest in the country. Everything here is vintage, and scattered around the property there’s old machinery that was once used the process of wine making. Visiting is like walking back in time, and this makes Muratie unique among Stellenbosch wine farms.
The tasting room is cozy, with old couches, vintage forniture, the spider webs that must have been there for decades, and (obviously) the delicious wines made it a fantastic experience. The restaurant offers excellent food.
Several wine estates in Stellenbosch that are vintage. Much like its direct neighbor Muratie (you actually have to drive through Muratie to get to Delheim), this is the kind of place where visitors feel like they have stepped back in time.
The estate was founded in 1699, and it now belongs to the Sperling family. The patriarchs have retired, but they still live on the farm. Delheim offers one of the most fun wine tasting experiences in Stellenbosch.
Try the wine and cupcakes tasting experience. You will be offered 4 different wines (all of them good) accompanied by 4 small, mouthwatering cupcakes all made with infusions of local herbs. Make sure to book in advance, as it is a quite popular place!
Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate
The owner of Morgenster, the late Giulio Bertrand, is Italian. That’s enough to make you love this wine estate. Aside from the great wine, Morgenster also makes excellent quality olive oil, something which not many wine estates in Stellenbosch do.
Morgenster was first founded in 1711. After thriving for over a century, much of the property, as many other Stellenbosch vineyards, was destroyed by Phylloxera in the mid 1880s. In 1958 the farm was sold to Mrs. Hawkins and in 1992 the Italian Giulio Bertrand acquired Morgenster, and planted some Italian grapes, including the famous Sardianian Vermentino.
Under the supervision of Giulio Bertrand, the vineyard thrived again. Bertrand also planted olive trees, so Morgenster not only makes some excellent wines, but also great olive oil.
As for the wine tasting, you can opt for the Italian collection, with wines produced using Italian grapes such as Vermentino, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and that are named after opera and famous opera singers such as Enrico Caruso. My favorite is the Nabucco, made with Nebbiolo.
Vergenoegd Wine Estate
Beautifully immersed in the countryside around Stellenbosch, this is the kind of estate were people go to taste wine, eat a sandwich at the deli (or have lunch at the restaurant) and appreciate the tea and coffee blending experiences.
But there’s more. People who visit Vergenoegd Wine Estate every day do so to see the thousand Indian runner ducks that roam free around the plantation, which is divided in three sectors. At set times, the ducks are moved from one to another, running around all duck-ey. It’s a very organic and eco-friendly way that the farm has to keep the vineyards pest free.
I won’t deny that this is the main reason why I wanted to go to Vergenoegd, though admittedly the wine is delicious and the setting gorgeous. Here guests can sip their wine in the fantastic garden, under the sun! Can’t get better than that for wine tasting in Stellenbosch!
There’s More Than Wine Estates In Stellenbosch
Most people visit Stellenbosch to taste all the fabulous Stellenbosch wines. Yet, Stellenbosch has a lot more to offer. I found it to be a very pleasant place to explore and to hang around for a few days.
Stellenbosch is a university town, with the University of Stellenbosch counting a whopping 30,000 students taking courses there. This sets the overall vibe. The city is young, friendly and easygoing. Every day of the week there’ll be people out and about, enjoying a drink and a chat with friends. And at the weekend, many locals pay a visit to the nicest wine estates in Stellenbosch, either for wine tasting, a delicious meal, a picnic or just to explore the area.
A guided walking tour of Stellenbosch is a pleasant way to learn more about its history and culture. The tour goes to all the most important landmarks in the city, including the Village Museum, which has 4 restored and perfectly kept houses from the 18th century; the main churches; the former seat of the magistrate; and a couple of art galleries.
You may also want to visit the nearby township of Kayamandi. The name means “sweet home” in the Xhosa language. Kayamandi was founded in the 1950s during Apartheid. Next to the small houses that were built at the time – all having a sleeping room, a kitchen and a fireplace and chimney – there are also many shacks.
Some huts don’t have running water and toilets, and the inhabitants have to make use of communal toilets and showers. But despite the hardship, people strive to get a better life, children play and smile, there’s a lot going on and Kayamandi really is “sweet home” and an interesting place to visit.
Make sure to check out my post The Best Things To Do In Stellenbosch.
Day trips to Stellenbosch
You should definitely spend a few days in Stellenbosch to make the most of everything it has to offer, but if you are short on tome it’s actually fairly easy to visit on day trips from Cape Town. There is a fantastic selection of tours you can pick from.
For a tour that goes to both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, click here.
For a half day tour of Cape Town Winelands, click here.
For a shared day trip to Stellenbosch, click here.
Check out my post 10 Great Day Trips From Cape Town.
If you on the other hand decide to take it easy and stay in Stellenbosch, you can appreciate the selection of wine estates in Stellenbosch I have made above, the list of accommodation options you will find below, and the all inclusive list of Stellenbosch wine farms can be found on Stellenbosch Wine Routes.
Where to stay
You will will have an incredible array of accommodation options to pick from in Stellenbosch. Here are some of the best places to stay:
- De Haas Luxury Living offers fantastic, stylish serviced apartments in the center of Stellenbosch. The bed is extra comfortable, the kitchen fully equipped, the living very cozy and the bathroom is simply state of the art.
- Twice Central Guest House is perhaps the coziest guest house in Stellenbosch. Located on a side street yet a minute walk from all the main attractions, bars, restaurants and shopping streets in town, Twice Central has large, cozy and spotless rooms and stylish common areas. It offers a scrumptious breakfast too.
- Lanzerac Hotel and Spa is located on Lanzerac Wine Estate. All rooms are incredibly large, they are all different, and they all have beautiful views of the estate.
- Spier Hotel is located in the Spier Wine Farm, and offers gorgeous rooms in an enchanting setting.
Make sure to read my post Stellenbosch Accommodation: 12 Hotels In Stellenbosch For Any Budget.
Where to eat and drink
The best way to enjoy a good Stellenbosch wine is with a meal. This lovely town is packed with excellent restaurants. Here’s a selection of those I have tried:
DE WARENMARKT – Incredibly cozy yet sophisticated; the staff is very friendly. The food is excellent. The wine and cocktail list on the menu is very good, but for a real treat ask to see the special wines list. They are pricey, but worth every cent.
HUSSAR GRILL – It’s where locals go when they want a fabulous steak. I tried the sirloin with a few side dishes, and accompanied them with a glass of Shiraz. The friendly service made it all the better.
HUDSON – A good place to have a burger or a steak. The atmosphere is very easy going, as lots of students go to eat there. Burgers are very good and prices fair.
BASIC BISTRO – On the main street of Stellenbosch, it makes some delicious salads and mouthwatering Cape Malay style food. It’s the perfect place to have lunch.
FABIO’S – A great small coffee shop that does very good breakfasts and good espresso.
When to visit
I visited Stellenbosch twice, once at the end of June, so right at the beginning of South African winter, and one in November, in late spring. Spring months are generally better if you appreciate a greener landscape, but other than that any time is a good time!
How to get there
The fastest and easiest way to get to Stellenbosch from either Cape Town or Cape Town airport is via Uber. Having said that, it’s probably easier to rent a car to move around the various wine estates in Stellenbosch. Here’s a great company for car rentals.
The town is really peaceful and safe, so walking is the best thing to do to explore the center.
Have you ever been to Stellenbosch? Which wine tours in Stellenbosch did you do and which did you enjoy the most?
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Stellenbosch Wine Routes for the #MakeADateWithStellies and #visitStellenbosch campaign, and I wish to thank them for the wonderful time. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post are my own.